I have written many pieces about different types of antique clocks. In my next few blogs, I would like to concentrate on clockmaking from different parts of the British Isles. My first port of call is to the great country of Scotland. As I speak this great country is still part of the United Kingdom, and fingers crossed after over 300 years of being together, it will still be part of the United Kingdom come September 2014.
A great reference book on this topic is Scottish Clockmakers, this is written by John Smith, this charts the development of clockmaking in Scotland from 1453 to 1850. In this book it shows the importance of the Hammermen in Scotland as an organization governing antique clocks and various other trades. In London, clocks were produced by the rules governed by the Clockmakers Company. By 1650 clockmakers started increasing in Scotland this was when the clockmakers started being recognized by this branch of the locksmith trade, the various Hammermen Incorporations. The clockmakers were recognized as a branch of the Hammermen in in Edinburgh, in Glasgow, in Haddington, and not until in Aberdeen.
Below I have given some but by no means all of the leading lights of Scottish antique clockmaking in the 17th and 18th and 19th centuries, apologies to those makers I have left out, as the list is very long.
There were a number of very distinguished Scottish makers: such men as Humphrey Milne, ; Andrew Brown, 1665-1712 Edinburgh; Alexander Brownlie, 1710-39 Edinburgh; James Cowan, 1744-81 Edinburgh; John Smith of Pittenweem, 1770-1814; George Munro, 1743-1804 Edinburgh; Paul Roumieu and son,1677-1717 Edinburgh; Thomas Gordon, 1688-43 Edinburgh; Thomas Reid 1762-1823 Edinburgh (Reid & Auld 1806-23); James Gray 1765-1806 Edinburgh; James Howden and son 1764-1842 Edinburgh; John/Laurence Dalgleish 1742-1821 Edinburgh; Alexander Dickie 1762-1808 Edinburgh; Alexander Cumming 1733-1814 Edinburgh /London; finally Dallaway and sons Edinburgh 1785-1812 being but a few of them.
The last entry on this list deserves a mention even though they are not strictly clockmakers, Dallaway produced nearly all the white dial grandfather clock dials in Edinburgh during the end of the 18th century. In England this was carried out in Birmingham by Wilson and Osborne.
There are some very special names on the list above, John Smith produced some amazing clocks from a tiny fishing village called Pittenweem in the 18th century, you will notice most of the other top makers come from the major towns like Edinburgh. To produce the spectacular clocks that John Smith did in such a tiny place miles from anywhere is astonishing, and deserves special mention. He has clocks in Royal collections and there is a superb example pictured below. The case I believe was purchased from a London case maker on John Smiths only recorded visit to London. A really rare example.
The finest Scottish Grandfathers clocks from the middle to the end of the 18th century had there very own distinctive elegant case style as shown by the clock pictured by the top clockmaker below.
You will notice superb case design on the Pre C1800 antique clocks from the east coast of Scotland. The clock above is from Prestonpans is a small town to the east of Edinburgh, but for all account is classical Edinburgh case design for the period. Antique Clocks from Edinburgh and further through Perth and Dundee to Aberdeen case design is really good. I must admit in over 40 years of seeing clocks to the west coast of Scotland though the case design is not the finest in this vicinity. Whereas we have owned and sold hundreds of clocks from Edinburgh, Perth and Dundee, we have only wanted to own one clock from Glasgow in all that time. Most of the time the grandfather clocks from the west coast are not so elegant, and the hoods tend to be not greatly proportioned. It is in my opinion clocks from cities like Edinburgh and the east coast of Scotland managed to find some of the best proportions in case design of all clocks, and Glasgow case design some of the worst. The contrast in design is very large but I suppose everyone’s taste is different ! In the picture below you will see the lovely figuring of the mahogany to the trunk door, many Scottish examples have this twirl to the trunk door from the tree veneers. A lovely feature, quarter columns etc make the elegance of the Scottish cabinets even better. You will not go far wrong in choosing an antique grandfather clock from Scotland, especially if it was made pre C1800 and from the east coast of Scotland.
We also stock a superb selection of Scottish antique clocks, most of them pre C1800 but occasionally we have a lovely later Scottish clock like this one from a small town called Old Deer, you can find this clock by clicking here: Old Deer Scottish Antique Grandfather Clock.
Daniel Clements – Pendulum of Mayfair London
I am sure I am not alone in thinking the ticking of antique clocks holds some mystical or mesmeric fascination. Watching time in motion was also a fascination of our forefathers. It was with the technological advances in the glass making industry, that movements could be housed surrounded by simple glass domes. These domes were essential to cover these mechanical time masters, dirt and dust always needs to be kept to a minimum in all mechanical devices. In Britain from the start of the 19th century clock makers produced some lovely, highly visable clocks that were called skeleton clocks. By their very name these movements were stripped out down to the bone so to speak so that the full workings of the clock were on show. Up to then most movements had been hidden away from view. Such beauty should be admired and on show and not hidden away. The birth of the skeleton clock appeared from C1820 and continued throughout the 19th century in England.
As you can see from the antique clock above, the clock has been designed to show off the quality of the movement as much as possible. The plates that support the wheels were made as delicate as possible to show off the wheel work. The dial is made up of the separate parts, the hours ring, seconds ring and minutes ring. These would normally be on a solid brass silvered dial but this would of hidden the movement, and so individual rings are made for each separate time aspect. In France at the time skeleton clocks were also being made, they tended to use inverted Y frames for the posts, whereas more elaborate structures tended to be used for English skeleton clocks. At the start the inverted Y frame can be also seen on the some English examples but this soon changed to more elaborate designs. Also the superb fusee was used on the English clocks, this is by far the best means of time-keeping for a spring driven clock.
As the 19th century developed two train or striking skeleton clocks were produced, and also skeleton clocks that depicted well known buildings. When three train skeleton clocks were produced the music within copied some of the bells from building clocks at the time. Clearly with two train or especially three train movements it gets harder and harder to see the individual wheels inside, the simplicity has gone and I suppose these are produced more as a statement of the clock makers talent, showing just how complex these movements could be. The quality workmanship being highly visable but more as a wow overall feature.
Further details of this single fusee skeleton clock above can be found be clicking this link: antique skeleton clock.
The production of fine skeleton clocks lasted throughout the 19th century and probably peaked in the years after the Great Exhibition of 1851. In the period from 1860 to 1880 many lovely skeleton clocks were manufactured. These were sometimes on ebonized bases, walnut, mahogany or rose-wood bases or sometimes on marble bases. By around C1900 not many skeleton clocks were produced, fashions has changed from the slightly more elaborate designs of the Victorian period to the more simple Edwardian era, which is such a shame. These lovely clocks were then seen mostly in kit form through the 20th century and far poorer examples produced. With the clocks we sell, we like to stick to higher quality 5 or 6 spoke wheel work. The more rudamentary late examples in kit form tend to be just robust 4 spoke wheel work and very simple design plates.
Exporting our Antique Grandfather Clocks
As a family business we have been exporting antique clocks around the world for the last 40 years. Our main markets over that time have been to our friends in the USA, Canada and Australia, but we have experienced recently exports increasing to countries like China and Russia. Clearly shipping or exporting valuable antique clocks has to be carried out by a specialist firm. Here at Pendulum of Mayfair we use a company called, ‘The British Shop’, we have used them and found them to be absolutely excellent over the last 10 years, we have exported lots and lots of precious antiques with them. We have had many compliments both on our procedure and our after care support to add to the wonderful comments about the quality of the shipping provided by the British Shop. I have flown out to the States on a few really high value sales and I have been there to unpack, and I must say I have seen with my own eyes the extra care taken in packing.
Our overseas customers are highly valued and attention is always given to the crating and packing of your lovely new antique clocks purchase. Once cleared payment is received by us, the clock starts ticking on the process that will see your beautiful new clock purchase keeping time in your home thousands of miles away from London. We first thoroughly check the movement , wax and check the case before the clock is collected by the shipping company to be carefully packed. The packing process is crucial, the trunk and movement will normally be packed separately in specially made ply-wood crates. These crates will be large, so that they can only be handled with care. The clock is encased in packaging material and then fixed in position within the crate, so the clock will not be able to move within the case in transit. We go through the straight forward setting up process when the client is in the shop, but we always have comprehensive setting up instructions to fall back on, these cover ever conceivable aspect of set-up. Also we are always on hand on our Cheshire workshop number 01565722197 to take any queries on set-up until late here in the UK. Once the shipper collects the clock, all parts of the clock will be carefully listed on a manifest. The clocks trunk, the hood, the movement, the pendulum, the weights, the winding key and finally any door keys and finials are noted.
For our superb range of antique grandfather clocks that can be in your own home, ticking on the other side of the world, generally within 3 weeks of cleared funds visit here: Pendulum of Mayfair antique grandfather clocks.
For typical export or shipping prices see below.
USA – £700-£1,000
Australia £700-£1,400 (depending on sea or air freight)
Canada – £1,000
China – £1,200
For other places around the world please e.mail me for a quote, I will need the dimensions of the item you wish to purchase. I will then forward this information to our specialist shipper. I can also arrange special export discounts for our overseas clients on ticket prices, that will mean in most cases the shipping element will be effectively free.
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A couple of years ago I wrote an informative post on painted dial grandfather clocks and their history and development. I have written this piece in conjunction with that post as the two really go hand in hand. The link to the post on painted dial clocks can be found here: Antique painted dial clocks blog post. Right I hear you all ask, well how are they connected ? The rise of the white dial grandfather clock dials in Birmingham made the brass dial manufacturers sit up and take notice. This new technology could easily take over and since this was centred in Birmingham, dial painters their would really have a monopoly over the supply. The clock makers who had specialist engravers and relied on the brass cast dials clearly had to do something. The white dials were pretty and they served a purpose of being easier to read the time on the clocks face. White dials with blued iron hands were really easy to read, even from a distance. The clock above is so significant as it is dated 1771 and is an all over brass silvered dial clock. The painted dials were recorded as starting in pretty much the same time as silvered brass dials. It is probably of a great deal of significance that the clock above was made in the same town as where the white dials started production in Birmingham. I believe Mr Cranmer has his ear to the ground so to speak and he developed the dial above as one of the first of its kind, to compete with these new painted dials coming on the market. You will notice the unusual painted scene to the arch and the slightly strange thick engraving to the dial. Further examples of silvered dial grandfather clocks can be found on our website of Pendulum of Mayfair or by clicking here: Antique Grandfather clock examples from Pendulum of Mayfair Ltd.
In the picture above you will see a later more standard silvered brass dial antique grandfather clock by Tatnell of London. With an all over silvered brass dial, the dial is cast brass in the 18th century and then made to look like silver by rubbing with a white powder called silver chloride. This leaves deposits of silver on the dial and gives it its silver look. In most cases the dial is then lacquered to make it slightly harder wearing. Generally though a silver coating on the dial will wear over time and needs re-silvering every generation. In the 20 years after the development of the painted dial grandfather clock dials sales boomed. The sales on the other hand of the standard grandfather clock dial, the brass dial with chapter ring and spandrels started to dwindle. Up to 1790 as a result of the development of the silvered brass dials sales were running about equal. After C1790 though the sales of white dial continued at a pace and by C1820 you were looking at a market that was dominated with painted dial clocks. The painted dial manufacture set up in other places around the country and not just in Birmingham. The brass dial clocks were on the decline. The silvered brass dial saved the production for 20/30 years but the decline of brass dials and rise of painted dials had taken hold.
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I do not get much chance to look at clockmaking in France as I love 17th and 18th century English clockmaking. Today therefore I would like to concentrate on the great French cabinetmaker whose clock cabinet styles bear his name, André Charles Boulle 1642-1732. Boulle was considered to be the finest of all in the field of marquetry, he perfected the technique of inlaying brass and tortoiseshell, this became known as Boulle or in the 19th century in the UK as Buhl work. Boulle became chief cabinetmaker to the King of France and he produced all kinds of pieces of furniture for Louis XIV, his family and the court. Boulle was born in Paris and as mentioned trained as a cabinet-maker, but not only this, he trained as an architect, bronze worker and engraver. Boulle was not the only cabinet-maker who was working in this field, Jean Bérain also excelled in this area. Bérain designs tended to be more elaborate, both gentlemen were clearly well ahead of their time though and during the late 17th century and early part of the 18th century it was very popular in Europe.
This superb Religeuse French clock by Pique Rennes can be viewed here. The case of this clock may be attributed to the workshops of Boulle, he was known to have made cases for all the prominent makers of the last quarter of the 17th century. André Charles Boulle was granted lodgings in the galleries of the Louvre by the age of 30, his skill was recognised at an early age. The importance of this honour cannot be underestimated, he had been granted special Royal favour and this included the important privilege of freedom from the trammels of the trade guilds.He was employed for many years at Versailles, where the mirrored walls, wood mosaic floors, inlaid panelling and marquetry furniture were amongst his fine work. He had many royal commissions to work on for great nobles and government vips and many wealthy people in his own country. He was nonetheless always lacking in funds though, I suppose his collecting vices always made this be the case. He was always in debt and he died in 1732 full of fame yes but also full of debt.
This is a superb example of a late 19th century Antique Boulle Clock and for more details click the link. It is a superb example of the very same technique employed by André Boulle two centuries earlier. His name lives on in French clockmaking. They are wonderful collectable antique clocks, this example shows a wonderful porcelain panel with painted cupid.
For further details visit our website.
Specialists in fine antique clocks in London – Pendulum of Mayfair or connect to me on twitter, antique clocks twitter Daniel Clements.