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Turning Back Time at Britain’s Greatest Palace

Blenheim timekeeper Julian Newman turns time back an hour on a Boulle pedestal timepiece circa 1740 in the Palace s Green Writing Room

Blenheim Palace timekeeper Julian Newman is turning back time as he changes over 30 intricate and ornate clocks across the Oxfordshire UNESCO World Heritage Site this weekend.

The clock enthusiast has the delicate task of adjusting the time twice a year, alongside his weekly winding and time checking duties for the rare and historic timepieces.

Julian has been keeping time at the Oxfordshire Palace for the last 17 years and he follows in the footsteps of some illustrious predecessors.

Until Greenwich Mean Time became universally adopted in 1884, the estate had its own time zone.‘Blenheim Time’ was introduced by the 4th Duke of Marlborough, an enthusiastic amateur astronomer, and a close friend of King George III.

The Duke used a telescope given to him by the King to determine time across the estate. He would then set the time of the ‘regulator’ grand clock in the Great Hall, which was a perfect timekeeper; and all other clocks and watches were set accordingly.

Blenheim Time was determined using the traditional equation of time, a complicated sum that uses a sundial and a location’s longitude. Due to its distance from London, time at the Palace would have been approximately 5½ minutes slower than GMT today.


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