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16 Jan 2018

Passing time with Brodie Castle’s musical clock

Brodie’s Stollewerck ormolu clock comes to life.

Hanging on the wall of the Red Drawing Room at Brodie Castle, just beside the spiral staircase, is a spectacular example of a Louis XV wall-mounted cartel clock. A cartel clock is a clock in a cartouche (an ornate frame) – and this clock certainly has that! The face of the clock is actually quite simple, with an inner circle of Roman numerals marking the hours and an outer circle of Arabic numerals marking the five-minute intervals. However, this plain face sits in a flamboyant confection of ormolu (gilded metal work) that reaches a metre in height. The frame just begs to come alive in candle light!

Working beside it, you cannot miss the clock’s musical quality. It marks every half hour with a ‘bing’, and the hours are marked with one of 13 tunes played from the base of the mechanism. The craftsmanship in the working of the music box must be outstanding to achieve such purity of sound. It is commented on by everyone who hears it play.

The clock was made in the mid-18th century, which we know from the maker’s name ‘STOLLEWERCK A PARIS’ inscribed on the face. But hidden away is another, rather haphazard, scratched inscription on the clock mechanism. This is my favourite part of the clock. It is not possible to read it in full, but it looks like a name followed by a date: ‘[?] aoust 1771’. Who made this inscription all those years ago – another maker or a mender? I suspect that the clock on the wall would have some stories to tell.