The Engineer

Emett water clock

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Raspberry Pi is a credit card sized computer board.  They've been around for a few years now.  I had indeed contemplated controlling it all from a Pi and even wrote some of the software that it would need (in a popular computer language called Python).  It could then be controlled over the Internet and have different music playing at different times/dates.  The Pi would play MP3 files and control the starting and stopping of the various motors.

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I always thought this thing was a total white elephant. Whenever I passed by it was being repaired. There seemed to be more Araldite than original clock. It may have improved - when I was around Nottingham the clock was at the front of Viccy Centre near to Boots and the Parliament St entrance.

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When it first appeared, not knowing anything about Emett, I assumed it was based on a Heath-Robinson drawing.

 

It always seemed to attract crowds. Mainly children.

 

It is years since I was in the Victoria Centre and it probably looks very different now.

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I can remember it in its original (and much more sensible) location. The main advantage of that original position is that as well as seeing it from ground level, it could also be viewed from above, which is probably a better angle.

 

Having said that, in those days I was always underwhelmed by it, because it never did as much as I'd expected it to. I was looking for more dramatic action, bits flying around and zooming off in different directions. The reality was just a few pieces sedately going round in circles.

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Jonab: I don't know about elephant but the frame was white until we had it repainted it in the original 'cockpit green' (as used inside Spitfires and the like).  I muse on whether Emett had any RAF contacts after the war who had squirrelled away surplus paint (he had worked for the MoD during the war as a draughtsman working on aircraft parts).

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Jill: I think Emett was certainly influenced by Heath Robinson.

As for looking quite different now, I endeavoured to restore it to as near original as possible.  For instance the frame had been 'butchered' on more than one occasion and the legs had been concreted in and cut off twice, reducing the height by a good 18" or so.  I documented around 25 pieces of tubing that needed adding to restore to original stature.  I liaised with a fabrication welder to get it right.  It is not concreted in now (we added circular foot pads).

Another attention to detail was the colour of the various glass beads in the butterflies.  Each butterfly is unique.  I studied old video frame by frame to document the required colours for each (I renewed every one as they had been eroded by the chlorinated water).

I was even pedantic about using Imperial nuts and bolts instead of the metric ones that had crept in, even though no-one can see them.

If you look at the ring of 12 water spouts in the middle, they had disappeared at some point so I recreated them, again from old video and photographs (I made the petals from plumbing fittings, cutting, shaping and filing as necessary).

The mechanical drive for the cobweb wheel had also vanished many years ago, after its motor caught fire.  I designed and built a new drive arrangement from scratch to keep the wheel going round.

You can see now why I am dismayed if it isn't being looked after.

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Mary1947: There is a similar clock by Emett in the Eastgate shopping centre in Basildon - I did visit to have a gander some years ago but surprise surprise - it wasn't working!  It is called the Cat's Cradle Pussiewillow III and post-dates 'our' clock by around ten years.

The clock faces are almost identical and it has the familiar 'cobweb wheel'.  The 'sunflower is painted in pastel colours as opposed to our burnished copper.  One striking difference is that it is a dry installation - I think Emett learned that water is quite damaging to bright metalwork, especially when chlorinated.

Most Emett works are much smaller - he used to tour the country exhibiting them.

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I can quite believe that Emett was heavily influenced by Heath-Robinson. Their work is very similar.

 

I wasn't very clear in that I meant the Victoria Centre probably looks quite different now, not the Water Clock. I haven't been there for years but I can't imagine the clock being anywhere other than its original site. Like CT, I always found it more interesting to view from above, although I always endeavoured not to be in the vicinity when it was about to 'jangle' Rameau.

 

I marvel at your patience and dedication in resurrecting it, Engineer, and I can well understand how much it must irritate and frustrate you that it is not being well cared for.

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I've always liked the clock, I saw it when first installed and quite frankly the workmanship left a bit to be desired. It worked but was very 'wobbly', no wonder it took so much looking after.

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it is fine as it is the panel will just need a repair

 

Also the creatures behind the petals stopped spinning before they went up

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Jill: Sorry, my mistake.  Indeed the centre itself has changed quite a bit.

I think the plan behind moving the clock upstairs fitted with Intu's longer term objective of extending the centre to the north, revising the 'car park in the hole' area.  The clock would have ended up in the middle of a larger complex (that all hinged on doing Broad Marsh first - rather academic now).

I also think they were motivated by (a) more lucrative ways to generate income from third parties using the space in front of Boots and (b) increasing footfall to the upper north end where there are some child-oriented outlets (such as Disney and Build a Bear if they are still there) - the clock always did attract children wanting to make a wish.

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DanielHST: It is difficult to speculate what is wrong without inspection/testing.  I designed and built the electrical control panel from scratch (think that was 2012 - how time flies!) so I'd like to think that is still okay although I was not to happy about the temporary storage arrangements when it was moved from Birmingham to Nottingham (it may have been in a cold humid place - not good for things like the pins of plug-in relays and a barrel cam timer with microswitches).  Previous issues have been failures of geared motors and damaged/maladjusted sensors/limit switches/barrel cam timer.  Overall it is not particularly complicated - if they would let me have a look I am confident I could diagnose the problem(s).

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Intu have gone OTT with this and we might need to ask em if you can get it moved and fixed cause that would be epic

 

I might make a new rameu tune that sounds like the original 70s casette one

 

but less tinny

 

The here we come a wassailing tune for Xmas I might do

 

Or do you want the rameu all year

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