Winding The Great Westminster Clock
Victorian Photograph c1879 - 1898
Showing the clock in situ, hanging in the Dining Hall of Christ's Hospital Hertford
The clock in situ on the opposite wall in the re-furnished Dining Hall of C.H Hertford in 1906. New additions to the Hall had come from London CH after its closure in 1902.
would like to thank Mike Barford and his team at the Christ's Hospital Museum in Horsham, who have been so kind and helpful by researching this clock and Mr Willcox for me. Also for supplying me with the Victorian and Edwardian photographs and allowing me to use them along with other old photographs, prints, previous printed documents and information on Christ's Hospital and B.A Willcox for this website. Also many thank's to Christ's Hospital for giving me some original blank frieeze and finials to mount each side of the clock. - I am truly grateful!
Below - showing an Edwardian Photograph c1906
would like to thank Phyllis Hoffman (a former pupil of CH Hertford) for supplying and allowing me to use her colour photograph of the Hertford Dining Hall with the clock in situ c1985 - which shows that the unusual clock case top mouldling was made to match the Newgate frieze top moulding - suggesting to me that the clock may have spent about the first 20 years of its life hanging with the frieze in the London Christ's Hospital School where it was originally gifted by Mr B. A. Willcox in 1879 and before being salvaged and moved to Hertford - sometime after 1897- when it had just been decided that the London school was to close. However, as mentioned previously - the above is based on assumption only. At the moment I have no documents to support this theory. It is of course very possible that the clock was originally gifted by Mr B.A.Wilcox to Hertford Christ’s Hospital in 1879 and not the London school. It is also possible that the Victorian photographs showing the clock in situ, actually date to either c1879 or c1899 since none of these photographs are dated! But for me the added mystery surrounding this historical clock is what makes it so interesting and special!
Below, showing another Victorian photograph of the clock in situ c1879-1899
Showing pupils in the Dining Hall with the clock in situ 3rd March 1953
n 1985 when the Hertford school closed, the Willcox clock was removed from it's pride of place in the Christ's Hospital Dining Hall. Mysteriously the clock would not be seen or heard of in public again for a quarter of a century, when out of the blue (with its true identity now lost) the clock appeared at a public auction. The auction was held by Gardiner Houlgate on Thursday 21st and Friday 22nd October 2010, Lot no. 1605 where it failed to reach a reserve price (probably due to the sheer weight and size of the clock, since it was never made for domestic use, plus the surprising fact that nobody seemed to be aware of its histrical link to Christ’s Hospital or Big Ben). I purchased the clock in October 2013 from a respected antique clock dealer from the South West of England. It's a little strange really because my passion for collecting antique clocks nowdays only lie in the 17th and early 18th century periods, but after having initially being drawn to the Willcox clock on the clock dealers website I went to view the clock in the shop and immediately fell in love with it. The clock was much larger and heavier than I had imagined from the website images. It gave off a powerful and imposing presence and was clearly made for an institution rather than domestic use - it was obvious to me within seconds of seeing it that this was no ordinary clock! The clock dealer was totally unaware of the clock's true identity, but thankfully had the sense and sensitivity to leave the clock in its totally original untouched and complete condition. It was not until after I had purchased the clock and began to research it that the fascinating story started to unfold. However the questions had to be asked – how and why did the Willcox Dining Hall clock become separated from Christ’s Hospital (its true home?). Surely the clock, with its important historic significance to the famous school, would have been treasured or at least protected within and moved to Christ's Hospital in Horsham where the other Willcox artefacts are held, including the impressive ' Willcox Prize Board ', and what happened to the Willcox clock between 1985 and 2010?
aving now researched the matter further, I have found that the clock was not listed for sale or mentioned in the catalogue of Christ’s Hospital Hertford’s own auction held around the time of the schools closure in 1985 and at first it was a mystery to me how the clock became parted from Christ's Hosptal. However, an original typed document, which recently came to light, shows extracts from a listing, prepared at that time, of important items which were at Christ’s Hospital Hertford in 1984 and interestingly, in the Dining Hall section - hand written in pencil and next to the clock’s listing, is the word ‘ sell ‘. This document shows that Christ’s Hospital had every intention to sell the clock and sadly we can only now assume for whatever reason that they did sell the clock which their own Governor and Almoner, B.A Willcox, had specially made for the prestigious School back in 1879 (perhaps C.H. sold it to a private individual?) and this explains how the clock would be allowed to turn up at a public auction unchallenged some 25 years later. The document also proves that the Wilcox’ clock illustrated here with James Brock's unique number of 1732 on the dial (Brock numbered many of his clocks) is not only ‘the same clock’ mentioned in the 1984 document as being in the Dining Hall, but it also shows that it is ‘ the same clock ‘ as shown in situ in the various old photographs dating from c1879-1899.
n November 2014, Christ's Hospital in Horsham kindly gave me two seperate five foot lengths of original blank fieeze and two original finials to place each side of the clock - this has not only allowed me to re-unite the clock with some of it's original surroundings - but it will also allow me to virtually replicate the clock's appearence of how it originally looked in the Hertford Dining Hall - keeping it's fabulous historical background alive!
Written in pencil
The word 'sell ' can be clearly seen next to the clock's listing
ne of the things I really like about collecting old clocks is that if you research deeply enough, you can usually find out something interesting about the history of your antique clock. With the example illustrated here I certainly got more than I bargained for because as I found out more info about the clock's fascinating past - from initially being just very excited to own such an original and historical example, I began to feel mystified with a sense of curiosity towards the clock. I then felt a duty and responsibility to find out the truth about what had happened to this Christ’s Hospital clock and why it had become detached from the famous school, its original and true home. Suddenly I was on a mission to put the record straight and to do B.A. Willcox’s clock justice. By fully illustrating the clock here, I have hopefully been able to do that and also help give the clock back its true identity, which had been totally lost when I purchased the clock in 2013
A list of contents for the Hertford Dining Hall that was prepared in 1984.
Christ's Hospital Hertford - Celebrating 400 years old this year! (in 1953)
The Illustrated London News - November 7, 1953
Colour photo of 1985 shows the clock top frieze moulding matches the London frieze
Click an image to supersize
Please Contact Lee Borrett
B.A. Wilcox portrait wanted in any form or condition.
wonderfully historical and exceptionally original early Arts and Crafts wall clock. Made of massive and heavy duty proportions the clock is of the highest of quality and has a fabulous and most interesting/amazing provenance.
The clock’s mechanism was designed by Edward Beckett Denison (later to become Lord Grimthorpe) to specifications laid down by the Astronomer Royal George Biddulph Airy (1801-1892) and it was the foreman of Dent’s Workshop- James Brock, who oversaw the construction of that enormous machine.
Entrance to Christ's Hospital from Lewis Turnor's "History of Hertford"
pupils from the famous school, dating between c1890s - c1920.
Showing Images of Hertford Christ's Hospital, along with former
Any genuine and original Wilcox artefacts.