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Antique Clocks Blog Home → Viewing post: "Antique Tavern Clocks"

Antique Tavern Clocks March 9, 2012


Alot of research has been carried out into  antique tavern clocks, many books have been written, but I wish to correct the commonly held view that these clocks started life only as early as C.1720. You may know these antique clocks by another name, they are sometimes called ‘ Act of Parliament’ clocks.  They were later commonly called this as a result of the tax imposed on clocks and watches in July 1797. With the government being short of funds as a result of many years of war etc, extra ways to increase tax were thought out.  The Act imposed a duty of 5 shillings on every clock, 10 shillings of every gold watch and 2s.6d on every silver or other watch. Assessors were sent round to take account of how many clocks you owned above a certain value. There were certain exemptions to the Act, these included public houses. Alot of these tavern clocks as the name says were housed in public houses and so they were exempt from this very unpopular tax. It led to a decline in the clock trade and luckily was  repealed after only  9 months of it being in force.

These tavern clocks were usually decorated in laquer work, had wooden dials, made up from usually three sections, had simple single 5 wheel train movements. The extra wheel in the train generally makes them go for longer than a standard longcase clock, even though they actually have a shorter drop.  They usually had brass hands so the time could easily be read against the black painted dial. The earliest dials known were wooden and shaped like a shield, later circular dials were introduced and tear drop shapes to the cabinets.

Although books on the subject commonly stated the earliest examples of these clocks are from roughly C1720, we have owned for over 10 years, a clock of this form that is pre 1700 in date. It is an amazing tavern clock, it is the only antique clock of this type I have ever seen with an original brass dial, instead of the usual wood form. The antique clock maker is from a family which emigrated to London from Augsburg in Germany. Bushman is a fantastic clockmaker and by all accounts the finest clockmaker to come out of Germany ! He is mentioned as being on a par with the great Thomas Tompion in some quarters.


If I took a picture of the clock minus the hood it looks like a very early Augsburg table clock, I can see where the idea for the manufacture started. I believe this clock to be one of the first, if not the first,  tavern clock. John Bushman is provable in London between 1661 until just after 1692 ( date of death unknown), clearly we do know he came from the Augsburg area, and you can tell that from the design of the cabinet work on this clock. Bushman was admitted to the clockmakers company in 1662. You can see the huge pull the Clockmakers Company which I have talked about previously, had on all the best clockmakers from all over Europe. Everyone wanted to come to London and work in the 17th and 18th centuries. It truly was the centre for clockmaking in the world at the time.

Many people will ask if this clock has 5 wheel train, how does it have a second hand, a sweep centre seconds hand in this case. The movement has a one to one reversing wheel to enable for it to do this. You can see the amazing engraving to the unusual dial and superb unrestored lacquer work to the case. A very rare collectors clock, for more information visit our website .


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