Silver Swan Maintenance

Matthew Read programme tutor for Conservation of Clocks at West Dean College has been at The Bowes Museum for 3 days to service the silver swan. The visitors to the Museum have been able to see the beautiful Silver Swan partially dismantled and listen to Matthew talk about his work at 2pm daily instead of the swan performing. This is the first time the swan automaton has been serviced since the major conservation project in 2008. The work on the swan is to refresh the oil on the bearings and check the condition of all the parts for damage caused by use.

Silver Swan maintenance in 2018

On close inspection only one bearing, from the water mechanism, was dry and showed sign of wear and this is a replacement piece from repairs that took place in the 1960’s rather than an original part of the mechanism.

The water and music movements where detached from the sub-frame to allow ease of access for oiling and some of the glass rods and the sector where also detached to allow access to the main movement. In total about 90% of the bearings and working parts have been inspected and lubricated, without the need to fully dismantle the silver swan.


Although now serviced as a 240 year old machine the Silver Swan will need a settling in period as last time and still will on occasions be temperamental but will be back in its home in the central Picture Gallery on the second floor at The Bowes Museum performing daily at 2pm.


By Karen Barker, Regional Conservator, Conservation Advisory Network, The Bowes Museum




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