Previous Talks

10th April 2019. Ben Wright started his talk to Cheltenham Branch members by outlining his education in the field of horology  and went on to give us an insight into his experiences with Christies and Bonham’s auction houses before he became an independent specialist. Based on his wide experience he provided us with a list of the top thirteen prices paid at auction for clocks and watches. Ben compared the prices for a mass produced Rolex previously owned by Paul Newman; a Patek Philippe watch; a unique watch by George Daniels, a clock cased in a Faberge Egg and a clock by Joseph Knibb. it was clear that the perceived value of the items was not intuitive, but depended on a combination of maker, rarity, complexity and above all, provenance. Overall a fascinating insight into the world of high-end watch and clock collecting, with more than a few surprises, The talk was well received by the Branch members.

13th March 2019. Attendees at the Cheltenham Branch March meeting got two speakers for the price if one. John Ward and Grenville Johns presented “Home for a Fusee” based upon their development and delivery of a Fusee Dial case making course at the South London Branch workshops. John and Grenville explained how every student on the course, including those without prior woodworking experience, had successfully made their own case; and how they got round the “no sawdust” rule in the workshops! Not only did our joint presenters give a good account of the construction of such a case, but also a guide to the evolution of fusee case design features over some 250 years of production. Cheltenham members and visitors are grateful to john and Grenville for a very informative evening.

13th February 2019. “Smiths Speedometers ” by Dr. Mike Flannery. In February, Cheltenham Branch members were treated to something different. Dr Mike Flannery FBHI presented “Smiths Speedometers”. In one sense this was familiar ground to our horologists involving  hairsprings and geared mechanisms, in other ways, this was uncharted territory. Technically members were challenged. not just with escapement-like “chronometric” mechanisms, but also with eddy current speed cups and  centrifugal governors. From a conservation point of view, the combined effects of MAZAK rot and power driven mechanisms meant that, in common with automotive practice, retention of original parts was often a distant aspiration, requiring a wide range of different skills to bring vintage speedometers back into service.  Cheltenham members are indebted to Mike for a very entertaining evening with insights into a parallel world of small geared mechanisms.

11th November 2018. AGM, followed by a Bring & Buy. This month was the AGM for Cheltenham branch, which was swiftly concluded and was followed by wine & cheese and a bring & buy event. Our stall-holders brought a wide range of items for sale with plenty for everyone to pick through. Sadly there were very few visitors from outside the branch, but those who did come were very happy with the results. We hope to hold a similar event in the future – watch this space!

10th October 2018. “Building a Month Regulator” by Dave Shires. The introductory part of David Shires October presentation to Cheltenham Branch members was impressive enough, as he described his construction of John Wilding’s 8 day regulator, followed by a C17th style long case clock and two drop dial fusee timepieces. All this and he still had not touched on the subject of his talk: The Construction of a Month Going Regulator. David, trained as a scientific instrument maker, prior to a career largely in double glazing, explained that he had not only made all the significant elements of the movements from scratch but had designed and introduced his own refinements including purpose made pivot jewel assemblies. Most surprisingly rather than an extensive engineering workshop, David showed photographs of his domestic work room with simple equipment that most members could aspire to. As well as information of sourcing custom jewelling, dial engraving and case making, David gave some good advice including that; to maintain the momentum of a project, go into the workshop every day, even if only to tidy up. Cheltenham members are indebted to David for an inspiring evening’s entertainment and sound advice.

12th September 2018. “Louis XVI Lyre Clock” by Philip J. Gale In September, Phillip Gale addressed a good turnout of Cheltenham Branch members on the subject of a Louis XVI lyre clock that he had once restored. This restoration (and indeed the talk) was exceptional in the breadth of repair techniques that were covered. The task had been made more challenging by the previous restorations of this badly damaged and deteriorated artifact using unsuitable materials. The breadth of inappropriate materials that were encountered (including both pitch and epoxy adhesives) suggested that this clock had C19th repairs as well as a C20th reconstruction. Worse still, the clock case had been “enhanced” with parts which did not originally belong. Phillip explained how all this damage and desecration had been rectified by specialists in ceramics, metalwork and metal finishing; with the end result that the clock emerged pristine with no visible traces of its chequered history. A lively debate then ensued over the preservation of the skills that had gone into this restoration, with Phillip advising that in the few years since, several of the specialists involved had retired and even where their businesses continued, the capabilities had been lost. Cheltenham members are indebted to Phillip for a thought provoking presentation.

9th May 2018. “Wells Cathedral Clock” by Bob Frost At the May meeting of the Cheltenham Branch, members were treated to a presentation by Bob Frost, keeper of the Wells Cathedral Clock. Bob explained that he is responsible for all the aspects of care of the clock, from day-to-day timekeeping to gradually stripping, cleaning and overhauling all its elements. Members learnt that this had given him unparalleled access not just to the ancient parts of the clock still remaining in situ, but also to (literally) hundredweights of documents including 250 years of tradesmen’s bills. Access to the hidden parts of the clock has enabled Bob to assemble and present incontrovertible evidence that the unique dial of the Wells clock is not in its original state, but has been significantly altered. Access to the Cathedral documents pointed to previously unknown aspects of the clock’s history. Bob provided members with supporting evidence for the (now challenged) early date of the “original” mechanism in the science museum and, even more controversially, challenged the primacy of even this ancient mechanism. For the benefit of the members, Bob put the Wells dials and automata in context with other local turret clocks, but left the mysteries of Jack Blandiford and the clock’s “witches marks” to members’ imaginations. Cheltenham Branch members are indebted to Bob for an evening of revelations surrounding this historic clock.

11th April 2018. “The use of a Milling Machine for beginners” given by Sid Lines MBHI In April, Sid Lines entertained and enlightened a good turnout of Cheltenham Branch members on the subject of milling machines. Sid blended the obscure with the obvious: giving those familiar with milling some useful hints and tips; and those with no knowledge or experience, a basic grounding in the subject. Milling techniques for a range of materials were discussed: not just the usual brass and carbon steel, but also stainless steel; cast iron; aluminium; plastic; and even wood. Lubrication was covered, with typically pragmatic advice on the use of brushing, rather than pumped coolant systems in a home workshop setting. The audience now know when to avoid and when to embrace climb / back / down milling; the role of 2, 3 and or 4 flute end mills; which of these can be used for plunge routing and checks to be made on tip geometry before attempting this. Most astonishing were arcane practices employing pins, plasticine and Rizla papers for centring and aligning cutters, in place of traditional wobblers and new-fangled lasers. Sid gave practical advice on the benefits and shortcomings of carbide vs HSS cutters, and on the feasibility, economics and drawbacks of re-sharpening. Once again, Cheltenham members are indebted to Sid for an evening of insight and humour.

21st March 2018. “Large Sculptural Clocks” by Clive Steer Clive Steer addressed the March meeting of the Cheltenham branch, with the story of the Sculptural Clock that he built for the GSK headquarters in Brentford. Intriguingly, Clive explained how he approached this as an engineering project with a gearbox, rather than as a clock following horological precedents. The commission required that the clock be of substantial size, without either a dial or visible mechanism; and be suspended and rotated in the GSK atrium. The members present could all relate to the horological issues of counterbalancing, inertia and power, but Clive’s engineering solutions were novel and of great interest to all. Once our speaker showed the finished product, members assumed that the talk was over, but (as on previous occasions) we were mistaken. Clive then launched into a fascinating photographic tour of his workshops and concluded with the aeroplane that he had built and flown! Cheltenham members are deeply grateful to Clive for an entertaining evening with novel insights.

21st February 2018. “The Cole Family of Clockmakers” by Ron Rose. More Information Ron Rose FBHI At our February meeting a record number of members were introduced to the Cole Family of Clockmakers by Ronald E Rose FBHI. Ron led the audience through the establishment of the Cole family clockmaking business in Somerset, by James “Conjuror” Cole, and his intriguing association with the poets Coleridge and Wordsworth. Interesting questions then followed regarding James’ apparently precocious sons, James Fergusson and Thomas; who signed clocks in their own names in their teens, and were producing clocks with grand complications in their 20s. Plausible explanations followed, with reference to detailed video recordings of the complications and actions of a James Cole year going longcase clock, and a James Ferguson Cole “Humpback” carriage clock. Ron then charted James’ descent into insanity; James Ferguson’s bankruptcy; and the emergence of Thomas Cole as a prolific manufacturer of innovative strut and tripod clocks. Having teased the audiences with glimpses of rare and valuable clocks that they would probably never handle, let alone own, Ron then produced three rare and inexpensive clocks of such a mundane nature that no-one present would otherwise be likely to spot, let alone handle or own. The branch is grateful to Ron Rose for opening their eyes to both the complicated and the unexpected.