Putting the clocks forward with National Trust for Scotland

Just as the clocks are set to go forward this weekend (Sunday 28 March), 19 historic long case timepieces have gone back in time.

The long case timepieces, sometimes called grandfather clocks, in the National Trust for Scotland’s north east collection are being brought back to full working order after months of meticulous conservation work.

Clocks at locations including Drum Castle, Crathes Castle, Castle Fraser, Craigievar Castle, Fyvie Castle, Haddo House, Leith Hall, Brodie Castle and House of Dun have been given the attention of the ‘clock doctor’, Dr Christopher Edwards from his workshop just outside Inverurie.

The work on the clocks is one of the largest projects focusing solely on the remedial conservation/restoration of clocks in the North undertaken by the conservation charity and was made possible by the generosity of donors, members and visitors.

In particular, a donation made by the late Miss Jean Mackenzie of Inverurie, so that these historically significant mechanisms could be preserved.

Examples of these early towering clocks by prominent clock makers Hugh Gordon and Thomas Stones can be seen in Haddo House, Leith Hall and Castle Fraser. Lacquer and Japanned finishes also became fashionable reflecting the interest in Chinese and Japanese art later in the 18th century and Brodie castle is lucky to have a fine example of such a case.

Dr Edwards describes the work that he’s doing as often undoing the mistakes of the past: ‘Quite often, as the clocks were quite robust, they were used by apprentices to practice on. A lot of the repair work involves making new parts for the clocks as you can’t buy them off the shelf.

‘But it’s worth it. For me, a clock in a house makes it more like a home. The ticking is almost like a heartbeat. Traditional wound clocks are also the ultimate in sustainability. They take no power to operate and, if looked after properly, can last hundreds of years.’

And if you’re changing your own clocks, Dr Edwards has words of advice: ‘Never turn the hands of a striking clock backwards as it can damage the mechanism. Either push the hands forwards to get to the right time or stop the clock for an hour.’