One of the most familiar sounds in day to day life is the ticking of a clock. In fact it’s such a familiar sound that we often tune it out. Whilst thinking of objects that produce sound in preparation for the ‘Sounds Familiar’ Hands on History session, I became aware of the clock in the office ticking. Until that moment, it hadn’t occurred to me to look for a clock to bring out of the stores to share with our visitors, even though it’s an obvious choice for the theme. I guess that serves to prove that tick-tocking is such a commonplace sound it can be barely noticeable except of course on a sleepless night!
I could hardly have hoped to find a lovelier, more locally significant clock to share with our visitors than this crescent moon shaped timepiece manufactured by the British United Clock Company of Birmingham. Established in 1885 by the Davies brothers, the company was one of the first in Britain to mass produce clocks. Despite the brothers’ considerable contribution to the development of manufacturing methods in late nineteenth century Britain and their success in winning high profile awards throughout the 1880s, the company was forced to close in 1909 due to the import of less expensive, lower quality clocks from Europe.
The high quality of design and decoration given to the British United Clock Company’s products is clearly identified in this example from our museum collections. The clock’s dial displays a relief engraving of a cherub bathed in sunshine, lifting a fan of feathers into the air whilst riding a chariot that appears to be drawn by two dragonflies. In tandem with the engraved scene, is another scene painted on porcelain and framed within the crescent moon. The depicted church, which stands on the corner of a street lined with houses, is believed to be the Nuneaton Wesleyan Methodist Church that once stood in Abbey Street.
In two tiny cottages on Abbey Street, Nuneaton’s first Methodist place of worship was founded in the 1820s; a further cottage housed the Sunday School. In 1841, the first Wesleyan Methodist Chapel seating 400 parishioners followed. Following a four year programme of renovations and improvements, led by Reginald Stanley of Stanley Brothers Brickworks and architect, Frederick John Yates, the Chapel re-opened in 1873. Two new organs, an upper balcony, capacity for a congregation of 800 and the addition of a spire were among the renovations. It seems fitting that this once impressive Nuneaton building, sadly demolished in 1963, is preserved in time through this unique clock.
We hope you will join us in the Picture Gallery on Saturday 16 April from 11am – 4pm for the chance to see the clock and get hands on with various objects from our collections that have made some familiar sounds in their time.