Historic clock is back in village after a renovation

Clock restorer Grant Lees and Jane Bowen from Belford Museum.
Clock restorer Grant Lees and Jane Bowen from Belford Museum.

A vintage clock, which has historical significance to a north Northumberland village,has been renovated and will go on show next month.

When Belford War Memorial Hall had to close at the end of January, one of the items which was found hidden away was the very large wall clock.

It had certainly seen better days. Apart from a good coating of the grime of ages, it had lost both its pendulum and its hands.

Despite this, it was a key find, as it has historic links with the village.

On its face was the name of one of Belford’s clockmakers, Thomas Thompson. A further inscription added that it had been presented by Edward Wilson in February 1877. So sparked a mystery – who was Mr Wilson? After a little bit of digging on family-history websites, it was discovered that he was born in 1812, at Lyham, the son of a farm labourer.

Little is known of his life over the next 20 years, but he appears to have emigrated to America in the early 1830s, eventually settling in Louisville, Kentucky, where he earned his living as a florist.

He came to Scotland to marry in 1837, going back to Louisville by 1841 when he was appointed to the committee of the Louisville Horticultural Society, and there he remained until some time in the 1860s when he returned to Belford.

It may be that the outbreak of the American Civil War encouraged him to leave, but the death of his father and a brother in the 1860s was possibly another reason for his homecoming.

He returned a wealthy man. The American Census of 1860 records that he had property worth $8,000, and a personal fortune of $25, 000.

Back in Belford, he used his wealth for generous donations to various village institutions, including giving the clock to the Scotch Church.

The Hall trustees have subsequently given stewardship of the clock to Belford Museum, which took it to Grant Lees, the Galashiels clock restorer, who made a beautiful job of putting it back in working order.

He told the museum that in its day it was a very good and expensive clock, made of mahogany and with fine brasswork, and specially designed so that it could be inserted into the wooden front of a church gallery. It could be wound from the face, but for ease, also from the back, so that the winder only had to go and sit in the gallery and open the back of the clock; so no swaying about on rickety ladders.

And over the weekend of September 9 and 10, the clock will be on display in Belford Museum, as part of the Heritage Open Days initiative.