Turret Clock Group

Welcome to the home page of the Turret Clock Group, a specialist group within the AHS.

The Turret Clock Group (TCG) has been in existence since 1973 and has over 220 members worldwide. The group was formed by Cyril Beeson, Tom Robinson, David Nettell and Beresford Hutchinson who were four of the most knowledgeable people in the field of turret clocks.

TCG members share an interest in all turret clocks and public timekeeping, from the early beginnings in the 14th century, through flatbed industrial clocks and right up to relatively modern synchronous and master clock driven dials. The group functions to promote knowledge and interest in turret clocks and to ensure their future preservation.

Three to four meetings are held each year, and take a variety of formats in different venues. Lectures, visits to turret clocks and seminar-type meetings are held. The summer tour has always been very popular, giving members the chance to visit turret clocks in churches, towers or in private estates rarely accessible to the public.

Many enquiries are answered each year, quite a number of these coming from overseas.

Membership covers a wide spectrum, from those just starting to experienced experts. Some members are turret clock advisers in their local diocese, others are historians, restorers or professional makers and restorers.

If you are not a member but are interested in joining, or if you have a technical enquiry, please contact the AHS Office. Visitors and new members are always most welcome.

For details of future meetings, please contact the group secretary Steve Dutfield. Our meetings are friendly, relaxed, inclusive and give the opportunity to meet new friends with similar interests, exchange views, ideas, and getting help with information about a turret clock.

Membership of the Turret Clock Group is only open to members of the AHS, and you can indicate to the AHS when joining that you would also like to join this group.

The Turret Clock Group holds the premier database of turret clocks, recording all UK-made turret clocks whether located in the UK or abroad. The database was started in 1999 and currently holds records on over 6000 clocks. We are constantly adding records and seeking information on clocks that exist or used to exist in buildings, museums, or private collections. Access to the database is granted with a user name and password by application to our database manager, stating if the access is for research into clocks or to enter information on new or existing clocks.

The database can be accessed directly using this link.

Meeting report

Highlights of the North Shropshire Tour, November 2022

Our November TCG Tour brought thirty-six of us into the beautiful Shropshire countryside. The first tour since the pandemic. Former Joyce employee, and our newest member, Keith Cotton helped to organise the tour and we had our own experts Steve and Darlah Thomas on hand to guide us.

Combermere Abbey

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The first day began with Combermere Abbey, a former Grade I monastery founded in the 1130s by Hugh Malbank, Baron of Nantwich. It became a country house after the dissolution when Sir George Cotton acquired it as a reward for his service to Henry VIII. It remained in the Cotton family until 1919.

The present owner, Sarah Callander-Beckett, was our guide for the visit and led us through to a large panelled room, where, displayed on the dining table, were two movements. Although both of these have been removed from their original location, they were taken out of storage for our visit and are awaiting restoration.

The eighteenth century, wrought iron birdcage with ting-tang quarters was installed in the Wellington Tower next to the house. There is evidence in the Joyce records that Arthur Joyce had worked on it and it has a conversion to pinwheel by Joyce.

The second movement, previously in the Lodge Gate is an 1839 double frame, deadbeat anchor, timepiece with offset pendulum. In the gate it had a system of remote winding from the ground level.

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Attendees at Combermere Abbey with Owner Sarah Callander-Beckett.

The Joyce Workshop, Whitchurch

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At our next visit, we were welcomed to the former Joyce Workshop in Shrewsbury by Christina Trevanion. Arthur Joyce oversaw the erection of this purpose built factory on Station Road with quick and easy access to the train station. Although made part of the Smith of Derby Group in 1965, the company remained there until production ceased in 2012. Trevanion Auctioneers, with their own funds and support from grants have restored and transformed the building.

After a talk from Keith Cotton about his thirty years working at Joyce, Christina spoke about the changes they have made and it was very touching to see her genuine warmth and love for the building and its history. The clock movement is in storage at present awaiting restoration.

Morris Oil Works, Shrewsbury

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Following lunch, we met in Shrewsbury. Morris Lubricants is one of the largest privately owned manufacturers of premium quality lubricants in Europe and deliver to more than eighty-five countries. A fascinating talk covered some history of the company, ecological issues and the complex chemical science involved. Afterwards we donned our high visibility vests and shoe protectors and toured the facility. We saw where the base oils and additives are stored and the processes by which these are combined into the final product. We all enjoyed the tour and the chance to understand how lubricants are created.

St Luke, Weston-under-Redcastle

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Day one ended with a visit to the Grade II listed church of St Luke. Built in Gothic Style but with a Georgian tower, it was originally a chapel of ease attached to the parish of Hodnet and was mostly funded by Sir Richard Hill, 2nd Baronet of Hawkstone. Much restored in the late nineteenth century including the chancel, the gabled timber porch, stained glass, pews and octagonal font. The clock movement is a wrought iron birdcage associated with the Joyce family and another that had been converted to pinwheel.

St Alkmund, Whitchurch

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On the second day we met in the morning at the hotel for a brilliant talk by Darlah and Steve Thomas on the evolution of turret clock frames followed by the AGM. From the hotel we drove to St Alkmund in Whitchurch.. The original 912 church was dedicated to Alcmund of Derby and built in white stone, thereby giving the town its name.

On 31st July 1711, the central tower of the medieval church collapsed and the church had to be rebuilt. The foundation was laid on 27th March 1712 and the new church was consecrated on 8th October 1712. The church was restored in 1877/79 and again in 1885/86. In 1900/02, the brick internal walls were refaced with stone and the apse was redecorated. The porch was rebuilt in 1925 and the north and south galleries were removed in 1972.

The 1849 clock movement is a double frame deadbeat with quarter striking and a 14ft offset two second pendulum.

Whitchurch Heritage Centre

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After finding our own lunch we walked down the High Street & viewed the Joyce workshop which was used until 1904, then walked to the Heritage Centre which has several Joyce items; including the pattern for the skeleton dials for the Shanghai Clock. We also viewed two Joyce movements together with a video of Paul Fraser talking about the work he did at Joyce. Some of us also used the chance to do a bit of shopping at the Heritage Centre.

Cloverley Hall, Calverhall

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In the group of pictures above, it is possible to see a wooden door and a mirror. This was to enable the clockwinder to view messages waved by a colleague watching the sundial outside for regulation of the clock in its early days.

Cloverley Hall is a grade II* listed former Victorian country house designed by the twentynine year old architect William Eden Nesfield. It was originally built for Liverpool banker John Pemberton Heywood between 1864 and 1870 at a cost, exclusive of decoration, of £60,000. The original main wing was five storeys high, as high as the present clock tower, with a footprint area covering approximately 450ft x 400ft. The unusual Victorian Great Hall room was 55ft long, 30ft wide and 27ft high. Heywood had no children and the Hall passed to a nephew. It was such a large house that it became difficult to maintain, particularly after the First World War when fewer people were prepared to return to a life in service. With all the rooms in the building heated by coal fires there were a minimum of twenty five servants required to look after the old building.

In 1926, the owner took the decision to demolish the main family wing leaving the present buildings - originally the servants’ quarters, stables, coach house, servants’ hall, laundry and kitchens. After the Second World War it was converted for use as a boys' school and since 1968 has been in use as a Christian Conference Centre. The tower has an 1868 single 4 leg gravity flatbed with Cambridge quarters.

St Swithun, Cheswardine

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The Church is dedicated to St Swithun, a Saxon saint born in Winchester about 800 AD. This is at least the third church on this site, and was rebuilt in 1887-1889 under the direction of the architect John Loughborough Pearson, who died before the work was completed. The work was completed with the assistance of funding by the then squire of the Cheswardine Estate, Charles Donaldson-Hudson, who provided half of the estimated cost of £8,500. Cheswardine has Churchwardens’ accounts from 1544 onwards. In 1593, an oak frame had been installed in the tower to support the bells and this served until 1929. Due to excessive movement of the bell suspensions, terrific vibrations occurred during ringing and this cracked off the pinnacle tops from the tower. Hence, a new steel frame with ball bearings for the bells was installed in 1929 and two extra bells added to give a full peal of eight.

There is an 1849 Thomas Joyce double frame strike with a separate ting-tang chiming mechanism, added in 1876, in the tower.

All agreed - A very successful and enjoyable tour!

With thanks to Darlah and Steve Thomas for a fascinating talk and for information used from their book in this report - ‘Joyce of Whitchurch Clockmakers 1690-1965’. A great resource for more details and professional photos of the clock movements seen on the tour.

Tour photo acknowledgements: Sarah Callander-Beckett, Al Cobb, Sue Hines and Steve & Darlah Thomas.