All in good time

17th March 2020

Goodwood House’s treasures include an important collection of antique clocks. Meet the person whose job it is to make sure they’re all in perfect working order.

Words by Gill Morgan

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It's not just at the Racecourse and Motor Circuit that timekeeping is taken seriously at Goodwood. The House is home to an impressive collection of 29 English and French clocks, dating from the 17th to the 19th century – and they all need winding. 

The woman responsible for looking after this treasure trove is Su Fullwood, a former museum director who began specialising in clocks after taking a job at Goodwood’s neighbour, West Dean College, and sitting in on aspects of its clock conservation course. “I became interested in clocks as a child,” she says. “My father, who was an engineer, had made one as part of his apprenticeship and it always sat by his bedside. It was a skeleton clock, which meant you could see all the movements. I was fascinated by it.” While Fullwood stresses that she is not an horologist, she is the person entrusted with overseeing the timekeeping of all the clocks. She arranges for their cleaning, overhaul and repair, usually carried out by JE Allnutt & Son in Midhurst, or by West Dean's horologists.

The Goodwood collection contains a mix of longcase, table and mantel clocks. Longcase is the correct term for what we think of as a “grandfather clock”, although Fullwood points
out that “the term has only been used since the song Grandfather’s Clock was written in 1876 by Henry Clay Work”. Additional to these are a workman’s timepiece – “a kind of clocking-in clock” – and a clock with an alarm hand by Breguet. Like many of the pieces at Goodwood, the latter has a fascinating story. “It was given by the 2nd Duke of Wellington to Algernon Greville, father of the 6th Duchess of Richmond. Algernonhad been ADC and private secretary to his father, the famous 1st Duke of Wellington.” The collection also includes two regulators made by Pendleton and Shelton – precision clocks by which all the other clocks in the house were set – and a precious mantel clock by star clockmaker Daniel Quare. “Quare was one of the movers and shakers of the Golden Age of clockmaking,” says Fullwood. The Goodwood clock dates from 1715 and is signed by Quare, with beautiful engraving on the back plates.

Ensuring the clocks keep time is quite an undertaking, as Fullwood explains: “All the clocks at Goodwood will run for a week when fully wound. We do it all at the same time, early in the morning before everyone else arrives. The regulation is done slightly differently for each movement so a clockwinder needs to know their clocks inside out. And every five to seven years a mechanical clock will need a complete overhaul, where it’s taken apart, cleaned and oiled by an experienced clockmaker – a rare breed now.”

Many of the clocks keep surprisingly good time. The Vulliamy longcase, for example, only loses a minute a week, despite being over 200 years old. Another Vulliamy piece – a mantel clock – was a gift from King Edward VII to the Duke of Richmond and Gordon in 1904. Asked to name her favourite piece, Fullwood is diplomatic: “I’m attached to them all, as they all have their own personalities and foibles, but if I had to choose one, it would be the clock that sits on the mantel in the Red Hall. It dates from about 1705 and has a beautiful ebonised case. It is signed by Johnson, who was a clockmaker based in Chichester. As I was curator at the museum there for ten years, the connection makes it all the more special to me.”

This article was taken from the Winter 2019/2020 edition of the Goodwood Magazine.

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