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Changing times of a Norfolk clockmaker

PUBLISHED: 14:07 14 March 2018

The charming cottage in Mill Street, Buxton, with the circular indentation for the turret clock.

The charming cottage in Mill Street, Buxton, with the circular indentation for the turret clock.

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Collectables: Mike Hicks looks at the story of a Norfolk clockmaker.

A Russell clock face showing a mill race and landscape.A Russell clock face showing a mill race and landscape.

In the pretty village of Buxton near Aylsham, there is a small attractive cottage overlooking the river and it has one significant feature on the outside wall, and that is a circular indentation. Now, I can remember when that indentation housed a clock, and I am a firm believer that this was the house, home

and probably workshop of clockmaker Jas Russell.

I would think that probably many towns and villages in East Anglia had their own clock or watchmaker; many had several. They moved around and didn’t always stay in the same village, so you may find that a manufacturer of clocks in Acle had moved to Stalham then to North Walsham, or he could have been established in Framlingham moving to Saxmundham. These movements were quite common.

The Russell family of Buxton were known to produce a wide range of clocks dating from about 1800-1830. The clock I remember on the outside of the building was a turret clock. These type of clocks were large and must have needed an incredibly spacious workshop to make them. I should have thought that Mr Russell considered it made a very good advertisement.

Turret clocks were normally found on the outside of churches and with our vast number in the region there were plenty of customers for this type of movement.

In the very good book by Clifford and Yvonne Bird (‘Norfolk and Norwich Clocks and Clockmakers’), the Russell workshop is mentioned. Edward Russell was working, it says, between 1826-1895, when he died aged 69. He was the son of

another Edward, again of Buxton. There were many other Russells in the area.

So, what sort of clockmaker was he? A very good one, maybe not always making the clocks himself but buying in the components and putting them together in a very stylish way. We know that he made the conventional longcase clock and if it has a brass face and movement, it is more than likely he made it himself. If it has a painted or an enamelled face, it is possible he bought in the components, which was the normal method for clockmakers after about 1800 but, as to the turret clock that I think appeared on the outside of his home, these were very specialist, hand-built and made to last.

Perhaps this pretty village house might one day get a turret clock back to fill the space. It would live up to its name once again: “The Clock House”.

Mike Hicks runs Stalham Antique Gallery at 29 High Street, Stalham (NR12 9AH). You can contact Mike on 01692 580636 or info@mikehicksantiques.co.uk.


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