Report seminar: Protection of Public Clocks

RECITE II Program under the Dossier IDC -MEDICI
Seminar about "Transmission of Knowledge" 2nd cycle
Theme: Protection of Public Clocks

IDC-MEDICI = Ingénierie Du Clocher - Maintien de Emplois De l'Ingénierie des emplois du Clocher et de ses Industries
RECITE = Régions & Cités d'Europe


The seminar took place 2nd - 4th July 2001 under the auspices of Alain Jouffray, Campanologist /Director of the I.E.A.C. (Institut Europeen d'Art Campanaire) in function as project leader of the Dossier IDC-MEDICI.
The participants gathered together in the Training Institute 'Vincent Auriol' in Muret/Toulouse, where clock restorer Michel Perissas, teacher in clockwork technique at this Institute, arranged the organisation.

The European Commission is aiming with some experimental RECITE projects:
a) To promote the culture of collaboration in European regions by mutual transmission of knowledge.
b) To consolidate the social, as well as the economical structure in these regions.
In consequence of the ICE-MEDICI dossier of I.E.A.C., one of these projects under RECITE II pointed to the protection of European Bell towers with all their furniture.
According to the European conditions, at least three other European countries have to participate with commercial companies in the dossier IDE-MEDICI, being Italy, Greece and Belgium.
In addition to the I.E.A.C., the other partners are important Bell-foundries and dealers in Electronic installations, namely:
Paccard, Bell foundry, Sevrier, France.
Indelec, Douai, France.
CEM, Rethymnon, Crete, Greece.
Martinelli Bell foundry, Agnone, Italy.
Clock-O-Matic, electronic clock & carillon installations, Holsbeek, Belgium.


The Seminar was organised for all persons who are directly of indirectly involved with public clocks, as clockmakers, teachers in clock technique, restorers, collectors, institutions, the earlier mentioned companies and others.
Some weeks before the beginning of the seminar, the invitations in French were also sent to interested people in the Netherlands, Belgium, England and Germany to give them the opportunity to participate in the seminar.
Because of the short preparing time and the absence of an English and German interpreter, only a few of them could accept the invitation.
Of the four European Partners France was represented by 23 members and Belgium by Mr. Renders, a private collector of Turret clocks.
From the Netherlands there was Mr. Wijbenga, a clock restorer and teacher in clockwork technique at the Technical School in Schoonhoven and myself, a clock restorer and manufacturer of the Clock Care System. (Automatic winding & regulation of Turret clocks.)

Excursion and Presentations.

The program provided a visit to Arignac, Haute-Garonne, on 3rd of July.
The participants had the opportunity to visit the enormous collection of turret clocks of Mr. Ginestet. He guided us personally around his private museum and told us many interesting details about his clocks.
Although Mr. Ginestet has only been collecting for a short time, the collection has some particular and early clocks as well as a great variety of Comtoise clocks and mechanical turnspits.
The discussions during the sessions were alternated by two wonderful documentation films, which were extremely interesting although they had nothing to do with turret clocks.
In addition we were able to view and listen to an extremely complicated music-automaton, recently restored by Mr. Vassort from Loches. It represented a naturally moving lady, who teaches a canary to sing by means of a Serinette (little organ).
Later on we saw a film from the Workshop of Christian Damet from Rabastens, that showed macro-pictures of a working verge escapement inside an 18th century watch, by means of a glass optic fibre camera!

The mechanical clock in the RECITE programme.

Until now, the RECITE II projects appear mainly to concern the carillon in Bell Towers.
In our modern time such a carillon is activated by an electronic installation operating the hands at the same time and displaying the accurate time outside on the tower wall.
In the past these clocks, with or without a carillon, was functioning mechanically being the kind of clocks that this Seminar is designated to.
To let them function in good condition, these old, often ancient clocks need all their own special care.
The number of traditional clockmakers, who are capable to repair and maintain clocks professionally, has decreased dramatically.
More and more mechanical turret clocks are taken away and replaced by electronic specimen, as a consequence of the young ones loosing interest in the trade.
This development will be a great danger for mechanical clocks.
The RECITE II Program is aimed to change this by proposing the following themes at the seminar:

Theme 1. The Declaration of European lines of action and conditions for the restoration of Turret clocks and the creation of a supplementary course, specifically for restoring mechanical Turret clocks for example at the Institute 'Vincent Auriol'.

Theme 2. The intention to constitute a complete inventory of all public mechanic clocks in Towers still existing in more than 70.000 municipalities of Europe.

Personal remarks about Theme 1.

Happily in the region of Mid-Pyrenees, where this seminar took place, there are still tradition-trained clockmakers professionally working on Turret clocks.
To be able to execute restoration work professionally, a craft background is absolute necessary, but when speaking about a 'responsible restoration' other aspects are as important as well.
Modern technologies in the conservation field become more and more important as to original clock material.
Most clock making schools are not yet prepared to train clockmakers into restorers currently because the accent lies mainly on the technical and functional aspects.
This tendency was noticeable during the Seminar, both at the constitution of the restoration guidelines and the proposals for lesson programs for the supplemented Restoration Courses.
The examples of daily practises that the clockmakers who were present brought forward however furnished important discussions.
One was that a Restorer needs both historical and art-historical knowledge and also that an open mind is a precondition to work with other specialists in a multidisciplinary way.
Some essential subjects were suggested and added to the Restoration Course that is to be set up:
a) The importance of carefully documentation in work, image and sound
b) The development of a restoration philosophy (not to be confused with rigid restoration ethics!)
Everybody agreed that a specific professional training programme is needed to graduate from Clockmaker to Restorer.
Trained like this, one is able to prepare specified estimates and quotations with matching calculations. It became clear to all persons present that much experience and knowledge is necessary to restore and maintain this important cultural heritage in a responsible way.
Also Mamias en Bodet, dealers in electronic carillon, striking and clock installations, recognised this specialisation and proposed the present local clockmakers to carry out restoration work and maintenance of the existing mechanical clocks for them.

Personal remarks about Theme 2.

To get an insight where Turret clocks still exist and in what condition, a questionnaire has to be sent throughout Europe to all communities.
The discussion intensified on how detailed the questions should be and whether a photograph of the clock should be requested at the same time.
The addressed person has not always the specific clock knowledge, so a difficult and extensive questionnaire might be put aside.
Everybody preferred a plain version that outsiders could complete.
After the questionnaire is returned, a more specified version could be followed with a request for photographs. There was also the opinion that many communities would not be agreeable to cooperate, being afraid of the consequences, as for example, a loss of autonomy.
Another reason often is that a clock is in such a neglected state, and its exposure is embarrassing.
The question, "If an addressed community will benefit by cooperating in this inventory", could not be answered.


I think the RECITE II programme is a valuable initiative, starting the possibility to encourage cooperation in saving public clocks throughout Europe.
Considering the many operating mechanical clocks, it is urgent to convince both the people concerned and the public how crucially important these clocks are a Cultural Heritage.

In my own experience, I know that similar initiatives have been developed in several European countries by institutions for example:
- In the Netherlands, the "Rijksdienst voor de Monumentenzorg" and the "Stichting tot behoud van het Torenuurwerk"
- In England, the "Council for the Care of Churches" and the "Antiquarian Horological Society" and the "British Horological Institute".
- In Germany, the "Deutsches Zentrum fur Denkmalpflege" and the "Fachkreis Turmuhren der Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Chronometrie".
Certainly there will be a lot more European countries cherishing these same ideas, so the time is now to coordinate all these initiatives on a European level.

A useful investment of the RECITE programme seems to me, the stimulation of employment in this trade, spread over European regions.
This will continue or perhaps guarantee the possibility for the restoration firms to fulfil professionally the necessary restorations and maintaining work, in the future.

Not all mechanical Turret clocks are protected by the RECITE programme, namely the clocks not being in Bell towers, but on facades of private castles, town halls, etc. They must not be excluded and must be protected and recorded.
It is worth making these efforts to save this important culture heritage against its decay.

The participation in this Seminar was a very useful experience for me and I am very grateful to both the I.E.A.C. and the Trainings Institute 'Vincent Auriol' for their hospitality during these days.
I hope that much more disciplines from many more European countries will be gathered during the next reunion in February 2002, so it can be regarded as a Real Representative European platform.

Melgert Spaander

Clock Restorer
Spittaalstraat 10
7201 ED Zutphen
The Netherlands

Tel. 0031- 0575-513724
Fax. 0031- 0575-511483




Report 3rd Seminare Recite II

DC - MEDICI = Ingénierie Du Clocher - Maintien des Emplois De l'Ingénierie du Clocher et de ses Industries (Church Tower and Steeple Engineering - Sustained Employement for Bell Towers Engineers and related Industries)
RECITE = Régions & Cités d'Europe (Regions and Cities of Europe)

Introduction (please also refer to the report on the 2nd seminar - July 2001)
The 3rd seminar took place on 14th, 15th and 16th January 2002 under the auspices of Alain Jouffray, campanologist, director of the I.E.A.C. (Institut Européen d'Art Campanaire: European Bell Institute) and IDC-MEDICI project manager. The participants gathered at the 'Vincent Auriol' Training Institute in Muret (Toulouse 31) where Michel Périssas, clock restorer and a teacher in clockwork techniques there, organised the event.

With the experimental projects of RECITE, the European Commission has the following goals:
a to promote mutual collaboration between European regions by transmission of knowledge.
b to strengthen the social and economical structures of these regions.

In the IDC-MEDICI project of the I.E.A.C, set up by Alain Jouffray a few years ago, the RECITE II project deals with the preservation of European bell towers together with their furniture.
According to the European conditions, at least 3 other European countries must take part in this project, namely Italy, Greece and Belgium.
For the I.E.A.C, partners in these countries are notably important bell foundries and suppliers of electronic installations namely:
Paccard, bell foundry, Sevrier, France
Indelec, Douai, France
CEM, Rethymnon, Crete, Greece
Martinelli bell foundry, Agnone ,Italy
Clock-O-Matic, electronic clock & carillon installations, Holsbeek, Belgium (recently crossed off the participants' list).

In principle, the cycle of 3 seminars had been organised for all the persons interested in the subject of public clocks namely companies mentioned above, clockmakers, restorers, teachers in clockwork techniques, collectors and the relevant institutions.
Only France was represented at the 1st seminar, but for the 2nd and 3rd seminars, invitations were also sent out to the relevant people in the Netherlands, Belgium, England and Germany in order to enable them to take part.
At the 3rd and last seminar, non-French speakers, benefited from the services of an interpreter for English and German.
It was not specified that this Dutch interpreter could also help her fellow countrymen.
As the invitations written in French were only sent out a few weeks before the dates set for the seminar, very few participants from abroad were able to make themselves available for participation in the seminar.
In the 2nd seminar, in which approximately 25 people took part, Belgium was represented by the collector Jacques Renders and the Netherlands by both Johannes Wijbenga (a teacher in clockwork techniques) and myself (a clock restorer).
The 3rd seminar saw approximately the same number of participants. Coming from abroad there were Mr. Kostas Giapitsoglou, a Greek archaeologist and manager of the Recite Program in Greece, the restorer Steven Ball from the USA and myself for the Netherlands.
The origin of the participants to this cycle demonstrates that this seminar cannot be considered as being representative of Europe.

The mechanical turret clock within the program RECITE
Projects within the RECITE II programs, set up by Alain Jouffray, deal with the safeguarding of bell towers and their furniture, like bells, carillons, clocks, dials and weather cocks.
During these 3 seminars, the turret clock was placed central to all discussions with activity focusing on how to best improve the conditions or environment in which the clocks currently reside. The attempt was made to focus the discussion around 2 topics:

Topic 1. The drafting of European regulations regarding the norms and conditions, to which the restorations of turret clocks would have to comply, finally resulting in forming training courses for turret clock restorers.

Topic 2. The wish to do a very clear inventory of all public mechanical clocks that may be present in more than 70,000 communes in Europe.

Program of the 3rd and last Seminar
The first topic mentioned above was no longer on the agenda for these three days.
As far as the 2nd topic was concerned, we discussed their concept of a 'Methodological Guide
on Monumental Bell Towers in its Entirety' (Towers, Bells, Clocks, Weather Cocks etc), which will be sent to 70,000 European communes. This Guide is destined to make the people with responsibilities in the communes aware of what could be found in their bell towers and should spur the officials on to take care of it and implement its restoration and/or maintenance.
During the discussions focused on Turret Clocks, proposals were made to create this Guide on a CD-Rom. This would allow the identification of existing clocks (or parts of clocks) on a photographic medium.
The foreign participants insisted on the fact that the CD-Rom must be designed in several languages with, for each country, the emphasis put on its specific situation and on pictures of its traditional clocks.
The I.E.A.C. will also ask the communes to fill in the attached questionnaire about the identified clocks and to return it preferably with pictures.
The perspective of a subsidy to contribute towards the cost of the restoration could give these communes the incentive to fill in the form. To the question, whether or not there are existing European subsidy measures, there came no answer.
The idea to publish all the data on the Internet site of the I.E.A.C. was strongly questioned.
This proves the necessity to deal with a European protection first, in order to avoid access to ill-intentioned people interested by purchasing, salvaging or even thieving.
Alain Jouffray noted that the IEAC would not be in a position to deal with such a quantity of files for a really official inventory. It has therefore not been suggested what will happen to these files and who would deal with them.
Participants were asked to comment on this project once finished. Some offered their help and they will receive the CD-Rom for review when it is ready.
The goal is for the CD-Rom to be ready for despatch before the close of the Recite II project in July 2002.

Presentation of the 2nd day
Thierry Buron, in his position as Curator of Antiques and Objets d'Art of Eure et Loire, told us about a French law from 1905, which controls at regional level, the objects situated in churches. According to that law, an inventory of the religious relics of a church must be made and the objects must be kept there. He put forward the idea to have the same approach for clocks and bells in order to avoid their loss.

As representative of Clock Care Ltd., I was asked to explain and comment on the working of the Clock Care System. Controlled via computer it winds the weights of the turret clocks by the means of compressed air and also regulates the function of the clockworks itself in keeping precise time. The most important particularity of this application is the fact that the Clock Care System does not change or interfere with any aspect of the historic mechanism and by this means guarding its authenticity.

The Clock Care System is designed for all types of turret clocks and it can be used in all situations, in the original Clock Towers as well as freely in the confined space of an exhibition. The questions asked enabled me to go into the details of its working.

Michel Bourreau was also asked to present his propulsion system for turret clocks controlled by computer.
With this system the motor weights are put aside. The escape wheel is no longer driven by a weight via the gear train, but conversely the escape wheel drives the gear train by an electrical step motor. Similarly, the fly of the striking part is no longer driven by a weight via the gear train but the fly drives the gear train by a step motor.
The position and the way of assembling of the electrical step motor depends on the way each clock is individually constructed. In this manner Michel Bourreau aims for the reduction of wear of the gear train and enables the clocks to function in situations where they should not work ordinarily.

Alain Jouffray informed us that the I.E.A.C. would purchase both systems for turret clocks that will then be exhibited at the Institute in July 2002. These will show different methods of turret clock automation allowing them to carry on working without having to be wound or adjusted.

To conclude, we spent the rest of the day amongst some interesting turret clocks exhibited on the premises of the 'Vincent Auriol' Institute.
In moments like these, clocks themselves are the centre of interest of the discussions and speculations concerning their past with the implementation of repairs and if any modifications are appropriate. Enthusiastic ideas then emerge between clock friends and appointments were made for contacts in the future.

Pilot Project
This time, the program did not comprise any excursion but on 15th January we had the possibility to visit a pilot project carried out in Villeneuve Tolosane.
Filled with enthusiasm after the recommendations of Alain Jouffray, we were all the more disappointed by the final result of this Pilot Project.
The church and its steeple have been entirely renovated and fitted partially with new bells and all electronic equipment.
The old turret clock is restored and located in a room of the town hall amongst the church's relics and other religious artefacts. It is not, however, in a working order and obviously not in its original steeple. Clock-o-Matic's electronic installation shows the time outside with electrically striking the hours, sounding bells for melodies or ring these for services.

However, after climbing to the top of the steeple, we noticed that several bells could not work for they had been installed on a temporary base with inadequate materials. In other places, the newly installed and incorrectly fitted mechanism was already broken.
In the discussion, which took place after the visit, it was not clearly explained how such a rough and ready result could have happened after so much planning and prior advice.
From what I understand, the I.E.A.C.'s main role is only advisory.
The commune, as owner of the belfry, financed most of the project with the support of the inhabitants and local sponsors from the industrial and private sectors. The commune was therefore the decision-maker concerning 'restorers' and it had the possibility to take the advice into account or not.
This pilot project, as an example for the future of bell towers in Europe, make us realise that long, still, is the way to a positive influence on the quality of the final result.

The Recite II Program will come to a close in July 2002 and the CD-Rom must be despatched to the 70,000 European communes.
Considering the scale of the work still to be done and releasing it in different languages, I doubt the final goal will be achieved within this deadline.
I profoundly regret that this Seminar is the last one of this Cycle. We, participants, will no longer be able to contribute to the final completion of this Guide.
As the Guide is destined to all European communes, a lot more European countries should have been involved in this project in order to be able to talk of a European project.
In various European countries, similar initiatives have been developed at national level. The ones brought to my knowledge are as follows:

- in the Netherlands: de Rijksdienst voor de Monumentenzorg en de Stichting tot Behoud van het Torenuurwerk (Protection and Conservation of National Heritage and the Foundation for the Conservation of Turret Clocks.)
- in England: Council for the Care of Churches and the Antiquarian Horological Society,
- in Germany: the Deutsches Zentrum für Denkmalpflege and de Fachkreis Turmuhren der Deutsche Gesellschaft für Chronometrie. (German Centre for the Conservation of National Heritage and the Clock Tower Trade of the German Society of Chronometry)
- in Poland: the "Clock Museum"

In several other countries the preoccupation for the safeguard and inventory of steeples and their turret clocks exist. This is translated by an ever more important awareness by the relevant institutions and the public.
An extension of the Recite II Program prolonging this Cycle by several seminars is desirable together with the increase of participating countries.
During this seminar the CD-Rom mentioned can be completed then together with European representatives with adaptations from material specific to their countries.
It is a proven fact that such a Guide, if published incompletely will hardly be carried out a second time.
If the I.E.A.C's initiative (protection of clock towers in Europe) could not be pursued within Recite II, another means must be set up for this initiative, for it is of great interest.
It could take place, if need be elsewhere in Europe, as a symposium for people of the trade, allied professionals, organizations and people interested in turret clocks all over Europe.
An European panel of this kind would give the opportunity to compare and adapt the mutual results of national initiatives.

There is enough work to do in this field, for irreplaceable turret clocks still remain threatened by amateurism, lack of interest and doubtful commercial motivations.

Melgert Spaander Clock restorer
Spittaalstraat 10
7201 ED Zutphen
The Netherlands
Telephone: +31 (0)575-513724
Fax: +31 (0)575-511483