Clocks at Anglesey Abbey

Most of us will have one or two clocks to put back on Sunday, but not so Anglesey Abbey, which has many more clocks to sort out. Sue Arnold is the House Steward at Anglesey Abbey, and earlier on she told me more.

17:55 Friday 28th October 2011
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

ANDY BURROWS: Most of us will have one or two clocks to put back on Sunday, but not so Anglesey Abbey, which has many more clocks to sort out. Sue Arnold is the House Steward at Anglesey Abbey, and earlier on she told me more. (TAPE)
SUE ARNOLD: We have about 37 clocks on display. The number varies a little bit, because we occasionally take one off display or bring another one out. But it’s about that number.
ANDY BURROWS: That’s an incredible number of clocks, first of all, isn’t it? How come you’ve got so many?
SUE ARNOLD: Well Lord Fairhaven, who gave the house to the Trust in 1966, was a great collector, and one of his particular favourite things to collect were clocks, and so he’s amassed an enormous number in a huge variety.
ANDY BURROWS: What’s the most you’ve got in any one room?
SUE ARNOLD: I think the library’s got about five or maybe even more. So quite a number. And they’re all completely different.
ANDY BURROWS: Sure. So somewhere must be all the keys for them, if that’s how some of them operate.
SUE ARNOLD: That’s right. Yes. Each clock has its own key. And we have a basket with a little bag with the name of the clock on the front of the bag. So we know exactly which key to use, and we keep records of when we wind, and how many winds we do. So we know how the clocks are performing.
ANDY BURROWS: Fantastic. When you took your job, did you know it was going to involve this?
SUE ARNOLD: Well I was rather hoping actually. One of the great things about the job is working with the collections, and the clocks are a fascinating part of that. So yes, it’s really quite a treat to be able to handle these things, and take care of them, and help keep them going.
ANDY BURROWS: Brilliant stuff. Now, in the Spring, I imagine that, when you’re open I suppose, then they all have to go forward. What about in Winter, when you put them all back? How many of them actually get put back?
SUE ARNOLD: Well in the Winter we have a limited part of the house open during an eight week period, across the middle of the winter, when we have an exhibition. And the clocks that are in that small part of the house that are open will be put back, so they’re kept ticking while visitors are in the house. And I haven’t actually counted up, but I should think it’s probably about six of them, something like that.
ANDY BURROWS: And you say they all work differently. What’s your favourite one then to change, regardless of the time of year?
SUE ARNOLD: Well I have to be practical. The ones that I don’t like are the ones that you have to get a ladder out for. I’m not very tall, and some of the long case clocks I can’t reach the winding point, so I have to carry ladders around. But we’ve got one or two favourites, one that’s got, we call it the camel clock, it’s got an enormous gilded camel on it. And it’s great fun. It’s got a nice big big, and it generally behaves itself. It’s a good timekeeper. So that’s one of my favourites.
ANDY BURROWS: fantastic. And they all are exactly correct, are they?
SUE ARNOLD: Well no. These are old things. Most of them are 200 years old, maybe more. Some of them are a little bit more modern, but they’re not hugely accurate. Although a lot of them keep time within three or four minutes over a week, which is really pretty good, considering their age.
ANDY BURROWS: And when does your Summer season effectively end, and when does Winter start, as far as you’re concerned?
SUE ARNOLD: The open season this year is finishing at Anglesey Abbey at the end of October. So this coming Sunday will be the last day that the whole house is open. And then as I say we have our winter exhibition, which opens a coupe of weeks after that for about eight weeks. So there’s still the opportunity for people to come along and see part of the house, and we’ve got some lovely library books on display this winter.
ANDY BURROWS: Brilliant. Sue, thank you very much.
ANDY BURROWS: That was Sue Arnold there, who’s the House Steward at Anglesey Abbey speaking to me earlier on this afternoon. That sounds like a labour of love, doesn’t it? Thirty seven clocks they’ve got in Anglesey Abbey.