The word ‘sleeper’ is occasionally used in the antiques trade to describe an item which having recently come to light has perhaps spent many years being stored away collecting dust in the home such as a loft or basement. It may have been stored outside the house in a shed or barn and can sometimes be found in a very dirty or tarnished condition. As a collector, it always excites me when I am offered a clock being described as a sleeper because I know there’s a good chance that it has not recently been tampered with. The subject of this article is about a very interesting early 30-hour religious versed wall clock made by John Sanderson of Wigton in about c1700. It is fully illustrated and shown below in it's ‘As Found’ condition.
The stunning early John Sanderson wall clock illustrated survives today in an extremely dirty and tarnished condition throughout. It has a handsome 10.75-inch square brass dial with a busy dial centre featuring a penny moon that is set within the middle of a deeply engraved religious verse that reads ‘Remember Man Die thou must and after that to judgement just’. There is also a square date calendar to the lower part of the dial centre below the verse and there is ringing to the inside and outside of the chapter ring.
Above Showing the handsome 10.75-inch square brass dial with a busy dial centre featuring a penny moon that is set within the middle of a deeply engraved religious verse that reads ‘Remember Man Die thou must and after that to judgement just’. Photographed by Lee Borrett.
Above Showing the John Sanderson dial centre with deeply engraved religious verse, ringing to the inside of chapter ring and a square date calendar. Photographed by Lee Borrett.
Above The penny moon feature. Note how the verse is engraved around the moon. Photographed by Lee Borrett.
Typically of Sanderson’s early work there are no spandrels applied to the four corners of the thin solid dial sheet which have purposely been left blank. The chapter ring has trident type half-hour markers and is signed at the bottom John Sanderson, Wigton Fecit (Made it). Interestingly the chapter ring has a long original casting fault that is clearly visible (like a scar) between the 40- and 45-minute numerals.
Above Showing the long original casting fault. Photographed by Lee Borrett.
Above Signed at the bottom of chapter ring John Sanderson, Wigton Fecit. Photographed by Lee Borrett.
The large heavily built iron and brass birdcage movement with lantern style brass turned pillars and feet is again typical of John Sanderson’s early work. It is covered in thick dust but appears to be in a good original condition throughout including retaining its original wheelwork and chain pulleys. There is a crudely replaced rear foot that looks like it was done a long time ago and possibly by a previous owner?
Above Rear view of the movement showing the crudely replaced lantern foot. Photographed by Lee Borrett.
Above Showing a side view of the heavily built John Sanderson movement which is full of thick dust. Photographed by Lee Borrett.
Above Showing a side view of the heavily built John Sanderson movement which is full of thick dust. Photograph by Lee Borrett.
Above Showing an opposite side view of the movement. Photographed by Lee Borrett.
Above Showing the top plate. Photographed by Lee Borrett.
I purchased the clock about 20 years ago from the private collection of Chris Papworth, owner of Kelvedon Clocks in Colchester. Chris explained to me at the time that he had owned the clock for around 15 years after he was asked to clear the workshop of a watchmaker by his widow. The chap had worked as a trade worker, carrying out watch repairs for several jewellers’ shops in the vicinity of Billericay, Essex. His workshop was in the attic of his house and although it was a well laid out workshop, everything had to be taken up and down via a loft ladder through a very small loft opening. Apparently, he worked in this workshop for about 30 years. His wife who thought the clock had been up there for as long as she could remember had no idea where it came from, but he had put the clock to one side meaning to restore it when he had time. (We all know that feeling). It was probably lucky for the clock that he never had time to restore it, as at that time, the accepted thing was to carry out very heavy restorations with the idea of restoring items to almost new condition and Chris explained to me that restorers are far more sympathetic.
Thankfully for me, Chris decided not to restore the clock and from his above account of the clocks history we know it has been in storage for the last 65 years and we also know that the Watchmaker acquired the clock in an unrestored condition so perhaps it has not run for the best part 100 years? The clocks very tarnished condition and crudely replaced lantern foot (possibly caused by falling off its wall bracket) suggests to me that it has possibly have spent all its working life as a wall clock and could be an example that has escaped being cased during its 320 years of existence. Like Chris Papworth, I decided not to have the clock restored and have left it in it's ‘sleepy’ condition. Somehow for me the clock is very desirable in it's untouched state. However, I am only the clocks current keeper, and a future owner may well decide to have this early wall clock fully restored back to it's former working glory. But until that time I will just let this little beauty sleep!
'Sleeping Beauty' c1700
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.