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Australia’s First Clock Maker

Antique clocks as we have looked at in my many blogs centered around London in the 17th and 18th centuries. The UK exported many of these clocks to different parts of the world. Pendulum of Mayfair website sells many of these fine clocks.

Fleeing UK to set up a new life overseas

Clock production only really set up in places like America, as a result of people fleeing persecution on religious grounds. It was slightly different how clock production was setup in places like Australia. Hundreds of convict ships sailed during the 18th and 19th centuries to Australia. As mentioned in my previous blog Henry Lane the clockmaker from London and Bristol was a prisoner on board the Perseus.  Clearly other convicts arrived in Australia who were also clockmakers in the UK. James Oatley was born in Warwickshire in 1770 but was found guilty of stealing bed linen. He was a horologist who arrived in Sydney in 1815. His talents also were noted and he became a highly regarded clock and watch maker. He was pardoned in 1821 and he was appointed Keeper of the Town Hall Clock by Governor Macquarie.

Sydney Clocks

It is Henry Lane Clock maker who I will be looking at here though. It is found a year after his arrival he had set up his business in Sydney in 1803. Clearly with no competetion to speak of, he was not short of work. He he is mentioned soon after his arrival advertising for an apprentice and a clock case manufacturer. In April 1804 he advertises for sale a ships chronometer and through these adverts you can tell he also manufactured watches at the time. Sydney was founded in 1788 . Again convict ships set sail from Portsmouth. The Town Hall clock that Henry Lane was asked to repair after it collapsed in 1806 was probably brought on one of these ships from the UK. The first tower clock in the UK to compare was at Salisbury Cathedral and it was made in 1386, over 400 years earlier !

Conditional Pardon Henry Lane 1808

In 1808 Henry Lane has been given a conditional pardon and by 1811 Henry was appointed Government Clock Keeper. He held this position until his death on the 15th April 1815. The earliest editions of the Sydney Gazette gives lots more information about Henry Lane. He has grandfather clocks and watches advertised for sale. It is an interesting history that I suggest readers delve deeper.

Close Bonds Between UK and Australia

Australia and the UK have a unique history from 1788. It is probably one of the closest international relationships in existence. It has a shared history, culture, institutions and language. The only change is that people go to live in Australia freely from the UK today ! Even the current Australian Prime Minister was born in the UK in Wales. There has always been a fierce rivalry especially in sport between our two nations but we have always had a special bond. Many of the people who live in Australia today have some connection with the UK, either in past or present history.


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Antique Bracket Clocks


The purpose of this blog is to trace the antique bracket clock from its beginnings. This started at the latter end of the 17th century up until the mid 19th century or Regency Period in England.

Best Clocks in the World

During the entire period that I have mentioned above, clock making in Britain was acknowledged to be the best anywhere in the world. Clock makers in the UK maintained this position until at least the mid 19th century. Then imports arrived on our shores from France, Germany and eventually the USA. Clock makers in the UK refused to lower standards and change to the manufacturing methods used by our continental neighbors and those further afield.

Fusee Mechanisms

I have mentioned in my previous blog about lots of different antique clocks. These were manufactured in the UK during our supremacy in the field of clockmaking. I have only really touched on antique bracket clocks. Examples of such clocks can be found on our clocks site by clicking here. I only mentioned these in my piece in antique clock descriptions.Touching on them, describing the differences between mantel clocks and bracket clocks.

During the 18th century,’ the great Georgian period of clockmaking’, many thousands of lovely bracket clocks were manufactured. These at the time were actually costlier to produce than the equivalent longcase clock.

More Expensive making Fusee Bracket than Longcase Clocks

It was expensive making the springs and the fusee’s. The fusee was an ingenious invention. The spring slackens off over the week and before the invention of the fusee, timekeeping would become more eratic. The clock would thus go slower. On fusee clocks however the power delivery is evened out over the course of the week.


Bracket Clocks were only produced by the top clock makers

Bracket clocks were thus only really manufactured by the top makers in the 17th/early to mid 18th century During this time you will find most manufactured in and around London. Clearly the skills were available in London and the customers were there that could afford them. Bracket clocks were also made in the large towns of the UK, but you will not find many provincial bracket clocks, especially early in the 18th century. You will find most provincial bracket clocks dating from the end of the 18th century and on into the 19th century. There are always exceptions though.

Balance Wheel Escapement

The earliest form of escapements were called the balance wheel. Only a handful of these type of clocks still exist. The vast majority of the bracket clocks up to about C1760 were controlled by a ‘verge’ escapement. You will see on lots of these clocks a window on the dial This is where you can see the pendulum swinging by means of a circular brass disc. This brass disc has a connecting rod to the verge bob pendulum at the rear of the clock.

Different woods used

The bracket clocks made up to the mid 18th century, tend to be ebonized. Actual ebony (rare) or walnut veneered, sometimes even marquetry on walnut. In the following years mahogany is used. After 1800 you will see the introduction of more exotic woods like rosewoods and other fruit woods. You will also see the introduction around C1760 of the anchor escapement.

Verge Escapement

The verge escapement was great in so much that the crown wheel was at right angles to other wheels in the train. Therefore and was far easier to put and stay in beat. i.e. not so temperamental to being knocked. The disadvantage of the verge escapement is that the timekeeping is far less accurate than the later anchor escapements. For this reason some original verge escapements are later converted to anchor. This needs to be checked when buying as it is nice to get an original example of either.

Engraved Backplates

The other big difference with the verge earlier clocks, many have profusely engraved backplates. Some anchor escapements have these around C 1760 as well but the later you go through the 18th century, the fine detailing and engraving gets less and less. Around C1800 only a border of engraving is common on the bracket clocks. After C 1800 most bracket clocks have no engraving and at best only the makers name engraved to the backplate.


I will finish this by mentioning the name bracket clocks. I am sure you will assume they all stood on a seperate bracket, but this is not the case. Only a very few had a purpose made bracket. Most were just to be placed on your sideboard or chest of drawers or fireplace. The back door of many 18th century bracket clocks is glazed Meaning you can see the finely engraved backplate on your fireplace, by putting a mirror behind the clock. Clocks commonly have a pull repeat feature to let you know the hours and sometimes the quarters. This was important with no electricity. A string could be put by your bed that was connected to the clocks rack mechanism this would let you know either the last hour or next hour, or on some like I say the hour and the quarter. i.e. 4.15.

Highly Sought After Clocks

Genuine Bracket clocks are highly sought after, especially smaller original examples. Larger examples are easier to find and are less commercial as a rule. All bracket clocks tend to go for a minimum of ‘8-days’. Longer duration examples are also possible. Visit our homepage at for more information.