We were all very excited when the anticipated lorry arrived from Cambridge and the back door rose to reveal the crate containing Anglesey Abbey's pagoda clock. The West Dean Clocks department's first commission by the National Trust was now a reality and I am the lucky student who has the privilege to assist my tutor Matthew Read in its conservation. As I came to West Dean College two years ago to specialise in unique objects like this one, I felt a whirl of elation when the crate was opened and I could see the cocooned clock waiting inside.
In a way it felt like we were unwrapping the best Christmas gift of the century, all plastazote padding and acid free tissue done up with cotton tape bows. Once the clock was free of the padding, its mercury gilded case was revealed and the dazzling jewelled flowers unfolded their lovely petals. Made in the late 18th century for the "Sing Song" trade, no doubt the clock has had a dynamic life. I am hoping that as I go through each hand made component of this object, to get to know its particular story. Only time will tell.
The automata and clock elements seem to be running, but struggling, and the music sounds as though it needs a few extra hands to help play its tune. If the clock ended up in China, there is a fair chance that the strange and somewhat twinkle jangle "melody" is a product of time spent there.
Other members of staff joined in for the unveiling and a small most welcome visitor. She found herself enchanted by the contra-rotating flowers and twinkly tune that might make one wonder what stars sound like.
As you can see I am looking forward to the rewarding work to follow in the coming weeks as I get to know the ends and outs of such an extraordinary and important piece in horological history. Stay tuned for further updates on treatment!