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The large 30-hour lantern movement has four circular brass pillars secured with nuts and a verge escapement with a short bob pendulum and inside countwheel strike on a bell. The alarm which is mounted on the backplate is sounded on the same bell with a double-headed hammer.
The slim elegant case has a flat top rising hood with barleytwist pillars front and back and pierced gilt wood sound frets. The full length rectangular trunk door has fine gilt chinoiserie decoration on a black lacquer ground with figures in an oriental landscape which is repeated on the base.
Date: circa 1680
Height: 83 in (211 cm)
* Thomas Tompion made very few 30-hour longcase clocks, the probable reason being that they were less expensive than longer duration clocks and may have been ordered for the servants’ quarters. A 30-hour clock with a very similar dial and signature by Tompion is illustrated on page 104, fig. 95 in R.W. Symond’s Thomas Tompion, his Life and Work and can be seen at the collection of the Clockmakers’ Company at the Guildhall. We know of no other surviving 30-hour Tompion longcases with chinoiserie decoration and the early date of this piece means it predates his series of numbered clocks.
Tompion was the most highly respected English clockmaker. Born at Ickwell Green, Bedfordshire in 1639, he moved to London in 1671. He became a free brother in the Clockmakers’ Company and in 1674, he established his business at the sign of the Dial and Three Crowns in Water Lane, now called Whitefriars Street. There he met Dr. Robert
Hooke, an eminent physicist and mathematician, who exchanged ideas with him in the early part of his career when he was gaining commissions for some of his most important clocks and scientific instruments. Through this association Tompion came to the notice of Charles II and from that time he held an unrivalled position in English Horology.
In 1695 George Graham joined Tompion as his journeyman and subsequently married his niece. In 1701 Tompion took Edward Banger into partnership, another niece’s husband, who had previously been his apprentice. They broke up acrimoniously in 1707 and Graham was then made a full partner and he eventually inherited the business.
In 1703 Tompion was elected Master of the Clockmakers’ Company. He is known to have made about 650 clocks, approximately 16-20 clocks a year. Sometime between 1680 and 1685 he devised a numbering system for his clocks and watches which go up to 542. This system was continued after Tompion’s death by his successor George Graham. Tompion died in November 1713 and is buried in Westminster Abbey.
The late Rev’d E. H. Isaac, Millom, Cumbria
The Vitale Collection of Highly Important European Clocks:
Part 1, Christie’s New York, 30 October 1996, lot 120
Jeff Darken and John Hooper, English Thirty Hour Clocks, pp.83-85, pls. 2/53-2/56.
Dawson, Drover and Parkes, Early English Clocks, London, 1994, p. 494, pl. 735
Ernest L. Edwards, The Grandfather Clock, pp.115-116, pl.165, 166
R.K. Foulkes, Thirty Hour Tompion Clocks, London 1951: an illustrated extract from Apollo, vol. 54, pp.99-102, 106
F.H. Green, Old English Clocks, 1931, plates V & VI
Tom Robinson, Lacquered or Japanned Longcase Clocks, Antique Collecting, Dec’1981, vol.16 No.7, pp.13-17, fig.6/1
Tom Robinson, The Longcase Clock, Woodbridge, 1995, pp.118-120, fig. 6/1
John Stalker and George Parker, A Treatise of Japaning and Varnishing, Oxford, 1688
R.W. Symonds, Thomas Tompion, his Life and Work, London, 1969, pp.104, 108, 276, figs.95 & 101
Howard Walwyn Ltd Fine Antique Clocks
123 Kensington Church Street
Saturday by appointment