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Clock museum curator ready to fall back
Viscount Alan Midleton winds one of the many clocks at the BHI

The curator of one of the largest clock museums in the world is preparing for the end of British summer time.

The British Horological Institute (BHI) in Nottinghamshire boasts some 4,000 watches and clocks.

It is up to Alan Midleton to wind the time-pieces and, twice a year, either move them forward or back an hour.

He said: "It generally takes two hours to wind all the clocks here. When the clocks go forward you can add another half hour to that."

Springing forward is the easy part. The curator, whose full title is Viscount Alan Midleton, says losing an hour in the autumn brings fresh problems.

"You should not turn the hands of a striking clock backwards. You either have to go forward 11 hours, which, if you've got a clock that strikes the quarter hours, takes a long, long time.

"[Or] the simplest thing to do is stop the clock for an hour. This adds an extra hour to the winding process."

In 2010 the end of British Summer Time falls on 31 October. At 2.00am the official time across the UK will move back to 1.00am.

Every Tuesday at 10.00am Viscount Midleton spends two hours winding the clocks.

Monday is no good because of the number of Bank Holidays during the year.

"I'm English, I like routines. We're good at that," he said.

British Horological Institute museum collection
Over 4,000 clocks and watches
The oldest dates back to the 1640s
The collection includes a pocket watch once belonging to polar explorer Captain Scott
It is home to the world's first and second speaking clock
The exhibits include a clock that kept the time for the BBC

It has also built up a substantial museum thanks to items donated to the institute. That is one of the reasons the BHI is located near Southwell.

Coming to Nottinghamshire

The British Horological Institute was founded in 1858. In 1972 it relocated from its London home in Northampton Street, Clerkenwell, to Upton Hall in Nottinghamshire.

According to Viscount Midleton it was a decision down to space, building condition and money.

"It had been badly damaged during the second world war... during the blitz and by a V2 rocket. Although it had been repaired it hadn't been repaired enough. It was going to cost £150,000 to restore it ... so we sold it for £105,000 and purchased Upton Hall for £33,000."

However, the clock curator said, more than 30 years on, there is still some ill-feeling about the move.

"Some [members] have never been happy about it. There's a continued debate within the institute about whether we ought to be here or whether we move. But if we move to a city like Birmingham [which some members want] we might be able to buy a single garage for the price of this building.

"The money doesn't stack up. I think we'll stay here."

Passing on the tradition

For 120 years, the BHI has been training clock and watch makers.

Alan Midleton ensures his clocks chime on time

It is a tradition that continues to this day with lessons at Upton Hall and also correspondence courses.

Latterly there has been a shortage of people becoming watchmakers but the institute has recently seen professional people, who might have lost their jobs in the recession, enquiring about the trade.

Traditionally it took seven years to become fully trained but the Institute allows people to learn in stages.

More than 200 are currently on the correspondence course.

The Institute opens to the general public three times a year - on the last Sunday in March, when the clocks go forward, one weekend in June and on the last Sunday in October, when the clocks go back but private tours can be arranged. For more information contact 01636 813795.


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