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Scottish Clocks and Clockmakers

John Scott Edinburgh C1790
John Scott Edinburgh C1790

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. Fingers crossed after over 300 years of being together, it will still be part of the United Kingdom come September 2014.

Clock Makers from North Britain

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. 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 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.

Quality Clock Makers in Scotland

There were a number of very distinguished Scottish makers: such men as Humphrey Milne Edinburgh; Andrew Brown,1665-1712 Edinburgh; Alexander Brownlie 1710-39 Edinburgh;James Cowan, 1744-81 Edinburgh;John Smith Pittenweem 1743-1804; Thomas Gordon; Thomas Reid 1762-1823 Edinburgh; James Howden and son 1764-1842 Edinburgh;Laurence Dalgleish; Alexander Dickie 1762-1808 Edinburgh; Alexander Cumming 1733-1814 Edinburgh /London; finally Dallaway and sons Edinburgh 1785-1812 being but a few of them.

Dial Painters in Scotland

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.

John Smith Pittenweem

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. He 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.

John Smith Pittenweem Antique Clock

Lovely Scottish Cabinet Work

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.

Lauder of PrestonPans
Lauder of PrestonPans

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.

East Versus West Coast Scotland Case Making Style

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. 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.

Case style changed in every town

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.

Lovely Trunk Door from a Edinburgh Clock C1790
Lovely Trunk Door from a Edinburgh Clock C1790


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