Timely return of clock to Anglesey Abbey

The Pagoda Clock has finally returned to its home at Anglesey Abbey. It also made local and BBC news!

2 thoughts on “Timely return of clock to Anglesey Abbey

  1. Thanks Alexandre! I agree – it was a very difficult decision to make, although there were many reasons for it.

    1. It’s 100% reversible and a case has been made to house the original mechanism. It is on display next to the clock.
    2. The mechanism had been altered in China by the Emperor’s clockmakers to make it run faster – so the music would sound more Chinese than English and the automata would operate faster.
    3. The mechanism was again altered when it came back to England to slow it down – this caused some serious problems of wear in the clock. To restore it would mean losing up to 60% of the original components.
    4. The guests at Anglesey Abbey loved the music as they had known it – to restore the music to full working order would change this experience.
    5. There were paper fragments from the Forbidden City in the clock – helping us to date and confirm the alterations.
    6. The clock mechanism for telling the time and striking the hours – is in excellent working condition. This has been left operational as is and works in conjunction with the electronic mechanism (just as it did with the original) to operate the automata and music.

    The life of this clock documents rich cultural differences – it seemed to me, it is more important to tell that story and leave the clock as is – and to do otherwise would compromise the objects integrity and intangible qualities.

    This is not common – in fact it is the first time something like this has ever been done. It might be a norm moving forward – as conservators, we want to preserve the experience for future generations and keep the integrity of the object intact. This may be the best way to do that in some cases. I certainly would not advocate this in every case – but this seemed like a very appropriate method here.

    Thanks for the great questions!!

  2. Thanks for sharing that, Brittany. Great work!

    I’m curious… while replacing a spring-driven movement & chimes with modern electronics will make any clock much more durable and comparatively easy to maintain moving forward, it is also a pretty radical alteration of the very nature of the artifact.

    How common / controversial it is in the restoration world? Was that an edge-case due to the already very poor condition of the mechanisms or do you see that modernization becoming the new norm in preserving fragile historical machines?


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