The Clock Tower at Thicket Priory houses a very unusual three-faced clock with faces pointing East, North and West. The clock was made and designed by Benjamin Vulliamy, one of the most prestigious clock makers of the Georgian era. His designs represented an exquisite blend of cutting edge technology (for the time!) and the very latest designs influenced by French fashions.
His talent earned him a Royal Appointment as George III’s King’s Clock Maker and he went on to build The Regulator Clock, of the King’s Observatory Kew, which was responsible for the official London time until 1884, The Quadrangle clock at Windsor Castle and the Royal Mews clock at Buckingham Palace.
As the Queen’s Clockmaker, Benjamin Vulliamy was asked to produce designs for the ambitious project that was to become Big Ben. A list of requirements was drawn up which included that it should keep time within 1 second and that it should have 4 faces – this was regarded as impossible at the time. Vulliamy’s terms were 100 guinees for the plans alone and another 100 guinees if he did not get the order which was viewed as a very expensive and presumptuous response. A rival clockmaker, Edward Dent, wrote to the famed astronomer Sir George Airy, who was on the committee responsible for Big Ben’s creation, and asked to be recommended for the job. George Airy did as Dent requested and recommended him for the job. It was also decided that Sir George Airy should be the referee to decide who got the contract. Needless to say, Vulliamy was extremely unhappy with Sir George Airy being chosen as referee and was most indignant when Dent succeeded in obtaining the contract.
The Clock Tower is still accessible, to those with the key, via concealed doors in two of our bedrooms.