A defective lock at Batchwood

An anecdote from Lord Grimthorpe

By John Cox

Lord Grimthorpe, formerly Sir Edmund Beckett, leased Batchwood from the Earl of Verulam in 1876 when he began to take an interest in the activities of Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811-1878) who had begun work on the restoration of St. Albans Abbey in 1856.

Followig the death of George Gilbert Scott his lordship obtained a faculty from the Diocese of St. Albans (created in 1877) to repair the building using his own money. Beckett, who had been born in Yorkshire, became a leading English lawyer whose practice made a fortune. With this he developed his interest of church architecture and clock-making, to his own advantage.

He designed churches, designed the escapement for the new clock in Sir Charles Barry's clock tower of the Houses of Parliament, Westminster, which is known worldwide as Big Ben. In addition he designed clocks at Batchwood and one for the 2nd Earl of Verulam which was erected above the Stable Building at Gorhambury, which was set to strike only the hour and half-hour, enabled the estate workers to enjoy their lunch break in peace.

In 1878 he desiged the new rectory for the Revered, the Venerable Walter John Lawrance who had been appointed Rector of the parish of St. Alban's Abbey in 1868. The new buiilding was designed with no bathroom!

At his own house he found one of the locks, which he himself had desiged, to be 'disordered'. He sent for a locksmith who set  his young man to make the necessary repair. The young man assumed that his lordship was unable to mend a contrivance of his own invention. He appeared puzzled at the lock which irritated his lordship considerably. The young man sought to justify himself pertly for which he received a boxing of his ears, and a request to 'Get out, lout - I'll do it myself'. And he did just that.

Sources of information:
Hertfordshire Notes from the Herts. Advertiser and St. Albans Times, Saturday 2nd January 1904.
Chambers Biographical Dictionary, 5th edn. 1990.

This page was added by John Cox on 24/01/2011.

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