Early Key -Wound
30-hour Pendulum Clock
As a collector of early provincial 30-hour pendulum clocks with anchor escapement - including longcase, hooded, and wall clocks - I am always searching to find examples dating from the 1680s and early 1690s - a period which is generally (not including London) regarded as being at the very start of domestic clockmaking in many parts of rural England. However, I have always been hopeful that one day I would come across an early 30-hour example that dates closer to the beginnings of their prototype existence of the 1660s. This article is about one such exceedingly rare, exciting, and original 30-hour that I have been fortunate enough to photograph and illustrate on this website. The clock which is highly interesting, has survived in a superb original condition and dates within about ten to fourteen years from the invention of the anchor escapement in 1658. It is a Key-Wound 30-hour long pendulum clock with its original, early - fully developed original anchor escapement.
The anonymous, 9.75 inch square brass dial is most beautifully engraved with an All-Over tulip flower theme which includes spreading to each of the four corners. The iron hands also have a tulip theme including a flower on the stem of the minute hand.
Above. Showing the beautifully All-Over engraved 9.75 inch brass dial of the early anonymous Key-Wound 30-hour with narrow chapter ring. Photographed by Lee Borrett.
Tulips formed the theme of the engraved dials of many, if not most, English lantern clocks of the mid to late 1600s but are exceptionally uncommon during this same period on square dials of other kinds of clocks (namely longcase clocks, hooded clocks or bracket clocks). Clocks other than lantern which have this tulip-based engraving filling the dial centre and the dial corners are very few in number. Brian Loomes in one of his article entitled ‘A Tulip-dial Clock of the Seventeenth Century' states that surviving known examples all date between 1664 and 1680 and to support this theory I have seen a table clock c1660-1664 by John Hilderson with an all-over engraved tulip theme dial. And recently an important early ebony spring pendulum timepiece with alarm by Edward East, c1660 that sold at auction - also had an all-over engraved tulip theme dial.
Above. Showing a close-up of the beautiful dial centre. The flowers around the winding-holes were engraved after the winding holes were cut. Note the tulip theme hands with a flower on the minute hand. Photographed by Lee Borrett.
Below. Showing a close-up of the square date calandar with small tulip flowers engraved to the square corners Photographed by Lee Borrett.
Below. Showing a close-up of one of the beautifully engraved tulip flower corners. Photographed by Lee Borrett.
Below. A close-up of the superb and original iron hands with tulip flower design - which match the fabulous tulip dial. Note the carved out tulip on the minute hand. Photographed by Lee Borrett
The massive and heavily built plated movement with its original anchor escapement is wonderfully original throughout and has four large ringed and knopped pillars which are latched at the front. Most interestingly it has four-wheel trains like an 8-day, but with some of the pinions substituted by brass wheels with larger counts. This reduces the duration to make it 30-hr (or at least shorter than 8-day). Why this should have been done like this is a mystery but totally original arrangement and possibly experimental from a clockmaker who was probably more used to making balance wheel lantern clocks. The lovely tapered iron wheel arbours are mostly without collets and are direct to the wheels. There are two massive tapered iron arbours that have iron collets, but these are integral and are part of the iron arbour itself - just like lantern clocks of the 1650s and 1660s. There is one concave brass collet, but this mixture of iron and brass collets is original and is also found on other clocks from this period. This same original feature can be seen on another early Key-Wound 30-hour by Jonathan Chambers, c1668 illustrated in English 30 Hour Clocks by Darken &Hooper pages 43-47.
Above Showing a front side view of the movement with the dial removed. Photographed by Lee Borrett.
Above Showing another front side view of the movement but from the opposite side. Photographed by Lee Borrett.
Above Showing the front of the movement with the dial removed. Note the front is latched and the rear of movement is pinned. Photographed by Lee Borrett.
Above Showing an overhead view of the massive and heavily built plated movement with lovely tapered iron wheel arbours. There are two massive tapered iron arbours that have iron collets, but these are integral and are part of the iron arbour itself - just like lantern clocks of the 1650s and 1660s. Photographed by Lee Borrett.
Above Showing another overhead view of the massive movement. The clock retains its original anchor escapement . Photographed by Lee Borrett.
Above Showing the rear of the early Key-Wound movement. Note the tall plates. Photographed by Lee Borrett.
Showing the early Key-Wound clock housed in it's architectural ebonised fruitwood case which has a rising hood with spoon and catch. The case is fashioned with ebonised pear wood veneers onto a pine carcass. Photographed by Lee Borrett.
The panelled trunk door has handmade blacksmith iron hinges, iron lock and period brass escutcheon.
The oak seat board supports two rectangular movement blocks in which the clock sits.
The case stands approximately 6ft 5 inches high.
The original case to this clock has not survived and this was probably due to the very earliest longcase clock cases of this period being made with a pine carcass which was prone to woodworm and rot from very damp conditions during that period. The clock is now housed in a fabulous hand made replica architectural ebonised fruitwood case which has a rising hood with spoon and catch. The case is fashioned with ebonised pear wood veneers onto a period pine carcass. The panelled trunk door has handmade blacksmith iron hinges, iron lock and period brass escutcheon. The oak seat board supports two rectangular movement blocks in which the clock sits. It stands approximately 6ft 5 inches high. This exceptional case was cutom made for the early movement by Richard White who has done a superb job, spending literally hundreds of hours copying from an exceedingly rare and original 1660s example. Richard is one of the most experienced clock case restorers around. He has spent over 30 years restoring and conserving some of the finest clock cases in the land and has worked for many top dealers including much of that work for the late Anthony Woodburn.
This Early Key-Wound 30-hour Clock has a superb known provenance that we can trace back to at least 100 years. It is an historically important survivor because it was made within about ten to fourteen years from the invention of the anchor escapement in 1658. Because it is an unsigned example - we will probably never find out who made the clock, unless someone out there has a signed twin and knows the answer, but in my opinion, it is most likely to have been made by a maker who was more used to making lantern clocks and who was just starting to make his first longcase clocks.
However, this is only assumption on my part and for me - the mystery of who made it over 350 years ago just adds to the excitement!
I would like to thank Brian Loomes for allowing me to use any relevant previously published articles written by him - which I have used for my own article above.
I would like to thank John Robey for his help with explaining the unusual and exceptionally interesting movement arrangement.
I would like to thank Richard White for his expertise and help with regards to the clocks superb architectural ebonised fruitwood case which has helped bring the clock back to life and secure its future by being protected by the superb case.
And finally, I would also like to thank my clock friends Toby, Thomas and George who scour the length and breadth of the country, helping me to locate and acquire such fascinating early clocks to illustrate on this website.