Timekeeping museum counts down the minutes to reopening

A museum in Upton is well suited to counting down the minutes to its long-awaited reopening after all the lockdown restrictions.

Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 7:40 pm
A majestic lantern clock at the Museum Of Timekeeping in Upton.
A majestic lantern clock at the Museum Of Timekeeping in Upton.

For the Museum of Timekeeping houses a fascinating collection of thousands of clocks, watches and timepieces – and all are set to the moment on Friday, May 28 at 11 am when it can fling open its doors again.

Museum manager Alex Bond beamed: “It feels absolutely fantastic because it has been a long time coming.

"I can’t tell you how much we are looking forward to welcoming visitors back.

The historic Upton Hall, where the museum is located.

"We closed in October, 2019 for our normal winter break, and the very week we were meant to reopen in the spring of last year was the first week lockdown was imposed. So, we have been shut now for about 18 months.”

Alex, who herself was furloughed for most of 2020, admits that the closure heaped enormous pressure on the popular and respected museum.

"It has been incredibly difficult and challenging,” she said.

"We have had to make a lot of cutbacks and scale back what we have been doing.

Visitors peruse the artefacts at the museum.

"We are a small, independent museum that doesn’t receive support from the government or a major company or charity.

"We rely entirely on external funding and the generosity of our visitors and donors, so it has been a big challenge to make ends meet.

"Fortunately, we have received a lot of support from two bodies that has meant we haven’t had to dig too deeply into our own coffers.

"We have received funding from Museums Development East Midlands, which works tirelessly to support heritage sites, and also from Newark and Sherwood District Council, which has helped us create some digital content.”

The General Post Office's first speaking clock, which can be seen at the museum.

With the lifting of restrictions, the museum has been working hard on its preparations to welcome the public back, while ensuring everyone is kept safe.

Initially, it will open only on Fridays and Saturdays from 11 am to 3 pm. Numbers will be strictly managed, and all visitors need to book a timed ticket in advance.

"It will be a soft opening,” explained Alex. “We will follow government guidelines and take a lead from our team of volunteers.

"We want to make sure all our visitors and staff feel comfortable.

Inside the grand hall at the Museum Of Timekeeping.

"Hopefully, by the spring of 2022, we will be able to offer our full range of services, which will include our usual big weekend events and group tours.

"However, during the 18 months of closure, we haven’t been sat on our laurels. We have been trying to do as much as we can to continue to move the museum forward.”

The reopening will feature the launch of two new exhibitions, ‘The Wonder Of Watches’ and ‘The Speaking Clocks’, while a new shop has been created, stocking an array of bespoke gifts, souvenirs, books, T-shirts, postcards and locally-created artwork and photography, all with a horological theme.

Established in 1994, the museum cares for a unique collection of 10,000 artefacts at what is the home of the British Horological Institute in the picturesque village of Upton, near Southwell.

Run by a board of trustees, it is supported by a small team of part-time staff and up to 80 volunteers.

Its amazing exhibits include the watch worn by Captain Scott on his ill-fated polar expedition of 1912.

Visitors can discover more about early timekeeping devices, including turret and lantern clocks, and they can hear the voice of the General Post Office’s first speaking clock via the original machine itself.

You can also explore the grounds and grand rooms of Upton Hall, a Grade II listed building that houses the museum.

“You’ll be mesmerised by the sights and sounds here,” added Alex.

"You can see hundreds of different timekeepers, ranging from tiny watches to enormous church clock mechanisms.

"You can also discover more about the long, rich history of the British Horological Institute, which has promoted the study and practice of clock and watch making since 1858.

"You are sure to find something to get your imagination ticking!”

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