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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.

Hammermen

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

Conclusion

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

 

 

 

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Regional Characteristics of Antique Grandfather Clocks

Antique grandfather clock cabinet production was separate from the clock maker. The clock maker just produced the fine antique clock movements. As you can imagine communities stayed very much together during the early years and people did not travel long distances. As a result you will notice every area of the country in the 18th century had a very different case style. It is very easy to place the manufacture of an antique clock cabinet from just a very few features on the case.

Case Styles on Antique Clocks

Further case styles can be found by clicking here.

London cabinet designs changed only slightly during the 18th century. You will see after C 1720 and up to C 1800 usually two plinths, moulding to trunk door and high quality walnut, mahogany veneers or fine lacquer work cases. Examples of this can be seen below. After about C 1800 London clocks can lose the second plinth and the moulding to the door, but you will still see them being quite similar in design. You will also find these close similarities in cases of clocks within 50 miles or so of London. Many clock makers actually bought London style cases in these areas.

London Case Styles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scottish case styles

You will find many regional designs of cabinets. After looking for a while you will get a good idea of where the clock maker was based from just looking a certain case features. In Scotland for example, especially the East Coast you get some wonderful cases from C1770 to c1810. They are all very slender, shaped top to the trunk door, high proportion base and standing on bracket feet. The most similar characteristic is the swan neck pediments to the hood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

North Western UK Case Styles

You will also find Manchester, Liverpool and Bristol cabinets to be quite distinctive. In the 18th century these areas were very wealthy, especially because of the trade going on with the West Indies and the USA. Manchester was the birth place for the industrial revolution. Cabinets in Manchester and Liverpool, tend to be quite large with quite imposing features,  Og feet, Corinthian columns, fine veneers. You will see a typical high quality Liverpool case below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bristol was another very important port in the 18th century and the clocks made in this part of the country are very distinctive. Wobbly doors are very common and scenes engraved to dial are very popular, pierced swan neck pediments and OG bracket feet show the fine cabinet work. Again it is easy to see the wealth in this part of the country in the 18th century, the cases are very flambouyant. Understanding case design and the styles of the various parts of the UK cabinet design is important when looking to buy an antique grandfather clock. You can use this knowledge with further research to pinpoint all those important questions that you need reassurance with, when purchasing antique grandfather clocks. Our shop Pendulum of Mayfair takes all these worries away from you.