Clockmaking in the UK has a long and celebrated past right from the set-up of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers. Commonly called the Clockmakers Company this was founded way back in 1631 when King Charles I set it up by Royal Charter. This is the oldest surviving horological institution in the world, its moto ‘Tempus Rerum Imperator’ , Time is the ruler of (all) things. Throughout the nearly four centuries since then one clockmaker stands out in a group of some amazing clockmakers. If anyone was to be asked who is the most famous of all clockmakers it would be the person known as ‘The Father of English Clockmaking’, the great Thomas Tompion, many would respond. Thomas Tompion was Master of the Clockmakers Company in 1704.
Thomas Tompion produced some amazing works, often quite diverse and some very complex. It is definately the fact individuals like this raised the standards of clockmaking throughout the horological profession which meant England was the foremost country for the production of clocks in the 18th century.
Thomas life and work is studied in a book by R.W.Symonds and for anyone interested in reading more about this great clockmaker I would ask your library to try and source you a copy of this great book.
The journey to be known as the most influential and most respected clockmaker throughout history starts from the tiny hamlet of Ickfield Green in Northill, Bedfordshire. Thomas was the eldest son of Thomas Tompion , a blacksmith and his wife Margaret. Thomas was baptized on the 25th July 1639, some 32 years later he was admitted into the Clockmakers Company as a ‘Brother’ on 4th September 1671. He paid his fee for doing so of 30 shillings. Very little is known about these growing up years or where he learnt his formidable clockmaking skills. It is assumed though he was taught through working with his father at home in his blacksmiths. Blacksmiths at the time were known to have made the ‘Great Clocks’, or what we know today as turret clocks for places like churches. It is also assumed Thomas had loved the idea of working directly in clocks as can be seen by the fact his father who died in 1665 gave his tools to his younger son James. We can take from this Thomas already had acquired his own tools in clockmaking and his father tools were not necessary. If we look at many other famous clockmakers like Harrison many of them are self taught.
We do know for a fact that in 1674 Tompion moved into Water Lane where he continued his clockmaking business for the rest of his years.It is amazing the rise to fame of Thomas, even from the very start of his new business he met people like Dr. Robert Hooke. Hooke was a leading gentleman of the day specializing in physics and mathematics. He was a great intellect and undoubtedly a real inventive genius. For Hooke to have commissioned Thomas Tompion to make a quadrant for the Royal Society, news must of quickly spread of Tompions talent. The working relationship of Tompion and Hooke was the real catalyst for this massive rise in fame and prestige for Tompion. I am of the belief these two collaborated closely on a number of great technological advancements. For instance in 1675 Hooke asked Tompion for help in proving he and not Huygens had invented the spiral spring balance for watches. The result ended up that Tompion was the first to actually apply this spring balance to a watch. Many people see Tompion as a maker of larger clocks but it was the success in watches with the huge demand at the time that really brought dividends.
Tompion’s name was mentioned in all the important corridors of the day and just two years after he moved into Water Lane he was commissioned by Sir Jonas Moore to build two clocks for the new observatory in Greenwich. These clocks were of a year duration and very accurate. These clocks were testament to this clockmakers talent. Another famous clockmaker George Graham joined Tompion at his Water Lane premises, in 1696, he married Tompion’s niece Elizabeth. Edward Banger also joined Tompion between 1701-08 but when Banger left from 1710-1713 when Tompion died, his clock were signed ‘Tompion and Graham’.
Thomas Tompion and George Graham have the honour of being both buried in Westminster Abbey and Tompion’s graveyard can still be seen today. He left his business and most of his estate to George Graham and his wife. Graham continued Tompions high standards. In the book by R.W.Symonds I believe there is an account where someone comes into Tompions shop in Water Lane with a watch. Tompion looks at it, goes into the back and smashes it with a hammer. He remarks this is not a proper Tompion and he gives him a genuine watch in return. This shows even way back then Tompion was so famous people were copying his work. There are lots of clocks signed Tompion but always be careful in buying to check the clock is a genuine item. Genuine clocks by Tompion are rare and often fetch in the hundreds of thousands of pounds. If you would like to contact us about acquiring a Thomas Tompion or any other famous clockmaker please visit our online website for Pendulum of Mayfair Ltd.
Have you ever been completely lost over what to get your loved one at Christmas ?
If so you are one of millions of us rushing around at the last minute with no clue of what to get?
We usually spend hundreds of pounds on something that will be forgotten within a few days. How about some suggestions that will be a memorable present for many years to come ?
Everyone has a budget at Christmas and I will be looking a various options from a few hundred pounds to a few thousands pounds for those with bigger pockets, maybe ones like me that tend to save up and buy something really special once a year as a special treat.
Under 500£ Presents
Lovely Art Nouveau Balloon clocks can be a wonderful Christmas gift fully restored examples in top condition and of the best quality can be found at under 500£. These lovely little clocks will give years of superb service and always remind the person of the day they receive this lovely gift.
Under £1,500 Presents
Antique pre c1900 Fusee wall clocks that have been overhauled and are in showroom condition are a fantastic gift, the earlier type can go from around £1,000 to £1,600. If you want to stretch the budget you can go for a smaller dial example or convex dials or even rarer large face dials with fusee movement which all are more expensive.
Under £3,000 Presents
For under or around £3,000 you can get a large selection of early or mid 19th century fusee timepiece bracket or skeleton clocks.
Under £7,500 Presents
These superb fusee bracket clocks would be a lovely addition to any home. Woods from mahogany to walnut or ebonized fruitwood can be found on these examples. Most movements are of 8 day fusee type.
From £3,000-£30,000 Presents
Antique grandfather clocks form an amazing addition to any home, they truly are the centre piece. Owning a lovely restored ticking antique grandfather clock is like having someone nice coming to stay with you.
I hope some of these pictures give you the inspiration this Christmas for that really special gift. If not for Christmas then for that special anniversary. Have a part of our nations history ticking away in your home very soon, you won’t regret it.
I must get asked numerous times every day the question, What is my clock worth ? Well to answer this it depends on a variety of factors before even looking at the clock in question. It depends on whether you want a replacement or insurance value. You may want to know what I will get for my clock in an ‘as is’, unrestored condition. These values will be significantly different.
For an insurance valuation, it will be a value of what you would need to spend if you had to replace the clock with a similar example from a dealer. Clearly buying an antique clock from a dealer like ourselves is completely different than buying a clock from an auction. Reputable dealers give guarantees to the clock condition, it will have been examined, cleaned, restored and put into showroom condition. The clock will be in good working order and it will come with a guarantee. Dealers will sometimes deliver and setup the clocks in your home, none of these guarantees or working order or showroom condition factors come with clocks sold in auction or most times on ebay. On average it takes 3-5 days to restore a grandfather clock movement and 5-10 days to restore a cabinet. When you add up this restoration, you will realise clocks in auction are not necessarily that cheap. They are not restored but also they are not guaranteed genuine most of the time. It is buyer beware for buying at auction. Normally the conditions in the backs of the catalogues give the auctioneer a massive get out clause which a reputable dealer does not have. So expect a valuation for insurance to be several times the rate of a simple buy it now valuation. Also it is good to remember auctioneer valuations does not mean you will get that for the item. You will have to take into account auctioneer fees for selling. These can mount up. You could receive 1/3 or even less than what the buyer paid for the goods, you may also have to wait several weeks for your money.
It may be the case your antique clock is a family heirloom and the value of it is not really the issue, you may be dividing your family estate out and need to know a rough price for the estate. You may want to more about the clock and any information on the maker that is available. I will endeavour to help you with any research on your clocks value and information, if you contact me directly at Pendulum of Mayfair Ltd. So long as you do not mind sending reduced sized images and do not expect a formal valuation, I will try and do this for free of charge for you. My love is for antique clocks and I will go out of my way to help individuals as much as I can. Clearly these valuations I will carry out for you are only to give you an idea. You may need formal valuations, these are chargeable however.
When I undertake valuations, yes I will need to know the type of valuation you require as described above these can differ greatly. There are lots of criteria when performing a valuation of a clock. The most important factor for me is the clock is genuine though and in good but honest condition. Value would be significantly reduced if the dial is not original to the movement or the movement is not original to the cabinet. Some clocks have led a very chequered life. Either damp homes or central heated homes have sometimes meant clock cases have been ruined. These will then be furnishing clocks but not have as great an ‘as is’ value. Clearly some times important makers add to the value of the clock, but on valuing you must be sure the clock maker is genuine to the clock.
As you can see the valuation is not an easy one but if you want to contact me now, if you have always wondered about your clock, feel free to do so.
When I come to think of 18th century antique furniture design, I think primarily of 4 names. There is the great Thomas Chippendale, George Hepplewhite, Thomas Sheraton and last but by no means least Robert Adam. Robert Adam was probably better known for his influence on architecture in the 18th century but he also designed lovely pieces of furniture. It was on one of his trips to the Continent to study foreign designs he came across Michael Angelo Pergolesi. Pergolesi was one of the main characters in the start of painted antique furniture. Designs on antique furniture up to this point had been inlaid into the wood surface.
Pergolesi stayed in the UK until the end of the 18th century. He worked with the celebrated Adelphi firm. He designed and painted beautiful pieces of furniture and the occasional antique clock. Many of these works decorated with fine figures, flowers and classical urns. He published a book of these designs taken between 1777 and 1801. He worked with other leading figures at he time, many were members of the Royal Academy. These individuals revolutionized the decoration applied to antique furniture.
Pergolesi designs on antique furniture are rare by the fact he worked only a sort period of time in the UK, also those who worked with him in this area left London to work overseas before the end of the 18th century. With this short window of opportunity, very few pieces were made by these celebrated artists and designers in the 18th century, making them highly sought after. Later work like this can be seen in the late 19th century,when this type of work hit a revival in the fashion moods at the time.
A link to the clock decorated below can be found by clicking here Gill of Rye Grandfather Clock.
Most of written information on this subject can be found by reading books on the ‘Age of Satinwood’ as many pieces were decorated on this wood surface as satinwood offers a ‘plain canvas’ so to speak for the artists work. It is also true though you will see works decorated on mahogany cabinets in the last quarter of the 18th century. One outstanding such painted decorated clock is seen below.
Bringing back to life an old dusty and somewhat dilapidated antique grandfather clock into a stunning clock fit for any home is a skill that few people can master. Our workshop here in Cheshire has many years of experience in repairing and restoring antique clocks and furniture with differing respective challenges. I must first say I would only recommend in undertaking such a complex and painstaking restoration if you have the necessary skills and knowledge to achieve this. Poor quality restoration can reduce the value of any fine antique. Sympathetic restoration by highly skilled craftsmen is really important in this respect. Some of our repairs that we have to carry out on clocks is to take away old poor quality repairs. It is usually the case a ‘sleepy’ grandfather clock can actually be easier to repair in may ways than an over restored example. Once something has been ‘over restored’ it is very hard to correct. The lovely patina in many cases has been stripped off and the beautiful colour underneath the years of grime has been ruined, generally by whatever pot of stain the culprit has used. It is the case restoring sympathetically takes a lot longer, but the end result is far far superior.
We have lots of superb restored North West or Liverpool clocks for sale, you will see a lovely examples if you can visit our search facilty on our website to see various Liverpool clocks here.
In this blog I will be looking at a lovely North West clock that we have just restored here in Cheshire. To give you some idea of the time taken, the cabinet required just short of 9 full days work and the movement about 2 and a half days.
If only the maker William Garnett of Bold could see the clock now, looking probably even lovelier than it did when it was new back in C1770
As you can view from the pictures above, the Garnett of Bold antique clock movement has been cleaned and overhauled, it has been brought back to life so to speak. 2 and a half days in the critical A and E department of our Cheshire antique clock workshop and now its heartbeat is working strongly again.
As you can see from the various pictures taken prior to the restoration taking place, the clock cabinet was in a poor state of affairs and required some difficult sympathetic restoration to bring this past master back to life. The base panel was warped and twisted and another issue was the wood that was veneered on was all shapes. The hood door mask was smashed and various mouldings and feet to the clock needed attention. The cleat to the trunk door was also loose and the clock had numerous places of small repairs to be completed. All time consuming and meticulous work. It is vital for any of these repairs to be undertaken with wood if necessary of the same age and colour and grain, so a good match can be obtained. Replacing a foot or moulding with new wood will make it impossible for the repair to match correctly. We have a store (all humidity controlled) of 17th ,18th and 19th century woods so a good match can be achieved. Animal glues are used in repairs just like in the past. Animal glues have a great quality that is pretty much unmatched by modern glues. The veneer stuck down with animal glue can be reheated if necessary and unstuck. This meant performing repairs, like was necessary to the base panel of the clock, was possible.
In the pictures above very difficult repairs had to be carried out on the base panel. The base panel was warped and their was no way the wood the the veneers to the front had been veneered on could be saved. It had multiple splits and was really rough chopped. We had to remove all the veneer from the base panel. Upmost care has to be taken here, as mentioned veneer is stuck down traditionally with animal glues. An iron and wet rag can therefore be used to steam the veneers off the damaged back panel. A 18th century flat piece of mahogany was used to glue the original veneers back down and straps were used so the twisting of the base panel is reduced in the future. All wood used in this process is wood of the correct age of the clock. The veneer is clamped and glued with animal glue as before. The outside of the clock now has a perfectly flat base panel that will be structurally sound for the years ahead.
Above you will see lots of tasks carried out by our antique furniture restoration department, the top of the mask was replaced in 18th century wood and various other smaller repairs all over the cabinet. In the next series of pictures you will see the final completed restoration. All work carried out sympathetically and preserving the beautiful colour and patina of this clock. I hope you will agree a repair carried out to the highest standards and making the clock sound for future generations.
I could give you many references on the quality of our restoration that our antique clock and furniture repair and restoration department has carried out. We have undertaken repairs for major Embassy’s in London, important Hotels and for influential private individuals. I remember a Sotheby’s director who attended our shop opening many years ago of Pendulum of Mayfair in London, said he had never seen as sympathetic restoration before. We pride oursleves on this, you can view items on our website to see our standards or even beter still drop by our shop in London or antique repair and restoration workshop premises in Cheshire where this work is carried out.
If you want any information or prices on having your clock professionally overhauled and repaired, please visit our website Pendulum of Mayfair. You can also follow my antique clocks tweets on twitter by clicking here. Alternatively please read and like my antique clocks page on Facebook.