The Engineer

Emett water clock

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The Engineer    424

So, I went to the Vicky Centre a couple of weeks ago. Not stopped to see and hear the old Emett clock for ages and it was five to something so I hung around to enjoy the spectacle. The bell chimed the number of hours, the petals dropped and... nothing else! No music, the "orchestra" behind the petals didn't budge and even the main water wheel wasn't turning. In fact apart from the clock itself (which incidentally was five minutes out), it was inanimate. What a disappointment!

I've since done some investigation and am considering what restoration needs to be done to get the piece back to original functionality (if possible). I could do with some assistance in regard of what it looked like back then - I'm sure it wasn't all white as it is now. There are some bits on YouTube but nothing clear enough to see detail. Anyone got old photos (or good memories)?

Out of interest, while the concept and design was by Frederick Rowland Emett, there were clocksmiths, blacksmiths and tinsmiths involved along the way. In fact the clock parts were by Thwaites and Reed, who maintain Big Ben. Design dates from around 1971, with installation during 1972. The commemorative stone is dated 20 February 1973. There is an Evening Post photo (Picture the Past) taken on this date that shows Emett being interviewed.

If anyone wants to know how it really works, I can elaborate.

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Beefsteak    259

Welcome on board.

I was at the 'opening' in'73 and was also on 'telly as they showed a bit of a crowd scene.

Was it powered by water ? I'm not assuming the clock was !

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mick2me    2,962

There is a Clockmaker on Mansfield Road at Derby, I wonder if they had any involvement.

Cant say I have paid much attention to it in recent years, but I remember gold leaves?

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Fynger    836

Thort most of it was gold coloured...cept maybe the box in the middle

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Fynger    836

Chitty3.jpg

magnify-clip.pngChitty Chitty Bang Bang was one of Roland Emett's most widely recognized creations. It appeared in the 1968 film of the same name.

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Fynger    836

Heres a quote from the bottom of a YouTube vid about it

Except, of course, it doesn't works as it used to because it looks like it has been butchered.

The original color scheme was blue and green and natural bronze. The animals inside the 'flower' would revolve during the chime and the clock itself played a Rameau harpsichord piece (2nd Gigue en Rondeau - IIRC).

If they can't keep it as Emmet intended then they should rip it out and donate it to the Emmet Collection of the Ontario Science Museum.

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The Engineer    424

Thank you for the replies so far. A few points to pick up on:

Was it powered by water? I don't think so. Obviously the clock is electric - there's a small motor in the box that goes through a few gears before turning a vertical shaft that goes up to the clock faces. Another small motor controls the striking of the bell. There's a motor that operates the petals. There's a motor that operates the "orchestra" (the six figures that dance around when the petals are down). There's a motor that drives the "Top Feature" (the three figures that rotate slowly below the clock faces). The bit that I'm not sure about is that I think there was a shaft coming out of the back of the box that drove the "water wheel". There's a hole in the box in the right place but no motor inside. I reckon that motor/shaft has been removed (probably broken) and since then the wheel has sometimes rotated under true water power. However, due to corrosion, bits have fallen off it causing imbalance so it doesn't turn.

Clockmaker: There are original looking plates bearing the name "Thwaites and Reed" and I've seen original wiring diagrams,dated 1971 and 1973 that were drawn by Thwaites and Reed. At some later point in the clock's life, some refurbishment work appears to have been carried out by D A Lyon, Watch and Clock Repairers, 115 Mansfield Road, Nottingham. I believe they are still there but I haven't approached them yet for information (on my "to do" list). There's nothing to suggest any involvement by other clockmakers.

What's in a name? Rowlend Emett used to assign whimsical names to his pieces, hence "Aqua Horological Tintinnabulator". The commemorative stone (still there) gives the name as "The Victoria Centre Time Fountain", but I've also seen reference to it as the "Rhythmical Time Fountain". Of course we locals just call it the water clock!

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: Whist Emett is given credit for designing the car by this name in the 1968 film, it was actually based on a design by Ken Adam, the film's production designer, but Emett provided design for the wings, embellishments and twiddly bits.

Colour: I've seen that quote and too remember blue/green, some shade of "aqua". The large flower-like part between the wheet and the box was green I think.

Music: The original music was "Deuxieme Gigue en Rondeau" composed by Jean-Philippe Rameau, from his "Pieces de Clavecin" 1724 Suite in E minor (clavecin = harpsichord). I have some recordings but none that quite match the original in both pitch and tempo. The original recording was on an endless loop of audio cassette tape. There was a motorised unit that wound the volume up and down (again, the nameplate says "Thwaites and Reed".

YouTube: I've seen the 1974 video. Whoever filmed it spells centre as "center". They made another video in 1993 that has been more useful to me.

The piece was originally surrounded by a ring of carved and polished stone, there were plants in the pond with it and some small fountains. The whole thing was moved out of the way when they did a major refurbishment (including the ceilings). I don't have a date on that yet. The seating probably appeared when it was reinstated. Note how the seating is now rotting where it gets splashed from the water wheel spout (probably made worse if the wheelis stationary).

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loppylugs    5,572

"YouTube: I've seen the 1974 video. Whoever filmed it spells centre as "center". They made another video in 1993 that has been more useful to me." End quote.

Thanks for referencing my video, Suzy.

Been in Canada and the US so long I have been infected by that spelling. however the meaning is the same. cool2

Only regret is those old 8 mm films had no sound and the resolution leaves something to be desired.

The later video was made on VHS.

Anyway, that said. Glad you found it a bit useful Mr. Engineer and welcome to the site. Look forward to hearing more from you.

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susyshoes    69

No probs, didnt realise it was one of yours. very interesting. i found it a few months ago and remembered it when The Engineer asked about the water clock

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The Engineer    424

loppylugs, I've watched both your videos over and over. On the 1974 one, I timed the rotation of the water wheel and the Top Feature many times to get an average rotation speed (I think some motors have been renewed so I want to check against current speeds - when they are running properly again!). On the 1993 video, with sound, I timed the tempo of the music and have compared the pitch to other versions I have, hence my comment that I don't as yet have an accurate match. I can of course "adjust" a recording to the right tempo and pitch if necessary (I am considering an implementation with MP3 instead of audio cassette).

Must try to check Orchestra rotation speed next.

Interesting you mention Canada. Apparently there are several works by Emett in the Ontario Science Center.

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mick2me    2,962

Engineer are you to have any involvement in restoring the clock?

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loppylugs    5,572

loppylugs, I've watched both your videos over and over. On the 1974 one, I timed the rotation of the water wheel and the Top Feature many times to get an average rotation speed (I think some motors have been renewed so I want to check against current speeds - when they are running properly again!). On the 1993 video, with sound, I timed the tempo of the music and have compared the pitch to other versions I have, hence my comment that I don't as yet have an accurate match. I can of course "adjust" a recording to the right tempo and pitch if necessary (I am considering an implementation with MP3 instead of audio cassette).

Must try to check Orchestra rotation speed next.

Interesting you mention Canada. Apparently there are several works by Emett in the Ontario Science Center.

Not sure how accurate the 1974 film would have been for speed. Filmed on Super 8 mm film on a battery driven Canon camera.

Projected at a speed that best reduced flicker for digitizing. It should be pretty close though.

The VHS version should be pretty accurate.

I was in the Ontario science center (Spelling :-) ) many moons ago, early 70s so don't remember what was displayed there now.

Anyway, always pleased to hear the videos have proven useful.

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The Engineer    424

loppylugs: I don't suppose the speed is super critical but it will be useful to compare. If current speed were say plus or minus 25% of original I would say that's wrong. Hopefully any maintenance or repair over the years has been "like for like" but I know from experience that it isn't always possible to source replacements for "old gear".

mick2me: I am interested to get involved but don't know yet how big a job it would be, hence my initial research. I'm not associated with Victoria Centre at all. I just expressed an interest in getting the clock sorted and am currently writing a technical report to present to their Operations Management team. If we get to the point of "rolling up one's sleeves", I've offered my services FOC but would expect them to meet the cost of parts.

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The Engineer    424

I discovered that there is another Emett piece called "The Cat's Cradle - Pussiwillow III" that is in the Eastgate Shopping Centre in Basildon. I happened to be in Kent yesterday so I popped into Essex on the way back to have a butchers.

There are some features that remind me of "ours" such as the big wheel with the swinging butterflies, the three arms above with pendant features and the clock faces look similar and it has a bell. There is a circle of petals like ours but they appear to be fixed, and they are not polished copper. It has what appear to be bicycle wheel with motors on the two bigger ones but they didn't budge. In fact even the clock was stopped - the whole thing was just inanimate and gathering dust. You may see water in some photos but there is no pond there now (maybe they drained it while Santa's Grotto is next to it). I couldn't even see a nameplate to indicate that it was by Rowland Emett. Sad.

PS. I see the Basildonians have an appreciation society on Facebook - maybe we could do with something like that to raise awareness?

http://www.facebook....?gid=8420606182

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mick2me    2,962

Engineer, I would be very interested in Documenting any restoration.

The facebook group is no problerm.

Are you coming to our meet up on 28th?

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The Engineer    424

Another Emett piece that has some similarities is at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum but it has been mothballed since they had a small fire. It is called S.S (Space Ship) Pussiwillow II. It has the familiar "wheel with butterflies" and some parts similar to the Basildon Pussiwillow iii. Just wondering where Pussiwillow I is!

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mick2me    2,962

Perhaps Notts Vic Centre was his first P'Willow

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The Engineer    424

I don't think so. His whimsical name for it was the "Aqua Horological Tintinnabulator" and it was his first static piece.

Today I saw a photo of Emett building the "orchestra" section in a converted barn in the Sussex Downs. He has pencilled on a whitewashed beam "26th August 1970 (1/2 Closing Day) construction of the fountain started". Apparently he got it finished about a year before Vic Centre was ready to accept it.

In answer to documenting any restoration, I would naturally take lots of photos if I get involved (before-after sort of thing) but will post here before anything is changed.

Still working on that technical report but am having to consider electrical safety of existing installation as a priority (it's OK, no one is going to get electrocuted from it!) Trouble is, once you modify an electrical system, you have to make sure it is safety compliant and properly tested before handing back.

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mick2me    2,962

Yes but you cant take decent photographs of the Engineer working on the restoration!

I was also formerly an Electrician. I would assume the clock works on low voltage?

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The Engineer    424

It works on 230 volts, though as you probably know, that's technically 'Low Voltage' according to the Regs.

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mick2me    2,962

I did take close look at it yesterday.

It seems in good condition, but in need of a clean up?

Are there plans to restore it?

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The Engineer    424

It might appear to be in good condition but it is pretty inanimate and there's rust showing on the tubular steel legs.

I've mentioned 'restoration' in some of my posts but I guess what I mean is 'reinstating functionality', rather than any attempt at true 'restoration'. Looking at the music source for instance, I don't think it is a practical proposition to get the audio cassette tape system working again. Instead, I will be proposing an MP3-based system. As for the water wheel that isn't turning, I suspect that it had mechanical drive and I am trying to figure out what the arrangement was (bits may be missing). If I can't locate the original design, I will see about proposing something that will do the job. I'd like to see it all working again, even if it isn't exactly as it was in 1972.

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mick2me    2,962

Do you have access to the original music?

I did see the Rust on the tubular framework, how bad is it?

There was mention earlier of the gold leaves being painted over but I saw no evidence of this?

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