Returned clock

Brighton & Hove Museums local history curator Dan Robertson with Sussex Police RCT sergeant Tom Carter with returned clock. © Brighton & Hove Museums.

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It had been on display at Preston Manor, part of Brighton & Hove Museums, since at least 1905 but was taken by two men on February 12, 2001.

Despite an investigation by Sussex Police, they were never traced.

The clock was finally recovered thanks to The Art Loss Register (ALR). It was offered at an auction house which subscribes to the ALR due diligence service. It was checked against the database ahead of the planned sale and the ALR team spotted it was the same clock.

Detective skills

Lucy O’Meara from the ALR said its research team “identified the item as a match, despite extensive restoration and alteration to the clock”.

She added: “It had different urn finials and different feet making it appear at first glance to be a different clock. This was one of over 400,000 items our expert team checks against our database every year.

“Our recovery team used their detective skills to compare the wood grain which matched up exactly. After we identified the match, our team liaised with the auction house and notified Brighton & Hove Museums of the location of the stolen clock. Sussex Police’s Rural Crime Team then recovered the item from the auction house and returned it to the museum.”

RCT Sergeant Tom Carter said: “The clock had previously been sold by the same auction house 20 years ago in good faith to a collector, who then relisted it with them for sale last year. We were pleased to have been able to return this historic item back to its rightful owner.”

Popular appeal

The clock, with painted decorations above the clock face with maritime motifs, was left by the Stanford family who presented Brighton Corporation with Preston Manor and its contents in 1932. It had been a big draw for visitors to the house as sailing ships moved to music when the clock chimes every hour.

Hedley Swain, CEO of the Brighton & Hove Museums, said: “We are so thrilled to have this wonderful item returned to us after so long. We want to thank Sussex Police and the Art Loss Register for their hard work in restoring the clock to its home.

“This is an important item, not just because of its rarity and beauty but because it has a direct link with Brighton’s municipal history and the early history of the Brighton & Hove Museums.

“We aim to ensure the clock is back to working order so we can display it once again in Preston Manor.”