Stables Turret Clock and a Titanic connection

07 September 2012

When our old house, Castleditch, was demolished in 1814 while the castle was being built, the stables survived and the stable turret clock remained in place. The stables themselves were replaced in 1911, and for some reason the clock was re-sited onto a building next to the estate office, where it ran until the late 1950’s. When we renovated the building in 1990 and converted it for use as the Eastnor Pottery, we removed the turret clock and its tower and rebuilt it over the then castle shop in our tea room yard, but with an electric rather than the original mechanism. But we kept the old clock, its bell and weights.

Then, we were contacted by Chris McKay, an enthusiast and restorer of turret clocks, who saw ours and told us it dated from about 1600. The clock is made from wrought iron, and it was modernised, relatively speaking, in about 1670, when it was converted to pendulum control, an invention that came from Holland. We know this because the pendulum was very short with a very large arc of swing.

At the time the conversion to pendulum was made, the dial was converted to have two hands with the addition of a minute hand.  Originally, the clock was situated just behind the original one-handed dial, but the clock must have been moved so it was about five feet below the new dial. In 1938 the clock was restored by Walter Leadbetter of Ledbury.It seems likely that the winding wheels were replaced at that time.  Leadbetter has stamped his name on the back of the pendulum bob.  The gears behind the dial seem to date from that period as well.

Eastnor Castle clock is a very important historic legacy since it was an old clock that was converted to pendulum very soon after 1670.  There are only about 4 or 5 clocks like this in the country. We will find a way to display it in due course so that it can be run when we are open to visitors. It is wonderful to see such an old and simple piece of machinery running, and the tick-tock is quite soothing.

What is the “Titanic” connection?  George Leadbetter, father of Walter, was a keen radio man and made his own receiver.  On the morning of 15th April 1912 George and Walter (age 15) picked up the Titanic's CQD (SOS) call.  George went round to the police station to report what they had picked up, but they laughed at him in disbelief.

James Hervey-Bathurst, with contribution from Chris McKay - Sept 12