To become a clockmaker, Steve Attfield says you have to learn and master eight different trades including carpentry, gilding, blacksmithing. "It's very complex. It would be a seven year course, which is the same as training to be a veterinary nurse," he explains, adding that there are only 19 other people in Britain registered to do the whole scope of work.
Established by Steve Attfield in 2009, Horological Engineering Services (HES) specialise in the preservation, conservation and restoration of turret clocks for churches, historic buildings, public clocks, town halls and government buildings, as well as domestic clocks. The company can also help with weather vanes, dial restoration and lanterns.
Steve has 41 years experience of clockmaking and instrument making. As well as repairs, restoration and annual servicing, he will also make gears, bearings, autowinders, night silencers and more - whatever is required to finish the job.
His interest was sparked aged 15 when he trained as a clockmaker, following his family's tradition. After an apprenticeship at clockmaker and bell foundry Gillett & Johnston, he then worked making precision test equipment for industry where he developed his engineering skills further. After a stint remanufacturing photocopiers, he went into clockmaking full time.
Always going the extra mile
Based in South London, near Croydon, Steve who guarantees his dial work for 30 years, prides himself on being meticulous and on always going the extra mile with every job.
"I've got such a passion for it, so I'll really take time over it. It does take a long time to do the job properly, to see every fault that could come up in the near future. I even check if the bell frames are secure, check everything that goes up to the bell and make sure the belfrey is clean. Other companies will do the crank hammer and that's about it," he says.
Steve runs his operation from home, where he has a large workshop in his garden. Domestic clock repairs take place in his dining room. "I've got all the tools and knowledge to do anything to do with clocks," he says. Most big jobs are done on site and make up the bulk of his work, although since the first lockdown last March, he has been doing an increasing number of domestic clocks.
All jobs are one-offs - nothing he does is off-the-shelf. "I consider each clock, all have different priorities due to locations, some are in hard to access locations, everything has to be accessible for servicing. I haven't come unstuck yet," he says.
Passionate about clocks
Recent jobs have included work on the clock at All Saints church, Banstead, where Steve was brought in to fix the switching system for the autowinder which had failed. Another job was at Christ Church, Brixton, on a clock with two dials which had failed because of some movement inside the building.
He then discovered while working on the clock that the motion works to the dials were not well designed. "So I redesigned of the motion works, fitted it and they haven't had a problem since."
He is passionate about about keeping clocks running, while changing as little as possible.
"So many clocks have been sacrificed because of autowinders, or they've had the barrels taken out and lost, and so the history of clock incomplete. I'd like to promote getting everything to go back to how it was," says Attfield, who says he learns something new about his trade almost every day still. "The challenge is so great and I'm not after making a lot of money. I'm just trying to do my job, keeping as many clocks as I can working well the way they used to."
|Contact name||Mr Stephen Attfield|
|Telephone||020 8654 3837 / 0759 3015 288|