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Quarter chiming clocks

There are basically three main types of quarter chiming clocks -  Westminster, Whittington, and St. Michael’s. I have also seen the occasional Cambridge Chimes and St. Mary’s Chimes, but these are much less common. Normally, a clock will play only one of the chimes, but it is not unusual for three chimes to be operational at the same time on one clock. You can activate which chime you would like to play by the use of a pointer or lever. I have never seen a clock which has four chimes.

A clock that has Westminster, Cambridge or St. Mary’s Chimes will chime on either four rods, four gongs or four bells, whereas Whittington and St. Michael’s chimes clocks, require eight rods, eight gongs or eight bells because of the extra notes involved in the melody. In this description of quarter chiming clocks, I have not included Ting-Tang or Bim-Bam clocks because they do not play a tune

Quarter chiming clocks will chime at quarter past the hour, half past the hour, quarter to the hour, and then on the hour itself. This is followed by the clock striking whatever hour it happens to be, e.g. four at 4 o’clock, five at 5 o’clock, etc. Sometimes they are equipped with a chime or strike silent lever, which can be switched on or off as required.

As a general guide, you can tell a key wound quarter chiming clock by the number of winding holes in the dial. As you look at the clock from the front, the hole on the left hand side is responsible for the making the clock strike, the hole in the centre is responsible for making the clock go and the hole on the right hand side is responsible for making it chime. More often than not, because the mechanisms are interlinked, if the clock does not chime the four quarters, it will not strike the hour either.

If the clock is weight driven and wound by pulling up a chain, then a similar procedure is followed. As you look at it from the front, the weight on the left hand side makes the clock strike, the weight in the middle makes it go, and the weight on the right hand side makes it chime.

As in all walks of life, there are exceptions to the rule and it is possible to find a key wound quarter chiming clock with only two holes in the dial. These clocks are called three quarter chimers. In these cases, the hole on the left hand is responsible for both the chiming and the striking and the movement is a little more complicated. However, most of these clocks are not able to do all four sets of chimes before they strike the hour.

They can only chime quarter past, half past, and quarter to the hour, but not the full set of chimes at the hour itself, at which time, they will just strike the appropriate hour number The procedure is the same for weight driven clocks.