The prevailing passion for restoring for present use everything that was beautiful in the past has enabled us to reclaim, in the form of excellent modern reproductions, the beautiful clocks of the eighteenth century.
A copy of an old clock in inlaid mahogany. This wood is wax polished so as to resemble more closely the original model
Most of the actual originals which have come down to us are of a large size. This is accounted for by the fact that they were not intended to stand upon the narrow mantelshelves of that period, but were always placed on special brackets of mahogany, made for them and hung on the wall. These brackets are very rare nowadays, but when they are discovered and used with one of the genuine old clocks upon them they help to beautify any room.
The chief value of antique clocks lies, not in the case, but in the original works, which are as good now as when they were made. Some of them, however, were fitted with the old verge movement, which is useless; but the original case may have a new movement put into it, and this is often done, although the worth of such models is, of course, very considerably decreased. A genuine case with new works may be obtained for the moderate sum of £6 10s., that, had it been supplied with a clock movement of the same period, would have been worth £18 or £20.
The average price for an English timepiece of the late eighteenth century would be about twenty guineas; but a faithful model can be bought for about half that sum. Nearly all the clocks of that date seem to have been made in a large size, and very few smaller ones have come down to us. Their rarity has naturally made them very expensive, in addition to the fact that the smaller size is far more convenient; indeed, the largest specimens generally have to be placed on the sideboard, and not on the mantelpiece at all.
The modern reproductions are made in England, and there is a preference for models of plain mahogany with no inlay, but merely a little banding around the edge of kingwood, a species of Indian wood. The wood is preferred wax-polished instead of treated to a high French polish, as this far more nearly resembles the appearance of the old models, and therefore harmonises better with any antique furniture that there may be in the room.
While there is, at any rate so far as regards the sentimental point of view, a 'decided difference between a genuine old clock and a reproduction, there is also a fine distinction between the good and bad in reproduction. The essential detail and proper proportion should be faithfully followed, and adaptations are seldom a success. The fact is that in the old days when the clocks were originally designed, probably any variation which might be attempted in these times was tried, and discarded in favour of the perfect model which was eventually found and handed down to us, so that there is no reason to run through the whole gamut of unsuccessful effort to arrive at the same artistic conclusion to which our great-grandfathers were led.
A modern design in mahogany, eminently suited for a dining-room.
In this clock the harmonious proportions of the old 18th century models are faithfully observed with excellent effect
A Cromwellian brass clock. The original models were made with only one hand and placed upon brackets. Such clocks are suitable in a Jacobean room
Messrs. Waring & Gillow
We do not try to improve on the violin, resting content that the prevailing type is the only definite solution of the problem arrived at after havingtested every possible unsuccessful variation. So it is with the lovely old models in furniture; we can only go back to previous steps, for it is impossible to improve upon anything which is already absolutely satisfying to the artistic sense. At the same time there are, of course, good and simple designs in mahogany on purely modern lines that are pleasing.
One invention of the present day has not, however, proved a success, and this is the oxidised clock. This is generally voted a failure, because it gives a look of coldness to the room in which it is placed. In a good design, and placed in quite a small study, it may, however, sometimes prove an appropriate timepiece. Mahogany always affords a far warmer effect.
Cromwellian brass clocks are among the most modern revivals, and are meeting with appreciation. The originals were made with only one hand, and were placed on a bracket, as they had a weight. Made of hammered work finely engraved and chased, with a silvered bell on the top, they are to be found in a great number of sizes, varying from 10 to 17 inches in height. Their prices vary according to their sizes, but one of moderate proportions, 11 inches high, would cost about £7 5s. A Cromwellian clock would look entirely out of place in a Sheraton or Adams room, though it would be quite appropriate in a Jacobean room, which is a favourite style of furnishing with many. A mahogany clock, on the other hand, would be an unpardonable anachronism in such an apartment. One should as far as possible combine furniture of similar period even if one is not such a purist as to insist on having everything in a room of almost the same year.
True artistic instinct will never lead its fortunate possessor far astray, and reflection will show that some of our most interesting and beautiful specimens of architecture are none the less valuable or beautiful because they are not entirely of one style or period. So it is with furniture and furnishing.
Whatever may be the style of clock chosen, however, one practical consideration should be borne in mind. The dining-room is not the drawing-room or the boudoir, but essentially a room of a serious turn of mind, if the expression may be permitted. In it the busy head of the family and, probably, the elder children of school-going age are wont to breakfast, and, therefore, from the clock that graces it strict punctuality is expected, and an easily decipherable dial. Your choice, other things being equal, will be the more popular as these two important points are borne in mind. See to it, therefore, that the works of the clock are absolutely reliable, and that its face is one easily seen at a fair distance. You will have your reward.
Clocks fitted with chimes are always popular> especially those which give the Westminster chimes on rongs every quarter of an hour