Astronomical longcase clock by Edward Cockey

Warminister, Wiltshire, England, around AD 1720

Although the most successful and accomplished clockmakers tended to have their businesses in London, a number were to be found further afield. One of these was Edward Cockey of Warmister (1669-1768), best known for a series of astronomical clocks made at the beginning of the eighteenth century. These were intended to impress and would have been suitable only for the largest rooms (the clocks generally stand over 9 feet high). One is known to have been made for the Marquis of Bath at Longleat and another is thought to have been presented to Queen Anne. The clocks are housed in their original cases, each in the form of a Corinthian half-column.

The clock shown here is a third example but, unlike the others, has a later custom-made mahogany case. The dial is very complex and was designed to act as a detailed calendar. The main dial has a central rotating disc to show the age (1-29½) and phase of the moon (with a revolving spherical moon), and a scale and short gilt pointer to show the sun's position in the zodiac. To each side of the central dial are moving shutters which show the times of sun-rise and sunset.

The main chapter ring is marked I-XXIV and has a minute hand which revolves once in two hours. Outside the chapter ring is a rotating ring, decorated with an applied gilt sunburst against a painted blue sky, showing the hours of the day. Within the chapter ring is the maker's name and a small aperture revealing a sun to indicate night hours.

In the arch above the main dial is a scale to show the 'equation of time'. An upper aperture shows the month, the date and the sign of the zodiac. The central aperture reveals a revolving disc engraved with the Sundays in the Liturgical calendar and the lower aperture shows the days of the week with their ruling planets. A small dial to the right shows the date and another to the left has a hand for regulating the clock.

Find in the collection online

More information


D. Pollard, The astronomical clockmaker Ed (Warminster, Bedeguar Books, 1998)

T. Robinson, The longcase clock (Woodbridge (Suffolk), Antique Collector's Club, 1981)


Height: 2.800 m

Museum number

M&ME CAI 2124


Ilbert Collection


Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore