Due to a private event, if you are visiting Waddesdon between 17-24 Aug, there will be some disruption in the gardens on the North & South Fronts, Parterre & Aviary. Ticket holders will be contacted directly.

Posted 19 October 2020

Behind the scenes

Changing times

As BST comes to an end, lockdown is revealed to have had an unexpected impact on time at Waddesdon Manor

With 65 clocks (and several watches) in its collection, the end of BST is usually a frantic time for Waddesdon, A Rothschild House & Gardens in Buckinghamshire. However this year, as much of the House remains ‘put to bed’, only 9 need to be changed…

Cylindrical clock case with, on the right, a group of Venus and Cupid in patinated bronze and ormolu

In a ‘normal’ year, the end of October would see Matthew Waters, Assistant Head Steward at Waddesdon Manor, preparing for the challenge that the end of British Summer Time (BST) brings. Matthew could spend up to two hours changing the 65 clocks in Waddesdon’s collection but this year, with much of the Rothschild house still in its ‘pre-lockdown’ state, only 9 clocks need to be changed.

When lockdown happened, the house was in the midst of being prepared for reopening from its winter closure, during which the Collections are ‘put to bed’ (rooms throughout the house are meticulously cleaned and packed away, ready for essential conservation work to take place). This instantly went on hold and in the intervening months a small team of house staff worked to ensure that the paintings, furniture and works of art remained safe and secure in their seclusion.

The House in its ‘put to bed’ state

As lockdown eased, and staff began to think about how the house could reopen, it was clear there were some interesting angles to explore. As a result, some of the rooms are on show in their ‘put to bed’ state, offering a rare opportunity for visitors to see something that is usually kept firmly behind the scenes.

Matthew Waters, Assistant Head Steward, said: ‘When the clocks change I generally start early in the morning, systematically stopping each clock, before restarting them an hour later. It’s important that I complete this process before we open to the public, so as not to confuse any unsuspecting visitors or members of staff! This year will be very different, as 9 clocks have been wound this year.’

Assistant Head Steward, Matthew Waters, winds a clock

With fewer clocks to wind, the team of stewards are instead focusing their attention on cleaning approximately 1400 empty magnums of Château Lafite Rothschild. These bottles form ‘Lafite’, two large outdoor sculptures by Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos, which are currently undergoing conservation and cleaning work before they are reinstalled in time for Christmas at Waddesdon.

Lafite, by Joana Vasconcelos