A while back now I wrote a blog about moon-phase antique clocks. We restored this superb antique grandfather clock by James Clarke of London. I thought it was important to write a little more. More about London mahogany moon-phase clocks in particular and why they are so rare and sought after.
London clocks with Moons
This clock above is a simply beautiful example of a London moon-phase clock. You will notice the high quality matted centre to the cast brass dial. Chapter ring and spandrels and subsidiary calendar. Recessed seconds feature and lovely engraving to the moon discs to the arch. The name is prominently engraved to the cartouche around the arch. It has beautiful painted moon disc and a special extra feature of strike/silent lever to the three o’clock position on the dial.
The picture above shows the beautiful workings of this James Clarke 8 day antique clock. You will notice one large extending piece of brass for the front plate top. This is so that the dial feet can miss the moon disc. Lovely high quality 5 pillar London movement, all now beautifully restored back to showroom condition.
I will now return to why so few London clocks have moon features.
Reasons why there so few London clocks with Moons
I suppose there are two main reasons. The first reason which is an important point to start from is the size of the London dials. Provincial 12 inch dials tend to be 17 inches high which would allow for a full semi circle to the arch. Easily enough space for a feature like a rotating moon disc. On a London clock the height is 1 inch less. That means on a 12 inch wide dial, the height of the dial is only 16 inches. The space to the arch is now no longer a full semi-circle and far more restricting. On the dial above you will notice the arch is not a semi-circle. The cartouche around the arch tapers to the centre.
Trading outside London
The second reason is centred around the fact that London is London. Trading in the UK outside London was not really required back then There were plenty of wealthy clients in and around London. Moons generally were required to check when to travel. Generally merchants would travel on and around full moons, so the risk of the Highwayman was not so great. Clearly some clocks like those with high tide, will also occur sometimes with moons.
High Water Tidal Clocks
Knowing when your high tide in your local port like London bridge was also important for the merchants. Travelling around London with the fact they had good street lighting fired by oil lamps after 1750 was not so hazardous. Knowing when the next full moon was, was not really as important.
As discussed in my other blog about moon phase clocks, there were lots of different types of moon. It is the rolling moon like that on the James Clarke clock that was the most popular. Two moons appear on these discs, but only one can be visible at any one time. Generally on London clocks the moon is accompanied by a starry sky rather than country scenes on provincial clocks.
29 and a half days in a lunar month
There are, as previously discussed, 29 and a half days in a lunar month. We divide up the 12 months into either 31, 30,29 or 28 days to compensate. The exact lunar cycle is 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 2.8 seconds I believe, I hope my memory is right ! The clocks moon as it is 29 and a half days and is therefore fairly accurate, once set !
James Clarke Clock
The James Clarke antique grandfather clock picture above shows what a top quality clock should look like. The dial and movement show amazing high quality features and detailing. The case shows only the finest London case making features of the late 18th century. Quarter columns and brass capitals to the base. Moulding to bridge top door and base and 2 plinths are but some of these lovely features. To view this clock please visit our shop in London, Pendulum of Mayfair or contact us through our website https://www.pendulumofmayfair.co.uk . James Clarke is listed as working in Newgate Street, London and was apprentice in 1760 and a member of the Clockmakers Company from 1768-78.
Daniel R Clements
#SBS Theo Paphitis Winner August 2014 : Antique Clocks Twitter