The late seventeenth and eighteenth-century long-case and bracket clocks are such integral features of the English furniture of their period, and their acquirement offers such a fascinating and profitable field to the collector, that some mention and description of them is necessary, if this book is to be comprehensive. At the outset one is confronted with the difficulty of having written an exhaustive book on the same subject, and the problem is how to condense the information and illustrative material contained in a royal quarto volume of 354 pages into the space of a single chapter, without omitting something of prime importance to the student of English horology. It is obvious that a good deal of excision is necessary, and, at the outset, space will forbid anything beyond a very brief mention of the clock movements or the historical development of the clockmaker's craft.
The collecting of English domestic clocks appears, at the present day, to be reinforced by very inadequate knowledge. Fine examples, and the merest rubbish, - the work of the later eighteenth-century country makers unfortunately offers a great number of specimens of the latter, - appear to command indiscriminate prices, sometimes absurdly high, at other times as ridiculously low.
A poor clock in a case of little or no merit is a worthless thing, and if a greater knowledge of the subject has the effect of enhancing the prices of the fine clocks, and of rendering the rubbish absolutely unsaleable, a real benefit will have been conferred on the discriminating collector.
English long-case clocks may be divided into several periods, or classes, each of which is, to a great extent, quite distinct. To commence with, we have the very early thirty-hour long-case clocks, generally in ebony-veneered, or ebonised panelled cases, or in walnut, inlaid with simple stringing or marqueterie. These clocks are one-handed, the motion-work of the minute-hand being imperfectly understood at that date. Clocks of this kind date from about 1660 to 1672, but it must not be imagined that every thirty-hour single-handed clock is an early one. They were made, principally as hanging wall clocks, during the whole of the eighteenth century, in the smaller provincial towns or villages, and they are usually to be found, divorced from their original wall brackets, and married to crude long cases, generally of waxed oak. The early clocks have always square dials, and these are never more than about 10 ins. in width and height. A 1660-70 one-handed clock would be, almost certainly, from a London maker, and would be signed with his name in a straight line at the bottom of the dial, and usually in Latin, thus "Johannes Fromanteel, Londini, fecit."
For the purpose of a better understanding of this subject, without entering more than is absolutely necessary into the technicalities of the movements, we can examine and describe the visible component parts of a long-case clock, and briefly state the various stages of evolution from 1660 to 1800. The still earlier lantern - or "Crom-wellian" - hanging clocks, being the progenitors of the long-case, demand also some brief reference. It is necessary to touch on the technical side of our subject and to examine the mechanism which causes a clock to go and keep time. The motive power of a long-case clock is the fall of weights, suspended from pulley-wheels channelled to carry the gut lines which are coiled on barrels when the clock is wound up. To these barrels the winding squares, which can be seen in the winding holes on the dial face, are attached, and the winding key turns these squares and the barrels at the same time, thus coiling the gut lines and lifting the weights. The barrels are cogged, and a spring-ratchet allows the barrel to turn the one way only, thus preventing the line from running down with its weight when the winding-key is removed. The right-hand barrel is usually for the going, the left for the striking respectively.1 The collection of wheels attached to each is known as the " going train " and " striking train " respectively. It is unnecessary here to enter into an elaborate explanation as to how and why a clock goes and records time, as this has been fully described in the larger book " English Domestic Clocks " before referred to.
Fig. 389. The Dial Of Fig. 390
Fig. 391. Example Of A One-Handed Square Dial Clock Of Late Period. - (1740-50.)
Fig. 390. Johannes Froman Teel, Londini." - 30-hour Striking Clock. - Ebonised case. - 6 ft. 8 ins. high. Waist 10 ins. wide. - Dial 8 7/8 ins. square. - Date about 1660-5.
It is obvious, however, that if the fall of the going weight is the driving force of the clock, some uniform check must be placed on this fall so that it shall take eight days, a month, or some regular period to accomplish its descent to the full length of the gut line. The eighteenth-century long-case clocks have usually a period of eight days, between windings, that is, in technical parlance, the train is one of four wheels from main wheel to the escapement, but month and even year clocks were made by the noted makers.
The check on the fall of the driving weight is the escapement and the pendulum. The fastest wheel, and therefore the most easily controlled, is at the other end of the train to the gut-wound barrel, and is known as the escape-wheel. This is toothed, and is engaged by two checks attached to the pendulum, which in its swing alternately engages one and then the other of these checks in the teeth of the escape wheel, allowing one tooth to escape, and the wheel to revolve thus far with each swing. At the same time, the pendulum receives an impulse from the crutch attached to "the escapement which carries it on to its next swing. The clock, therefore, is regulated by the time the pendulum takes to oscillate, and this is a fixed quantity depending on one circumstance only. Stated in exact language, a pendulum with a length of 39 1393 ins. from the exact bending point of the steel suspension at the top to the centre of gravity of the entire pendulum, has a swing occupying one second of time to accomplish, no matter whether the arc be wide or narrow. The clock, therefore, merely registers, in seconds, minutes or hours, the number of the oscillations of its pendulum. In long-case clocks, where the pendulum is of seconds' length or longer, and where the arc of swing is restricted by the inside width of the case, and has to be narrow in consequence, the escape-wheel is placed vertically, and what is known as the " anchor " escapement, - sometimes as the "recoil," -is adopted. In bracket-clocks, where the pendulum is short, and the degree of swing immaterial, the escape-wheel, especially in early examples, is usually placed horizontally, the rod or "arbor" attached to the pendulum having two checks, which engage, in turn, with the teeth of the escape. This is known as the "crown-wheel" or "verge" escapement. The difference in the motive power between the bracket clock and the long-case is, that in the former there is no room for the fall of weights, and a spiral spring is placed in the barrel, which is coiled up when the clock is wound, and uncoils, gradually, as the clock runs down. The barrel is connected with its " fusee " by a gut line, and the function of the fusee is to equalise the pull of the spring, which would otherwise be more powerful when fully wound than when nearly run down. (See Chapter IV (Walnut Chairs From 1660 To 1700), " English Domestic Clocks.")
1 In some complicated clocks, especially those with three trains, this rule docs not always apply.
Fig. 392. Eduardus East, Londini." - 9-in. Dial of 8-day Striking Clock. Date about 1665.
Fig. 393. Gulielmus Clement, Londini, Fecit. - 8-in. Dial of 8-day Quarter-striking Clock. 1 1/4-seconds Pendulum. - Date about 1675. - Henry T. Brice, Esq.
Figs. 394 and 395. William Clement, London. - (Gulielmus Clement, Londini, Fecit.) - Month Clock, Non-striking. - 1 1/4 -seconds pendulum. (61.155 ins. in length.) - Bolt-and-shutter maintaining power. - Water gilt dial. - Oak case veneered with burr walnut. - Sliding hood, supported on spiral click-spring. - Height of case, 6 ft. 6 ins. - 10-in. dial. - Date about 1675. - D. A. F. Wetherfield, Esq.
Figs. 396 and 397. Thomas Tompion, London. - (Thomas Tompion, Londini, Fecit.) - 8-day Striking Clock; water-gilt dial. - Finely pierced and carved hands. - Oak case veneered with burr walnut. - Carved cresting to hood. Slide-up hood. - 6 ft. 9 ins. high. 9 1/2-in. dial. - Date about 1680. - D. A. F. Wetherfield, Esq.
Fig. 398 and 399. Joseph Knibb, London. - (Joseph Knibb, Londini, Fecit.)
Month Striking Clock, striking on two bells on Roman numeral system (see text). Hour and minute circles solid silver. Water-gilt dial and corner pieces. Exceptionally delicate hands. Oak case veneered with ebony in raised panels.
6 ft. 8 ins. high. 10-in. dial.
Date about 1695.
D. A. F. Wetherfield, Esq.
Fig. 400. Joseph Knibb, London. - 8-day Clock. Oakcase veneered with ebony, brass capitals and bases to hood; water gilt. - 6 ft. 2 ins. high. - Date about 1675. D. A. F. Wetherfield, Esq.
With this brief explanation we can dismiss the clock mechanism, and turn to the visible part, the dial. The earliest long-case dials up to about 1715-20 are always square, measuring 10 ins. in the very early examples, 11 ins. up to about 1700, and from thence to about 1720, 12 ins. After about 1720 the arch dial comes into fashion, the square form being made only by small country makers. The arched dials vary from 12 ins. across to as much as 18 ins. in the case of the gigantic Yorkshire clocks.
In the attempt to give a rational account of English domestic clocks, and one which shall be of value to the collector, it is only possible to illustrate those specimens which are representative of their fashion or period. It would be both a waste of time, and highly misleading, to describe those examples which are merely late repetitions of early types, although it must not be forgotten, that, especialfy in the case of long-case clocks, such specimens abound, the work of small provincial makers working in a bygone fashion. With this stipulation in mind, we can proceed to our examination of the dials of long-case clocks of the late seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries.