Buying time! How you could own a home featuring a clockface from the company behind Big Ben for £550,000
If the clock that’s the focal point of Norman and Valerie Plummer’s home in Rutland seems familiar, there’s good reason. It was made by Dent, the company that built the clockface of Big Ben – and it was even modelled on the iconic timepiece.
However, these days, like Big Ben – which has fallen silent for repairs – it is without the bongs.
‘The bellcote houses the bronze bell, which used to chime every quarter,’ says Valerie. ‘Norman rings it on special occasions – like the Queen’s Jubilee. But he has to get out the 9ft ladder, climb into the loft and pull the rod that strikes the hammer. It’s worth it, though.’
The clock, pictured, is the focal point of Norman and Valarie Plummer’s home in Rutland
The Victorian turret clock is part of the original stable block of Barleythorpe Hall and dates from 1870. The Grade II listed block was converted in 2000 to create what is now called The Clockhouse.
The Barleythorpe estate was the property of the 5th Earl of Lonsdale, founder of the Automobile Association and known as the ‘Yellow Earl’. He was the donor of the Lonsdale belt for boxing and Master of the Cottesmore Hunt. His name was later given to the Lonsdale clothing brand. He liked breeding horses, but Valerie says: ‘Sadly his gambling habits never kept up with the breeding, and he was forced to sell parcels of land every so often to pay his debts.’
Lonsdale built gasworks in the village of Barleythorpe, and it was gas that originally illuminated the face of the hand-cranked clock at night. ‘It must have been quite an expedition to move the hands,’ says Valerie. ‘Although now it’s electrified with a control box in the pantry, it still has to change when the clocks go forward and back. So in spring it has to stop for 11 hours, and one hour in autumn.
Unique features: Clock made by Dent, manufacturers of Big Ben’s timepiece; former 1870 stable block belonging to Barleythorpe Hall; Grade II listed; landscaped gardens with sundial.
This is a former stable block belonging to Barleythorpe Hall and is Grade II listed
Contact: Hurfords, hurfords.co.uk, 01572 770777
‘The only time the clock went wrong, our neighbour on the left was enjoying a glass or two of Bordeaux in the garden, when he looked up and saw the clock running backwards,’ says Valerie. ‘He decided he’d maybe had enough wine for the evening.’
The stables themselves enjoyed the prestige of housing the carriages and horses of the Belgian royal family during the First World War – and the block’s walls were built of stone from quarries near Rievaulx Abbey, the original Lonsdale seat being in Yorkshire. ‘There are the most wonderful ammonites, almost in every stone,’ says Valerie.
The property has four bedrooms and is set in landscaped gardens, where there is a sundial.
‘I’m 73 this year and Norman is 71,’ says Valerie. ‘Our ambition has always been to build our own eco-home and now is the right time to make the move. We will never be able to replicate this, but we can create something quite new.’
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