Where does a MusiCB3 blogger go on holiday? To visit a musically significant piece of furniture of course!
A couple of weeks ago I was passing through the village of Piercebridge, near Darlington. The village is on the site of an old Roman fort, and is home to the remains of a Roman bridge, which is worth stopping to see. However, it was not Roman remains, but this clock that tempted me to stop here:
This longcase clock lives in The George Hotel, Piercebridge, and it is said to be the clock which inspired the song Grandfather’s Clock, which was written by Henry Clay Work in 1876. We hold some early printed versions of the song in the Victorian sheet music collection at MusiCB3:
The George Hotel is an old coaching inn, which during the early to mid-19th century was run by two brothers named Jenkins. A longcase clock, made in Darlington by the clockmaker James Thompson, stood in a corner of the inn. The story goes that the clock kept excellent time for many years, until one of the Jenkins brothers died, at which point the clock started losing time, gradually running slower and slower. Efforts to repair the clock were all in vain, and some time later, when the second Jenkins brother died, the clock stopped altogether, “never to go again”.
The American composer Henry Clay Work came across the story of the clock while staying at the coaching inn during a visit to Europe. The resulting song was an immediate hit for Work – Grandfather’s Clock became so well known that longcase clocks such as the one described in the song became generally known as grandfather clocks. There are several early versions of the sheet music held at MusiCB3, in various different arrangements, demonstrating the song’s popularity.
Today, the original grandfather clock stands in a cosy corner of The George Hotel, its hands pointing to 12 o’clock. The lyrics of Grandfather’s Clock hang in a frame nearby, and the clock even features on the hotel’s sign:
The song continued to be popular as the years went by, and it has been covered by many people in many different styles. It is often thought of as a children’s song, often appearing in collections of nursery rhymes. However, the favourite in our house (as chosen by my 2 year old) is the Johnny Cash version, so I’ll leave you with that!
Photos shared by kind permission of The George Hotel.
Is it true that originally the clock went “tick, tick, tick, tick”, and not “tick, tock, tick, tock”?
Yes that’s right – all the early versions I’ve looked at have the clock going ‘tick tick tick tick’ in the chorus!