05 August 2021
The Master writes:
Never having previously visited Belmont, but having been told how splendid it was, Wendy and I were looking forward to our visit on August 5th. We were not disappointed. The surrounding countryside looked lovely in the welcome sunshine and from the narrow approach road the house looked beautiful. All eighteen places for the event had long been snapped up so there was an air of anticipation as we gathered in the conservatory for morning coffee. Outside two magnificent Bentleys announced that something special was happening and, indeed, it was.
Our Curatorial Adviser, PM Jonathan Betts introduced us to the Harris family, their history and their country home giving us the background to one of the greatest collections of clocks and watches in the country. As soon as we entered the first of the reception rooms I was immediately taken by the grandeur of the architecture but the intimacy of the furnishings and ephemera. It felt cherished and lived in.
The house and its clocks was impressive enough but when Jonathan opened up a door off the landing and led us into the museum proper, we were amazed. Here the jewels of the collection are kept with their importance in the history of timekeeping carefully explained by our guide. If you want to know more, buy the book!
We then drove to the George Inn at Newnham for lunch [a preference amongst Clockmakers for Fish and Chips became apparent] and from there to the home of Steward David Wood-Heath.
David has built up a large collection of unusual and rare machines for creating decorative patterns. Including - Rose Engines and Ornamental Turning Lathes, some dating from 1818, Engine Turning Rose Engines and Straight-Line Engines, Brocading Engines, Coin Makers / Medal Makers Reducing Lathes, a complex Geometric Lathe formerly in the Bank of England Printing Works and used for creating Guilloche patterns on bank notes, Wheel Cutting Dividing Engines, Watchmakers Lathes and tools, and many associated artefacts, both antique and modern. Many of the machines are in working order and subject to numbers and time, there was an opportunity for visitors to try their hand at “Engine Turning” on a Rose Engine or on a Straight-Line Engine.
Some rain didn’t stop us from enjoying Anita’s tea and cakes and by the end of the afternoon we had the most interesting and pleasurable of days