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John Ismay

Wigton, Fecit


The fabulous early religious versed clock illustrated here, is an exceptionally rare example by John Ismay of  Wigton. Originally made to just sit on a wall bracket to show off its large brass lantern movement - it survives today in a very original condition throughout. It is housed in its original rustic case which was probably made .......... a few years of the clocks making of c1718. Apart from ' Memento Mori ' engraved in the top two corners there is a very rare verse engraved to the dial centre that reads:- ' Shun Sin least thou Lament,  When Precious Time is Spent,  And Death to the(e) is Sent, No Time then to Repent.' -  From surviving known clocks by John Ismay - we now know that he numbered  his  earliest Wigton clocks. Here we can see that he numbered this example No.1 on the back of the dial - which is hidden by the date calandar wheel. Of course the number could be a batch number. - However because of the unusally  fancily shaped back-cock and exceptionally - beautifully turned brass movement pillars (compared to his other 'typical ' early surviving examples)- this could possibily be his first Wigton signed clock as a professional clockmaker. 


John Ismay was born at Thursby, a village near Wigton in Cumberland, in March 1699.  He was apprenticed to John Ogden at Bowbridge in 1711, and was living in Tiffinthwaite at the time of his death in 1755. Today there are only a handful of clocks known to survive by him. See a very primitive clock by Ismay on this website -  that is thought to have been made whilst still serving his apprenticeship under John Ogden. It is signed at Oulton which is near Wigton and is John Ismay's earliest surviving known clock.

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Above Showing John Sanderson's beautifully All-Over engraved tulip dial - 30-hour wall on bracket clock with religious verse, c1715.  Photograph by Lee Borrett.

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Above Showing a view of the dial centre showing the tulip flower, calendar mouth, deeply engraved religious verse and the wriggle decoration on the inside of the chapter ring. Original iron hands.  Photograph by Lee Borrett.

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Above Showing one of the corners with tulips and a foliage design.  Photograph by Lee Borrett.

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Above Signed John Sanderson without place name.  Photograph by Lee Borrett.

The brass and iron birdcage movement with lantern style brass turned pillars is typical of John Sanderson’s work. It is in a wonderfully original, untouched condition throughout and has a lovely dark rich untouched colour and patina. It is fixed to a later and very old solid mahogany seat board with rounded edges suggesting that it has either been housed in a longcase at some point or sat on a mahogany wall shelf, but like so many of these Sanderson clocks, it probably started life as a wall clock, and judging by its untouched condition I would guess that the clock has spent many years in some kind of storage.

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Above Showing a side view of the wonderfully original movement.  Photograph by Lee Borrett.

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Above Showing the Top Plate.  Photograph by Lee Borrett.

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Above Showing a rear view of John Sanderson’s tulip dial movement.  Photograph by Lee Borrett.

John Sanderson was born in 1671 and was brought up at Tiffinthwaite Farm (near Wigton) where his father Robert was the blacksmith and they probably lived in the outbuildings on the farmland. It is believed that he may have served an apprenticeship under the Quaker Clockmaker John Ogden at Bowbridge in Yorkshire during the 1680s. He was back living and working as a Clockmaker at Tiffinthwaite from about 1690.

It is thought that Sanderson sold many of his early 30-hour clocks with the brass lantern style pillars at the local marketplace in wigton and surrounding areas including even as far as Edinburgh with a view that the new owners could either use them as wall on bracket clocks (showing off the lantern style brass pillars) and keeping the price down. Alternatively, they could house the clock in a wooden case straight away or at some time in the future when they could afford to. From my own experiences in collecting them I think that apart from a few cases the vast majority of Sanderson’s early religious versed 30-hour clocks with the lantern style movements were probably used as wall clocks initially and then some of these were either housed later in a new case, styled in the then fashion of the day, or like other examples found today - which have been at some time in their life adapted to a previously occupied case (married up). However, when collecting these early Wigton clocks this is all part of their natural history through the passage of time and ownership and I do not view this in a negative way.


Brian Loomes is the authority on John Sanderson. His book 'Brass Dial Clocks' has a whole chapter on The Wigton School. This book is a must for collectors interested in this subject. Much of the above information on 'The Wigton School' was taken from the book, along with an article written for Clocks Magazine of April 2006, also by Brian Loomes. I have however included additional information on clocks and newly discovered makers that have come to light since the book was first published, along with my own opinions on the subject!

    This 30-hour longcase is John Ismay's earliest known Wigton Clock

Coming Soon!

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