- Museum number
WEIGHT-DRIVEN MUSICAL CHAMBER CLOCK
A weight-driven three train clock with verge and balance, two hands, striking the hours and playing music on each of the quarters. The frame and wheel work are largely in iron. The posted-frame movement is arranged in four tiers, supported by doric columns with entasis;
The first (lower) tier houses the trains. The sides and rear are exposed but a gilded brass dial plate is set between front columns, engraved in an architectural design with perspective. Silvered brass chapter ring is engraved with roman numerals for hours and quarters, with quadfoil markings for the half hours and half quarters. Two concentric blued steel hands, for hours and minutes. Going train with two wheels, verge and balance. Striking train with two wheels, fly and countwheel. Music train with three wheels, fly and brass pin barrel.
The second level houses the balance and is enclosed by engraved gilded brass panels.
The third level houses thirteen bells which form the music carillon. This level is exposed on all sides.
The fourth (top) level bears the large hour bell. Brass finials surmount the hour bell and each column. Architectural pediments are mounted on the front and two sides, each a triangular engraved gilded brass sheet set into an iron frame.
- Gt wheel 120
- Crown wheel 59/8
- Gt wheel 80
- 2nd wheel 96/10
- Fly 4
- Gt wheel 108
- 2nd wheel 96/12
- 3rd wheel 78/8
- Fly 6
DURATION CALCULATIONS (OJC 13/2/2008)
Full train count of going train (including motion work);
- Great Wheel Arbor (120T,12L. 1 rev/hour). 120 tooth wheel drives 8 leaf pinion on Crown Wheel Arbor. 12 leaf pinion drives 12 leaf pinion on 'Lead- Off' Arbor.
- Crown Wheel Arbor (59T,8L. 1 rev/4 mins). 59 tooth crown wheel engages with verge.
- 'Lead-off' Arbor (48T,72T,12L. 1 rev/hour). 48 tooth wheel drives 48 tooth wheel on Minute Hand Arbor. 6 leaf pinion drives 72 tooth wheel on Hour Hand Arbor.
- Minute Hand Arbor (48T. 1 rev/hour).
- Hour Hand Arbor (72T. 1 rev/12 hours).
Going pulley diameter = 46mm (approx., measured in situ). Rope thickness 6.5mm (approx. under tension). Thus effective diam, 55.5m -> 165mm perimeter, i.e. 165mm line per hour on single line. For 9a.m. to 6 p.m., i.e. 9 hours. Addin 1/2 hour for inaccuracy, require 1.57m line. Add height of bracket, pulley & weight for total drop. Say 1.8m.
ACTION OF MUSICAL QUARTER TRAIN (OJC 18/2/2008)
There is a disc with fours pins behind the dial. This rotates once per hour with the minute hand. The pins lift a lever, which itself lifts another lever at the back of this movement. There are two detents attached to this, once which locates into recesses in the pin barrel (much like a countwheel) and the other which engages with either of two stops that are mounted on the 'stop wheel'. The 108 teeth on the pin barrel wheel engage with an eight leaf pinion on the stop wheel arbor, i.e. the stop wheel rotates 13.5 times for every revolution of the pin barrel. Thus every quarter, the levers are lifted and the pin barrel runs and music is played, until the detent drops into a recess on the pin barrel, which allows the attached lever to obstruct a stop on the stop wheel causing the train to stop (abruptly). The length between recesses on the pin barrel are not equal, i.e. the length of music played at each quarter is different. These different lengths are more easily counted in terms of revolution of the stop wheel and are as follows;
- 1st quarter - 1/4 rev of stop wheel.
- 2nd quarter (half-hour) - 3 revs of stop wheel
- 3rd quarter - 3/4 rev of stop wheel
- 4th quarter (the hour) - 5 revs of stop wheel
- Production date
Height: 59 centimetres
Weight: 20 kilograms
Width: 26 centimetres
Depth: 23.30 centimetres
- Curator's comments
See Antiquarian Horology Journal, March 2008, Vol.30 no.05 p695-703
The following text is the entry for this object from the unpublished catalogue of pre-pendulum clocks by John Leopold, former Assistant Keeper of Horology at the Museum. This information is unedited and should be used accordingly.
MUSICAL WALL CLOCK, BY NICOLAS VALLIN, LONDON 1598.
Ilbert No. 328 P: ex Sotheby December 1937.
Britten 6 (1932) 529 531.
Sotheby's London, 11 May 1934 lot 90.
Sotheby's London, 11 December 1936, lot 77. Sold to M.Gardner, £ 50.
Baillie 2 (1947) 324.
Symonds (1947) pl.14.
Exhib.cat.London 1952 No.6.
Lloyd (1952-1) 256.
Lloyd (1952-2) 35, 36.
AH 1 No.2 (March 1954) 18, fig.
Lloyd/Drover (1955) 110.
Britten 7 (1956) 37.
Exhib.cat. London 1958 No.19.
Cat.Ilbert (1958) No.30.
Clutton (1958) 405.
Dawson etc. (1958) 162.
HJ 102 no.1221 (June 1960) 371.
Bassermann Jordan/Bertele (1961) 105.
Bassermann Jordan/Bertele (1964) 105.
Lloyd (1964) 182.
Morpurgo (1965) 28.
Goaman (1967) 50.
Bruton (1968) 33 (on the old bracket).
Tait (1968) 27 8, pl.18 19.
Miller (1969 70) 13.
Britten 8 (1972) 37.
Jagger 2 (1975) 23.
Jagger (1977)58 9.
Fabian (1977) 565.
Pearson (1979) 17.
Britten 9 (1982) 40.
Dawson etc. (1982) 18 19, 27.
Tardy 5 (1982) III 361, 373.
Tait (1983) 16 9.
Haspels (1987) 152, 154, 157, 158, 166.
White (1989) 46, 48, 58, 94, 95.
Ord-Hume (1995) 61-2, 64-6, 214-5.
Engraved at the bottom of the dial: "* N * VALLIN * 1598 *". The back of the pediments in front and on the right have a scratched "F" and an "R"; that on the right has additionally a small trial-engraving. Two of the brass spacers between the two frames have, likewise, scratched on the back "L" and "F"; the (later) rear one has the word "back".
Case and dial.
Riveted studs and pinholes in the lower two plates of the movement show that there originally were (fixed) side panels to this clock. Such pannels do exist, but they are not original (see History and Provenance). There never was a panel for the back of the clock.
The dial consists of a brass sheet, secured by two brass latches that slip behind the front pillers. The dial plate carries a silver chapterring secured by four brass feet and four brass steady-pins; there are four filled holes associated with an earlier ring. The chapterring is marked I - XII for the hours, with half-hour marks, and I - IIII for the quarters, with half-quarter marks. The chapterring is modern (see History and Provenance).
The dial plate outside the chapterring is deeply engraved with the traditional Flemish archway in strong perspective; underneath it is a plinth with the signature. Within the chaperring there is an unusual star-shaped ornament. At the top two ringed holes have been filled with rivets: the rivets are propbably modern.
Posted frame movement, made very largely of steel. Four lightly tapered round pillars with brass bases, brass capitals and brass rings near the top, are secured by brass nuts at the bottom and pinned at the top of the movement-frame. Four plates: two for the movement and two for the sub-frame that houses the bells. The two movement plates and the top one have large apertures: they are in fact rectangular rings with riveted cross straps. The two lower plates hold the bars for the movement. The bars each have two round studs fitting into holes in the plates at the bottom; at the top the four outer bars are wedged against studs riveted to the top plate, while the two centre bars are wedged into apertures in the top plate. The bottom plate has six unused plain holes which were probably meant for securing the clock to its stand.
The movement frame is separated from the bell frame by a four brass plates that act as spacers; they each have two brackets riveted to the inside which allow them to slide over the pillars. The plate at the back is modern (there may not have been a plate here originally). The plate in front consists of two portions riveted to a third one; the two visible portions do not meet in the middle but have a piece dovetailed between them. This plate has a gap at the top. The purpose of the slide is not clear; there may have been an ornament here. The gap is probably part of the pendulum-conversion (see History and Provennace).
The pillars extend upwards to take cylindrical steel pipes (also with brass bases and capitals) which act as spacers for the bell frame. These pipes were bent out of sheet and the capitals and bases were shrunk around them. At the top the pillars have screwed brass finials, which secure the bell frame; these finials also secure the three brass pediments with riveted steel frames. The pediment on the right has been replaced, though its steel base is original.
Right-angle drive for the dial. Going and striking trains on the left, the striking being on the outside; the musical train on the right.
All wheels, including the under-dial work, run in brass bushes. All wheels have four crossings; the wheels are constructed as separate crossings and band. All hammers and detends are held by fixed studs; their arbors have one long pivot and there are hinged end pieces to keep the arbors in position.
There is no suspension-hoop and no spurs. The construction of the hammers at the back of the clock shows that it was meant to be placed on a bracket or stand; a bracket is preserved with the clock, but it is a modern one.
12 ║ 120
6 ┐ ── ║ ─── 59 (x 2)
── ├ 12 ║ 8
12-hour ← 72 │
quarters ← 48
Great wheel: cordwheel with face click acting on the crossings of the wheel.
Scape wheel: the wheel and its arbor are modern replacements. The riveted brass potence appears to be original.
Balance: wheel balance, verge and cock are modern replacements. Bottom support for the verge brass and pinned to the bar (probably also a replacement).
Hour-hand wheel: this now sits friction-tight on a brass pipe to make the hand adjustable. The brass pipe is a modern replacement.
Minute-hand wheel: the wheel is friction-tight on the arbor and rests against a disc with four unlocking pins (the disc is solid with the arbor).
The minute hand is secured by a screw. Both hands are modern (see History and Provenance).
8 ║ 80 96
── ║ ── ──
12-hour 78 ║ 10 4
Great wheel: 8 lifting pins. Cord wheel with face click acting on the crossings of the wheel. Two crossings were cracked and have been repaired.
2nd wheel: narrow hoop.
Fly: built-up brass fly of four vanes.
Countwheel runs on a brass post. Pinion-of-report of brass.
Unwarned striking with unlocking by the musical barrel, indexing on the count wheel and locking on the hoop of the 2nd wheel (there is no need for overlift).
This train performs on 13 bells: 12 in the sub-stage and one under the main bell. The barrel is read by a keyframe at the back of the clock.
108 96 78
─── ── ──
12 8 6
Great wheel: pinned to the arbor and sunk in the wooden core of the barrel. The band of the wheel carries the pin for unlocking the striking.
The barrel has a wooden core and a brass wall (bent out of sheet); at the outer end there is a brass cap which was nailed on (8 nails). The wooden core has a large hole at the centre; this is filled by a wooden pipe which surrounds the arbor. At the outer end the core is recessed to take the clickwork of the winding: at the bottom of the recess is a steel disc with six apertures on which the faceclick of the cordwheel acts. The disc is kept in position by three pins hammered into the wooden core (one pin missing). The rim of the disc has been broken and repaired; part of the repair has since been lost.
The barrel has 13 rows of 216 holes each for the melody pins, and three slots for indexing; full hour and 1st quarter index in the same large slot. At the bottom of the large slot the core has a piece of brass for the detend to rest on. The space available for the four melodies is: 1st quarter 6 holes; half hour 68 holes; 3rd quarter 20 holes; full hour 122 holes.
2nd wheel: the band has two studs for locking (1st quarter locks after ¼ turn of the wheel).
3rd wheel: the band has one stud for warning.
Fly: built-up brass fly of four vanes.
Unlocking with warning: unlocking by the minute-hand wheel, warning on the 3rd wheel, indexing on the musical barrel and locking on the 2nd wheel.
There is little evidence that this clock was converted to pendulum, but the new scape wheel, verge, wheel balance and cock certainly suggest that such was the case. It is likely that the original scapewheel was replaced by a contrate wheel meshing with a horizontal scapewheel which acted upon a horizontal verge, the frame for the verge being attached to a spacer-plate at the back of the clock and projecting through the slot above the dial. When the clock was re-converted the back plate was replaced by the present one, and most traces of the conversion disappeared. See History and Provenance.
Going train: great wheel - 1 rev. per hour.
escapement - 1,770 beats per hour.
Striking train: great wheel - 9.75 revs. in 12 hours.
Musical train: great wheel - 1 rev. per hour.
All great wheels revolve in the same direction: clockwise (seen from the left).
Height: 590 mm
Width: 261 mm
Depth (frame): 233 mm
Movement: distance between the plates - 273 mm
distance between the bars (going) - 51 mm; (striking) - 48 mm;
(musical) - 96 mm.
HISTORY AND PROVENANCE.
Collection of Francis Herbert Green, London. The clock had been found in the early 30's "some hundreds of miles" from London, as "a rusty cage of wheels and bells". It was recognized by one "old John" who had been sent by Green to view it. Green certainly owned the clock by 1932; he exhibited it in the Elizabethan Exhibition at Grosvenor Place. The pictures in Green (1933) show that at that time the clock already had the third pediment and the slot above the dial, and that the holes at the top of the dial had already been filled, so it is clear that the clock had been restored. This was probably done by Charles Parkes 1). At this time the clock had what appear to be an 18th century chaperring and hands. In 1934 Green offered the clock for auction at Sotheby's, but it appears to have remained unsold. Green, who "kept some of the most valuable clocks in England in a room above a shop in Cornhill", died in April 1936 (HJ [May 1936] 10). Many of his clocks were auctioned at Sotheby's, London, 11 December 1936, the present clock being lot 77. It was sold to Malcolm Gardner for £ 50.
At the Green sale Gardner probably bid for Ilbert. Certainly Ilbert owned the clock by February 1937, when he had Philip Thornton make a chapterring, hands, and two doors 2). Ilbert also made a note of the position of the pins on the barrel, but the arrangement does not appear to make musical sense (ditto). Anyway, the fact that one bell was not used at all and two others only once makes it unlikely that this pinning was the original one.
Thornton's invoice book mentions the clock twice 3):
16-2-37. Ilbert 29-12(-37). Ilbert.
Vallin clock. Vallin dial.
silver hr ring New silver hr ring. £ 1-10-0.
2 doors ..... £ 3-18-6.
It would appear, therefore, that Ilbert was not satisfied with the first chapter ring and ordered another. The "doors" still exist; they are of brass and decorated with an ornament copied from the centre of the dial.
In February 1944 Ilbert sent a photograph showing this clock to Kendrick, BM (see 1944,11 1,1). This photograph probably dates from 1939 or slightly earlier. A picture in the documentation of the late Charles Drover shows that the clock was in the "Ideal Home" Exhibition, London, 1948.
Presented by Mr.Gilbert Edgar C.B.E. in 1958; reg. CAI 2139.
In 1984 H.G.Hammond of Camberley, Surrey, made an exact copy of this clock, which is now in the Museum of Mechanical Musical Instruments, Utrecht; the barrel was programmed by Dr.J.J.L.Haspels, director of that museum (Haspels ).
In 1988, with the advice of Dr.Haspels, the present clock was overhauled. Examination of the bells showed that they were not all of the same age; most have count-marks that can be associated with the count-marks on the bell frame, but the highest and the four lowest bells have no countmarks at all. It was therefore decided to replace the lowest bell and re-tune two others (they doubled other bells) to form a diatonic scale; the work on the bells was done by the Whitechapel Bellfoundry. At this time a new fly was made for the musical train, to avoid wear of the original one. Dr.Haspels was invited to re-program the barrel, and as a result the clock now plays a short flourish at the first quarter, and Elisabethan tunes at the others: second quarter - John Bull's 'Paiana' (Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, ca.1600); third quarter - William Byrd's `The Bells' (ditto); full hour - John Dowland's `His golden locks Time hath to silver turn'd' (published 1597).
For the maker, Nicolas Valin of London, see Lloyd/Drover (1955). He is first mentioned in London when he married in 1590, both he and his wife being recorded as coming from Brussels. He died in the plague-epidemic of 1603. Nicolas was a son of John (Jean) Vallin, who came from Rijssel (Lille) and probably worked in Brussels when he caught the eye of the Emperor Charles V, whom he accom-pagnied to Yuste in 1555 4). After the Emperors death in 1558 Jean Vallin returned to Brussels but later went to London with his children, probably in the 80's; it seems certain that they were refugees from the war in Flanders. Jean died, apparently also of the plague, shortly before his son.
When this clock was discovered in the early 30's it caused a mild sensation: it was by far the earliest English musical clock known to survive. That still holds true, but an earlier musical clock, made by Jean Vallin in Brussels, has since appeared: this is a spring-driven clock, dated 1567 5). The two clocks are similar in that both have barrels which could be re-pinned whenever the owner desired a new tune.
This type of clock can be considered the forerunner of the lantern clock. A similar clock, though much smaller and without music, is in the Museum Lakenhal, Leyden 6). This small clock is dated 1575; it now has an alarm replacing the original striking train. On the back is engraved "* B * V *" (the letters connected by a ribbon); it is tempting to think that this stands for "Brussel Vallin", but that is speculation.
1) Dan Parkes had in his workshop a wheel balance which he claimed was a duplicate of the one in the present clock (verbal communication by Jeremy Evans). For his uncle Charles Thomas Parkes, who died in 1948, see the obituary in HJ (December 1948) 732.
2) Ms. notes by Ilbert and Thornton in the file of the clock.
3) Philip Thornton Archive, Horological Collection, British Museum.
4) It is here assumed that the clockmaker Juan Balín, who is mentioned in the Emperors will, is identical with Jean Vallin (Montañes  20).
5) Castiglione delle Stiviere (near Mantova), Collegio delle Virgini di Gesù; the clock is considered a relic of St.Luigi Gonzaga (Morpurgo [1965-2]; Brusa  fig.95-7; Exhib.cat.Milan  39 and no.68). St.Luigi Gonzaga (1568-1591; beatification 1605, canonization 1726) was the eldest son of Don Ferrante Marquis of Castiglione delle Stiviere and Marta Tana Santena (Brusa and cat.Milan have him a son of Guglielmo Gonzaga 3rd Duke of Mantua and his wife: check this). He ceded his rights to his brother Rodolfo and entered the Jesuits in 1585.
6) Reg.5470 (unpublished). The train count of this clock is as follows.
Going train: 12 ║ 50 50 40 Alarm: 48
── ║ ── ── ── 25 (x 2) ── 15 (x 2).
12-hour 48 ║ 8 6 5 16
The clock has been converted to pendulum. The greatwheel of the alarm retains traces of 8 hammer lifting pins. There originally was warned striking.
There is only just enough evidence to show that the wheels of the under-dial work were made as separate bands and crossings: when new there would have been no clear evidence at all.
The generous brass bushes, some of which have been re-bushed, make it likely that they are original.
There is a rumour that Dan Parkes used to have a duplicate balance for this clock hanging on the wall of his workshop: Jeremy will check.
Looked under the chapterring: nothing.
Photography of CAI 2139 (Vallin musical).
The musical barrel and its clickwork, dismounted.
Back of the dial.
Angled top view of the empty frame with the balance in place, showing the brass `spacers' and something of the detends.
Top view of the plate with the hammers.
Top view of the bell frame (main bell removed).
Side view of the centre bar (in the frame).
Side view of the going train (without the outer bar).
Side view of the striking train (without the outer bar).
Side view of the musical train (without the outer bar). NB: use the original fly.
Front view without the dial (trains assembled).
Bottom view (trains assembled).
Four side views.
BIBLIOGRAPHY (Pauline Wholey – 2019)
Text from 'Clocks', by David Thompson, London, 2004, p. 56.
Height 59 cm, width 26 cm, depth 23.3 cm
Nicholas Vallin was a refugee who spent time in Spain with the Emperor Charles V and came to London from Brussels with his father John, a native of Ryssel (Lille). In the 1580s they were living in the parish of St Ann's, Blackfriars, and were members of the Dutch Church in Austin Friars. The first definite date for Nicholas is the record of his marriage at the Dutch Church in June 1590 to Elizabeth Rendtmeesters from Brussels. Nicholas's life in England was short, for he died in the 1603 plague along with his father, two of his three daughters and two journeyman clockmakers who were working for him at the time.
Vallin's most impressive surviving clock is undoubtedly this magnificent musical weight-driven chamber clock, dated 1598, which strikes the hours and plays music at each quarter. For many years it played rather 'unmusical' melodies, installed fairly recently. So that it can give a better account of its original sound, it has been restored to play music contemporary with its date. The pin barrel which operates the hammers has a wooden centre covered with a brass drum drilled all round to enable the tunes to be easily changed. Following restoration the clock now plays tunes taken from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book of 1612. A short flourish is played at the first quarter, followed by 'Paiana' by John Bull at the half hour, 'The Bells' by William Byrd at the third quarter and John Dowland's 'His Golden Locks' on the hour, this last piece originally spoken by Sir Henry Lee on his retirement in 1590 as Queen Elizabeth's Champion.
The clock was made to be mounted on a bracket high on the wall, and the musical quarters are played on thirteen bells. The hours are announced to the whole household on the impressive bell at the top. Its construction is characteristic of Flemish work of the period with the gear wheels running in plates at right-angles to the dial and with the count-wheel for the striking mounted on one side. The plates in which the wheels run are held in an iron frame with four corner pillars with gilt-metal capitals and plinths which support the upper and lower plates on to which the bearing plates are fixed. In essence this is the forerunner of the design for the lantern clock, which became a standard English clock in the second quarter of the seventeenth century. The dial is engraved with an architectural design and signed N VALLIN 1598. Above the main frame is a gallery that provides space for the balance wheel and above that the musical bells are clustered beneath classical pediments. The four corners and the hour bell are topped by gilded brass urn finials. The dial has undergone some alteration and now has a more recent chapter ring and hands but the under-dial work appears to be original, suggesting that this clock is an early example of one with concentric hour and minute hands.
- On display (G38/dc3)
- Exhibition history
2012 19 Jul-25 Nov, London, BM Shakespeare: Staging the World
- Latest: 2 (Oct 2019)
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- The Ilbert Collection of clocks, prints and other related material was destined to be sold at Christie's auction house on 6th-7th November 1958. As a result of the generous donation of funds by Gilbert Edgar CBE the sale was cancelled and the material purchased privately from the beneficiaries of the Ilbert Estate.NL1Ilbert's watches were then acquired with further funds from Gilbert Edgar CBE, public donations and government funds. These were then registered in the series 1958,1201.
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Previous owner/ex-collection number: CAI.2139 (Ilbert Collection)
Previous owner/ex-collection number: P328 (Ilbert Ledger)