Our antiques expert Allan Blackburn takes a look at the stately grandfather clock.
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Everyone likes to have a good time on New Years Eve and many of the old customs associated with the other night still play a huge part in our celebrations. Immediately after midnight it is traditional to sing Robert Burn’s “Auld Lang Syne”.
Another ritual is to ensure good luck for the house. It is said that the first foot over your threshold after midnight should be male and dark haired to bring good luck (believed to be a throwback to the Viking days when blond strangers arriving on your doorstep meant trouble).
They should bring coal, symbolising warmth, wood symbolising a roof over the families head, silver to symbolise wealth and bread (may we never go hungry).
But whatever traditions you’re wishing to uphold, one thing we all like to do is gather at the stroke of midnight to hear the sounds of Big Ben which have traditionally been the focus of the entry of the New Year.
Big Ben is one of our best-known landmarks. Its four clock faces are 23ft square, while the minute hand is a staggering 14ft long and the figures a whooping 2ft high.
Big Ben is an excellent timekeeper, which has rarely stopped. The name Big Ben actually refers to the 13 ton bell hung within.
The bell was named after the first commissioner of works, Sir Benjamin Hall.
The first radio broadcast of Big Ben was made by the BBC at midnight on the 31st December 1923 to welcome in the New Year.
Shortly afterwards, a permanent microphone installation enabled regular broadcasts of the chimes and the bell of Big Ben to function effectively as a time signal. Now every New Year the BBC relay broadcasts on both the radio and television to ring in the New Year.
On 21st August Big Ben was silenced in a bid to protect the hearing of the construction workers, who will be on site for the next four years.
However, the bell will still chime on special occasions like New Year, Remembrance Day or possibly for the imminent Royal Wedding in the spring.
Whilst longcase clocks and grandfather clocks may not be anywhere near the size of Big Ben, owning a gorgeous clock gives any room a wonderful centrepiece and you can still appreciate the workmanship and craftsmanship behind it.