A spectacular 19th century quarter chiming English Exhibition table clock with automata, circa 1870/80, of exceptionally large proportion, the ornate gilt bronze mounted ebonised case surmounted by a cherub riding a dragon, the domed pediment flanked by four cherubs holding globes aloft, the brass dial having silvered chapter ring with multiple subsidiary dials displaying day, date and month, cast and pierced spandrels, the dial pediment having an automaton with blacksmith striking his anvil every second and a figure emerging from a side door and striking a bell on every hour, dial flanked by gilt brass corinthian columns on ormolu mounted plinth base, massive 8-day chain-driven movement chiming on eight bells and striking on a gong, overall height 148cm, plinth width 82cm, depth 48cm, dial 45 x 39cm, brass backplate 44 x 31cm, case has heavy gauge bronze carrying handles with relief cast and pierced opening side panels to either side, with original massive brass key.
Please use the following link to see a video 'walk-around' condition report:
The following details and condition report were kindly supplied by Robert Wren:
Automata. The automata in the arch of the dial is a polychrome scene comprising of a brick building with a hinged wooden door, a large covered bell and a blacksmith at his forge. The blacksmith continuously raises his arm and hammers on the anvil in time with the pendulum. On the hour the door opens and a gentlemen exits whilst the quarter chime plays and then strikes the bell in time
with the hour gong and then returns inside the building.
Dial. The brass dial has a silvered chapter ring with Roman numerals, Arabic five minute numerals and decorative half hour marks. Five subsidiary dials for day, date, month, chime/silent and chime on eight bells/Cambridge chimes. The rest of the dial is smothered in ornate mask spandrels and the centre with mythical figures and sea monsters. The black/blued steel hands are reminiscent of hands found on skeleton clocks by John Smith & Sons, St. Johns Square, Clerkenwell, London. John Smith &
Sons made all types of clocks including this type of clock, often for the trade and unsigned.
Movement. The substantial English three train movement is in proportion with the size of the case and it has chain fusees and recoil anchor escapement. Quarter chimes on eight bells with eight brass tear drop topped hammers and strikes the hour on a large coiled gong.
Pendulum, large brass winding key and three steel case keys.
The case is possibly lacking large ornate brass feet. With feet the case would have better proportions. The gong stand is secured in an unusual way and this is probably due to not having feet.
The gong stand normally protrudes through the bottom of the case and is secured with a large washer and nut.
The movement functions, is dirty and requires a service and minor repairs and adjustments.
The bell stand has a little active corrosion. The movement of the blacksmiths arm and hammer is currently very minimal and requires adjustment or repair to achieve a more realistic action. The hammer that the gentlemen holds to strike the dummy bell is detached and retained and requires re-fixing.
I have said the movement is English but at this period England was importing German made movements in the English manner and they are difficult to identify unless they are marked or signed.
There is an identical clock owned by the Worshipful Company of Farriers, donated by Mr F Beven in 1961 on the condition that it was housed in the City of London and is now on public display in the Guildhall, London.
This clock is also unsigned but has the addition of decorative feet and the Farriers coat of arms and stands on a matching ebonised and ormolu mounted table. It also has a trade label of James Poole pasted inside the rear door. James Poole (b1839-d1918) was a Chronometer maker at 33 Spencer Street, Clerkenwell and is unlikely to be the maker but may well have serviced or repaired the clock.
A letter to the Clerk of the Clockmakers’ Company in March 1962 from the Farriers’ Clerk, Mr E H Newcome Wright, says that it was believed that the clock was one of two built at the time of the Great Exhibition, the original being alleged to have been made for ‘some Indian Maharajah’.
Mr Newcome Wright retired as Clerk in 1963, and writes to his successor Arnold Scott, in May 1964 saying that he had discovered the ‘twin’ of the clock which was presented to the company and is owned by a firm of solicitors, Messrs Summer & Co, 25 Dover Street, Piccadilly, W 1 and stands on the stairs of their offices.
It is possible this is the same clock as the one now for sale. I have been aware of this clock since the late 1970’s or early 80’s.
Clocks magazine December 1993 has copies of detailed design drawings of clocks and barometers.
One drawing numbered 189 and titled Large Clock, 72” in height and 46” maximum width. Drawn in charcoal and ink on paper with cloth backing as reinforcement and the dial layout is identical to the clock for sale and the Farriers clock in the Guildhall but the case is only similar in style. One of the
other drawings has Lowther, London on its dial.
Thomas Nicholas Lowther. Born about 1776 and died 1865. He was a respected clock case and cabinet maker and lived and worked in Red Lion Street, Clerkenwell, London (Clerkenwell was the location of numerous craftsman involved in the horological trade). He made very fine clock cases and these are often stamped T.N.LOWTHER. It is possible the business continued after his death but
I have not been able to determine this.
It is possible that John Smith and Sons made the clock and if the business of Lowther was still trading that they may have made the case. Also there were other later exhibitions in London where this impressive giant automata clock may well have been displayed.