Lyme's Clock Collection

Three clocks from the Clock Room at Lyme Park

Here at Lyme, we have the finest clock collection in the National Trust including Britain's oldest surviving pendulum clock.

Sir Francis Legh was interested in clocks from the Golden Age of English Clockmaking and collected many beautiful examples, which are still on display around the house.

The collection is so large that we have one entire room is dedicated to displaying some of the older clock. Here, visitors can admire the intricate inner workings and find out more about their individual histories. This room is also where visitors will find the Fromanteel clock. Dating from 1658, this piece is thought to be from the first ever batch of pendulum clocks made in England and is likely to be the oldest surviving pendulum clock in the entire country.

The clocks have been added to over the years, firstly by a bequest from the late Hugh Vivian in 2004 and a new bequest in 2017 of a magnificent marquetry longcase clock by England’s greatest clockmaker, Thomas Tompion. The eighteenth-century clocks are located around the house and include Lyme’s most popular clock, an automaton table clock by Wagstaffe which plays a tune and performs at 12 noon and 3pm.

The longcase clocks include three by Thomas Tompion, one by George Graham and an amazing marquetry clock by Henry Young with a very unusual arch dial and long pendulum. There is also a clock by William Grimes with unique marquetry showing hunting scenes and stags

Caring for our clocks

The house at Lyme contains dozens of clocks, 18 of which are in full working order. For the conservation team, keeping all of these pieces in time and in working order can take up several hours every week.

Most of these clocks need to be wound once a week, so a staff member needs to manually wind each clock, carefully making a note of how fast or slow each one is going, and then check its condition, including cleaning the antique faces with a range of special brushes.

The massive mechanism of the clock which adorns the facade of the North Front needs to be carefully wound twice a week, using a huge cast iron winding handle.

Keeping things ticking over
A women in a black jumper, wearing blue gloves, winds the face of an antique clock.
Keeping things ticking over

Changing Times

We’re all used to having to spend some time changing clocks, watches, oven timers etc. when the time goes forward in spring and back in autumn, but this takes on a whole new significance when you have so many clocks to deal with!

Jane, a member of the Lyme conservation team, said 'When the clocks go forward in spring,  we can just go around the house and put each of the clocks forward by an hour, but to go backwards, all of the clocks need to be stopped and then set going again, or else we might end up forcing some of the mechanisms.’