In the Field: Visiting a Clock Tower


I didn’t know much about clocks before I started writing the Clock Shop Mystery series, so I needed to dive into research. I read, a lot. I googled. I visited the Amercan Clock & Watch Museum in Bristol, Connecticut. The museum gave me a lot to think about regarding styles, craftsmanship, and the history of clocks in New England. (Wonderful place to visit, highly recommended.)

I needed to meet a clockmaker, and mentioned that to my friend Susan Roberts. “My husband is a clockmaker,” she said. Bam.

I wrote to David Roberts a few weeks ago to ask some questions. I’d met him before, on a trip to the store he runs with his brother James, The Clockfolk of New England in Wilmington, MA. That visit helped me learn about the shop. But now I needed to learn about clock towers. “Well, I can give you a tour of one,” he said. We agreed to meet Saturday in Reading. He and his brother alternate weeks winding the clock tower there.


I climbed up two ladders, and got up to the tower. It was perfect. A four-sided clock with huge faces that let light in. Four arms are attached to a central mechanism, which was installed just over one-hundred years ago. With incredible patience, David talked me through how the clock works. He let me help wind it–which is quite a workout. 50 revolutions per day, and it needs to run for a week. The clock weights come in at 450 pounds, but because of counterweights, it took work but I could do it.


The Seth Thomas clock is a marvel of craftsmanship. Not many people will actually see the clock itself, yet it is painted with details, with beautifully crafted pieces. Everything serves a purpose, and it all needs to work together in order to work at all. We timed the visit so I could hear the bell ring, another mechanized activity that was amazing to learn about.


I am not ever going to remember everything David told me. But what I will remember, and what struck me the first time I went to the shop and met he and James, was the passion of the clockmaker. It takes years to learn the craft, and more years to hone it. Like writing, or performing, or any other craft, there has to be joy in the process, otherwise why do it? The Roberts brothers ARE clockfolk, and I am grateful that they share their passion with me.

Now, why did I need to visit a clock tower? You’ll have to wait until next August to find out! But get ready for the next adventure of our intrepid clockmaker Ruth Clagan when Clock and Dagger is released this August.

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About J.A. Hennrikus/Julianne Holmes

J.A. (Julie) Hennrikus writes the Clock Shop Mystery Series under the name Julianne Holmes. JUST KILLING TIME, the first in the series, was published in Oct 2015 and was nominated for a BEST FIRST NOVEL Agatha award. CLOCK AND DAGGER was released in August 2016. CHIME AND PUNISHMENT will be released in August 2017. Julie's Theater Cop series will debut in the fall of 2017. A CHRISTMAS PERIL is the first in this series about an ex-cop who runs a theater company. wears two hats. Her short stories have been published by Level Best Books: “Tag, You’re Dead” in THIN ICE, “Her Wish” in DEAD CALM, and “The Pendulum Swings, Until It Doesn’t” in BLOOD MOON. Julie is an arts administrator and arts advocate. She tweets her writing life as @JHAuthors, and her other life as @JulieHennrikus. She is an avid theater goer and a member of Red Sox nation. Her website is, and she blogs with and

26 thoughts on “In the Field: Visiting a Clock Tower

  1. Very excited as my husband loves clocks. We have about four that he lovingly winds each week. There is a wonderful clock repairer here in Newburyport MA that loves his work and has a houseful of gems. He’d love to talk clocks……..Dovetail Clocks on Washington Street.

  2. I have driven by that Clock and Watch museum in Bristol many times, but haven’t made time (HA!, like you haven’t heard that one before) to go in. I’m a museum nerd, so will have to move that up on my list. BTW, I’m quite sure I know how a clock tower fits into your story-after-next. Clearly, your flux capacitor needs 1.21 gigawatts of electricity, and the clock tower is conveniently about to be struck by lightning. 🙂

  3. I can’t wait for Clock and Dagger!

    In preparing for my daughter’s wedding we dealt with these amazing, amazing tailors on Boylston Street, and it struck me while I sat there watching them work, I love stories people who are experts at what they do and passionate about their work. Love them.

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