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Is it a music box or is it a grandfather clock ? No its both !

18th century musical grandfather clocks are very rare examples. I will only see a genuine fine example once every few years. In this blog I will be looking at two late 18th century examples. One fine grandfather clock by Joseph Herring of London C1770. Also a superb rare provincial musical clock by Edward Bilbie of Chewstoke C1780 pictured below.

After discussions and research on the Bilbie family of clockmakers. You can see the example on the left is one of the finest provincial musical clocks by this maker. It bears all the hallmarks of what a Bilbie clock should look like. The lovely polished and engraved dial, with the doric columns superbly engraved to the dial centre. The name on a cartouche to the arch finely engraved and either side, a strike/silent feature and 4 different tunes.

Multiple Tunes

The tunes being ‘ Lincoln Time ‘ , ‘ Bath Time ‘ , ‘ 104th Psalme ‘ , ‘ 23 rd Psalme ‘. Why Lincoln Time, Bath Time I can understand as it is 20 miles away from Chewstoke, but Lincoln Time I do not know the reason. Maybe these were customer selections in the 18th century. The delightful engraving to the centres and outer edges of the arch show what fine craftsman Bilbie was. Bear in mind this is a provincial clock, it really is top quality workmanship.

Lovely quality Bilbie Clock

The dial also shows seconds and further delicate engraving around the edge. A calendar to the dial centre, chapter ring and fine gilded spandrels to the corners of the dial. All dials of this period are cast brass, and all the hands etc are worked on by hand. These are lovely quality iron hands which are eventually protected by being blued.

High quality musical movement

The fine music played by this immense high quality movement is played by means of 12 hammers on 10 bells. This is on a intricate pin wheel barrel. Finding all the right notes for the differing tunes is  so complex. The bells would of been cast by hand. I believe Bilbie did this himself, he had his own foundry , which was very rare. To get the bells so well sounding is a real credit to his talent. You will see a casting mark on the largest bell, but all bells play superbly.

Three train movements

The movement as I have described has 3 trains. One is for the timekeeping , one is for the hours , and the final one is for the music. This plays once every 3 hours. Hence 8 times a day one can wonder at this clockmakers talent. This is not only a lovely furnishing piece but it is a horological work of art as well.

Work of Art

The 8 day movement is also lovely in lots of other ways, everything is built to precision and to a high quality. It is clear high quality pieces were not only built in London. In the pictures below I will show London quality construction, it is very similar to Bilbie’s work here.


Joseph Herring Musical Clock

The pictures are of a Joseph Herring London musical Longcase clock. The only real differences between this and the Bilbie are one of two more hammers and an extra bell and a few more pins to the barrel. Very similar movements, both really high quality 8 day examples.You will see from both, the typical three train layout of the dial on these two genuine examples.

4 Tune Musical

The Herring plays 4 tunes as well, some strange 18th hits at that. ‘ Speed the Plough ‘ , ‘ March in Blue Beard ‘ , ‘ Beggar Girl ‘ , and finally one to top the lot off , ‘ Go to the Devil & Shake Yourself’. Maybe the last could come from a modern day rock song. It is definately a strange title for an 18th century tune. These as you can expect are not listed on Youtube. From this blog no doubt some of our clients, who are rock and pop stars, may make these 18th century classics into modern day hits. Watch this space !