In the collections at Temple Newsam House there is a splendid pedestal organ clock from 1765 made by George Pyke. When it functions it can play eight different tunes via its weight driven organ. It is part of a larger group of similar objects by English makers, which are represented in collections in museums in Beijing, Naples, Utrecht, London and Birmingham. George Friedrich Handel wrote music for the pedestal organ clocks made by Charle Clay. Pyke was apprenticed to Clay and continued working in Clay's tradition. This object, acquired in 1954, possibly had Handel music originally but it is known with certainty that the organ's barrel was re-pinned in 1817.
This pedestal organ clock has not functioned properly for some time, and the decision was made to stop its function until such time as sufficient funds became available for a programme of conservation and restoration works to its organ, automata, clock movement, metalwork and case. Comprehensive reports on its condition, with treatment proposals were done by a West Dean College student, Brittany Cox, and these formed the basis of finding the funding for the project. 95% of the funds have been secured from donors: from the family of Raymond Burton, in his memory, of Burton's Menswear fame, and who during his life was incredibly supportive of Temple Newsam; from the Pilgrim Trust; and from The Friends of Leeds Museum. The remaining balance will be funded by Leeds Museums and Galleries. The project is live, and the Pyke pedestal organ clock has been dismantled, packed up and shipped to West Dean College for a "full monty" programme of conservation and restoration works. The Pyke pedestal organ clock is due back at Temple Newsam House in mid-July, all singing and all dancing for the benefit and enjoyment of our visitors! Watch this space for updates as the project progresses.
By Ian Fraser