The Emett Clock returns to the intu Victoria Centre
Last week saw the highly anticipated return of the Emett Clock to Nottingham’s intu Victoria Centre. Today we’re fortunate enough to be able to share the experiences of Pete Dexter; the man behind the clocks restoration and eventual return to Nottingham. Here’s his experience on working on one of the most iconic and unique time pieces ever made.
I’m Pete Dexter, Nottingham-born retired engineer. In November 2011, I took my two-year-old grand-daughter Emma Jaggers to see the water clock in the Victoria Centre. It always had a special appeal for children, who love to toss coins in and make a wish. Alas, we were disappointed; whilst the clock faces were working, it was otherwise a drab inanimate object.
I contacted the Centre management, asking what troubled the clock and saying that if it needed engineering expertise I would offer my services. Expecting a response of “it needs money and we don’t have any”, I was pleasantly surprised when Ian Turner, Operations Manager, said, “You’re welcome to have a look.” On inspection, I found the electrical controls to be in a worse state than expected and I effectively condemned it. I had to decide whether to jump in and ‘just do it’ or to let them know what needed doing and stand back. I chose the former, offering my services free of charge, provided that they (intu) procured necessary parts and materials.
I designed and built a new electrical control system and re-instated the 1724 harpsichord music by Rameau, discarding the audio cassette tape system in favour of a CD-based source. It was up and running by 21 June 2012 in time for Victoria Centre’s 40th birthday celebrations. It worked well but still looked shabby.
Late in 2013, it was announced by intu that the clock would be removed from its existing location and be taken to Birmingham as part of a wider exhibition of works by Rowland Emett.
With The Rowland Emett Society and technicians from intu, I dismantled the clock in February 2014 and parts were put into storage, mainly in and around Tamworth. The frame was extensively reconstructed to match the original specification and various other parts were cleaned and polished. I personally worked on all the electrical and mechanical systems.
The clock was assembled at Millennium Point, Birmingham in June 2014. It was a dry installation so I had designed and built a replacement system to drive the ornate cobweb wheel. There were problems; I made many visits from Nottingham to Birmingham trying to keep it running. Whilst inconvenient, it was useful education as to what required further attention when repatriating the clock in Nottingham.
By mid-September, Millennium Point needed the space so we dismantled the clock and put it into storage again. We moved the parts back to Nottingham in December 2014, locating them in a spare Victoria Centre basement workshop, where I could carry out further renovation based on my Birmingham experiences.
This final stage of renovation saw new motors, new bearings throughout, new ‘jewels’ in the butterflies and much polishing, painting and lacquering. Furthermore, I designed a new hydraulic system to restore the original water features, including a fountain of 12 water jets.
The Emett water clock was officially started on 17 June 2015 by my aforementioned grand-daughter, Emma Jaggers.
Why not visit the Emett Clock on the upper level of the intu Victoria Centre during your next shopping spree? Visit the website for more information.