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BROCK  Whole  H ed.jpg

The

Christ's Hospital

Dining Hall

Clock

A

Wonderfully historical

and exceptionally

original early Arts

and Crafts wall clock.

Made of massive and

heavy proportions, the

clock is of the highest

quality and has a

and most interesting

 provenance.

The

Christ's Hospital

Dining Hall Clock

1879

Victorian photo, 1879 A Light.jpg

The Christ's Hospital dining hall, Hertford, 1879. Francis M. Page, M.A., Ph.D. 

Introduction

The very rare Christ's Hospital dining hall clock shown here has survived in a fabulous original condition throughout and is an historically important clock for the prestigious and World-Famous School. Having been made solely for the purpose of serving Hertford Christ's Hospital and its pupils from 1879 – the giant mid-Victorian clock has a wonderfully illustrated provenance, it's history which connects its maker to Big Ben and its benefactor to P &O Ferries, Sir Barnes Wallis, and the Bouncing Bomb of World War II - is a most fascinating story - which is revealed below!

The Clockmaker

James Brock, 1826-1893

A highly respected clock, watch and chronometer maker, James Brock oversaw the construction of the Great Clock for the Palace of Westminster in the workshop of E.J.Dent. In March 1859, after testing and refining the clock (Big Ben to the uninitiated!) was finally installed in the world-famous clock tower. Brock worked closley with Edward Beckett Denison (designer of the Great Westminster Clock).

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Horse bus in front of Big Ben, Westminster, London, late 19th  century. Alamy.com

Work began on the clock in 1852  after an 8-year dispute with the Royal Clockmaker Benjamin Lewis Vulliamy (1780-1854) who lost the contract, largely because he refused to submit plans and estimates for the contract until 2 years after it was put out to tender by the Government of the day.

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Above. In March 1859, after testing and refining the clock (Big Ben to the uninitiated!) was finally installed in the world-famous clock tower. Alamy.com

Below. An old Newspaper advert by E. Dent & Co., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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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, Brock, who oversaw the prestigious scheme. Brock later left Dent’s employment and setting up business on his own account in George Street, Portman Square, it was here that he was commissioned by B.A. Willcox to build the clock for Christ’s Hospital. Brock was held in great esteem by Dent, and therefore allowed to produce clocks under his own name while employed by Dent’s, for whom he seems to have made the majority of their regulators, including for E J Dent’s successors after he had left their direct employ. As their outworker, his serial numbers therefore fell within Dent’s own series, and can be dated by reference to the records of Dent’s production.

Edward_John_Dent_Clockmaker.jpg

Left. Image of Edward John Dent, Clockmaker. Edward John Dent, son of John and Elizabeth Dent, was born in London on 19 August 1790. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Brock died in 1893 at the age of 67. Writing in the Horologist Magazine Lord Grimthorpe said of him: “I am sorry to say – James Brock is dead. He was an excellent and charming man who built a sufficient factory in a stable-yard in that region where we made the Westminster clock and sundry other large ones.”

The Brief History 

Christ's Hospital

of

Christ's Hospital

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Edward Beckett Denison with The Great Westminster clock. Image by Alamy.com. James Brock had worked closely with Edward Beckett Denison throughout his career.

One other ‘large’ clock of Brock’s is on permanent display at the British Museum. Another very fine example by Brock can be seen and illustrated here by Dr John C Taylor 

The Clock's Benefactor

B.A. Willcox Esq.(1815-1901)

Christ's Hospital Alamy EX.jpg

Christ's Hospital, London 1895. Alamy.com  B.A. Willcox was a Governor and Almoner, to Christ’s Hospital and its 3 schools located then in London, Hertford and Horsham in Sussex.

Born in the year of the Battle of Waterloo, B.A. Willcox was the son of a pioneering nineteenth century businessman, Brodie McGhie Willcox, a co-founder of the P&O shipping line. Listed as a Governor and Almoner, the clock’s benefactor dedicated much of his life to Christ’s Hospital and its 3 schools located then in London, Hertford and Horsham in Sussex. Interestingly, Willcox lived in Portman Square – a brief stroll from Brock’s workshop. It makes sense to me that when he wanted to commission a clock for the school, he would have chosen a clockmaker with a reputation for making high-quality precise movements. He wouldn’t have had far to walk. Dying in 1901, Willcox was buried next to his father in Highgate Cemetery.

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Family grave of Brodie McGhie Willcox in Highgate Cemetery, where B.A.Willcox is buried. Own work by Simon Edwards Esq

In his will Mr B.A.Willcox gave a bequest financing prizes for both boys and girls. At the Boys’ School one of the first winners of the Willcox Prize was a certain young Barnes Neville Wallis for science. Worth £7 10s, Master Wallis spent the prize money on a lathe when he left school in 1905. He went on to become a world-famous knighted scientist, engineer, and inventor. Sir Barnes Wallis is of course best-known for inventing the Bouncing Bomb used in the RAF’s Operation Chastise to destroy the dams of the Ruhr valley during World War II.

So there it is: Benefactor, Big Ben, and the Bouncing Bomb – all linked by a wall clock!

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Photograph of Barnes Wallis in RNV uniform Datecirca 1914.

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Edward VI Founder of Christ's Hospital.jpg

King Edward VI, founder of Christ's Hospital. Attributed to William Scrots (active 1537-1553) [1], Public domain, via Wikimedia Common

Christ’s Hospital, also called The Bluecoat School because of the pupils’ distinctive uniform, was established in 1552 as a charitable school by the young Edward IV. “Its genesis was the earlier dissolution of the monasteries and the resultant overflow onto the streets of the poor and destitute” (Wikipedia)

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Christ's Hospital, London. William Henry Toms, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The London school occupied a site at Newgate for 350 years until it was demolished to make way for the capital’s main G.P.O. building.

The 

Clocks Provenance

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From 1707 girls were educated at Hertford, the last moving from London in 1778, although it was only after 1902 that this became a girls only school. Before the London school was destroyed, 1200 acres of land were purchased from the Aylesbury Dairy Company for £47,000, the C.H Horsham  foundation stone being laid by the Prince of Wales, latterly Edward VIII. The date October 23rd 1897 was the anniversary birthday of the school’s foundation by

Edward VI. The boys were relocated from London and Hertford in 1902. The Girls’ School at Hertford closed in 1985, its pupils merging with the Boys’ School at Horsham in the same year. With many millions of pounds in assets, a large part of the school’s income subsidises school fees, thus maintaining a link with its charitable conception.

Victorian Photograph of Hertford Christ's Hospital with the photographer standing just outside the fron gates to the school, c1879. Photograph courtesy of Christ's Hospital.

Having been made solely for the purpose of serving Hertford Christ's Hospital and its pupils from 1879 – the giant mid-Victorian clock has a wonderfully illustrated provenance. Christ's Hospital, Hertford  closed in 1985, and the recent discovery of several, rare undated Victorian and Edwardian photographs, showing the clock in situ, with the earliest possibily dating from c1879, and others dating to 1906 and 1953, prove beyond doubt that it looked down on the pupils in the Hertford dining hall during Victorian times and another photograph, this one shows the clock in the same dining hall shortly before it was removed in 1985.

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Above. Victorian Photograph, c1879. Showing the clock in situ, hanging in the Dining Hall of Christ's Hospital, Hertford. Photograph courtesy of Christ's Hospital.

Below. Victorian Photograph, c1879. Showing the clock in situ, and taken about 45 minutes after the above photograph. The photographer has taken this photograph in a different position in order to get the whole clock in view. Photograph courtesy of Christ's Hospital.

Victorian photo, 1879 A Light SUNDAY.jpg

Below. Edwardian Photograph, c1906. Showing the clock in situ, on the opposite wall in the re-furnished Dining Hall of Christ's Hospital, Hertford. New additions to the Hall came from the London Christ's Hospital after its closure in 1902. Photograph courtesy of Christ's Hospital.

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The Victorian photos of the dining room show the walls to be somewhat spartan. The Edwardian pictures of 1906 show decorative gasoliers hung from the ceiling and a distinctive heraldic frieze and stylised ‘corbels’ fixed to the walls. These items were salvaged before the London Schools’ demolition. 

Below. Edwardian Photograph, c1906. Showing a close-up of the clock in situ in the re-furnished Hertford Dining Hall. Photograph courtesy of Christ's Hospital.

CH 33 Sunday.jpg

Below. Showing a copy of The illustrated London News, November the 7th, 1953. This article shows Christ's Hospital , Hertford celebrating 400 years  old this year (in 1953). The clock can be seen in the Dining Hall bottom left of the article.  Image courtesy of Christ's Hospital.

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Below. Showing the clock hanging in the Dining Hall in 1985 and just before the Hertford School closed with the pupils moving to the Hersham branch of the famous school.  Image courtesy of Phyllis Hoffman, a former pupil of Christ's Hospital Hertford.

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In 1985 when the Hertford school closed, the Willcox clock was removed from its pride of place and was sold by Christ's Hospital. I purchased the clock in October 2013 from a respected antique clock dealer from the Southwest of England. The clock dealer and myself were totally unaware of the clock's true identity and it was not until after I had purchased the clock and began to research it that the fascinating story started to unfold. 

The Clock

The Clock Described is a massive mid Victorian Wall Clock. The large, stunning, high quality brass and iron movement is housed in a heavy duty solid oak case. The case, which can be described as an early Arts & Crafts design and the movement are both in superb and original condition throughout. 

BROCK  Whole  H ed.jpg

A

Wonderfully historical

and exceptionally

original early Arts

and Crafts wall clock.

Made of massive and

heavy proportions, the

clock is of the highest

quality and has a

and most interesting

 provenance.

Dining Hall

Clock

Christ's Hospital

The

The Dial

The Painted Iron Dial is 24” diameter with block Roman numerals, black minute ring and bears the name Brock (of) 64 Portman Sq London, below which is serial number 1732.

Behind glass and a gilded sighting are the original blued steel hands; the unusual shape of the hour hand echoing the shape of the door and the case base.

The Movement

The Movement of 8-day duration is of the highest specification, with a deadbeat escapement, maintaining power, stop work to the winding, counterpoising to the motion work and passing strike on a large bell. The weight line passes above the movement over a winding barrel to keep the brass-cased weight to the side and clear of a tubular brass bob and its wooden rod. The pendulum itself its hung from the backboard.

Brock movement B.jpg

Above. The Movement of 8-day duration is of the highest specification, with a deadbeat escapement, maintaining power, stop work to the winding, counterpoising to the motion work and passing strike on a large bell. Photographed by Lee Borrett

The Case

The Original Case is of very heavy thickly cut oak, 33” wide and 56” high. Below the dial a chevron-shaped door still bears the original gilded statement: that the clock was gifted by B.A. Willcox, a Governor & Almoner (of Christ’s Hospital) in 1879.

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Above. Below the dial a chevron-shaped door still bears the original gilded statement: that the clock was gifted by B.A. Willcox, a Governor & Almoner (of Christ’s Hospital) in 1879. Photographed by Lee Borrett

Below. The weight line passes above the movement over a winding barrel to keep the brass-cased weight (half hidden in the photograph) to the side and clear of a tubular brass bob and its wooden rod. The pendulum itself its hung from the backboard. Photographed by Lee Borrett

Brock weights ex 2 XX Darker.jpg

Summary

This fabulous and totally original early Arts and Crafts wall clock is shrouded in a fascinating and wonderfully interesting background story. It is an historically important Christ’s Hospital clock. In writing this article, I have hopefully been able to bring back to life the clocks real identity which had been totally lost when I purchased the clock in 2013!

Acknowledgements

I 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!

I 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

I would like to thank Brian Wellings for all the expert help and advice he gave me for the contents of this article.

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