- Museum number
Table clock; verge escapement; spring-driven; originally with alarum; striking-train (hours only) with two 'jacks'; gilt-metal slip case engraved with arabesque ornament.
- Production date
- Curator's comments
- The following text is the entry for this object from the unpublished catalogue of pre-pendulum clocks by John Leopold, former Assistant Keeper of Horology at the Museum.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.
WALL CLOCK WITH CASTELATED DIAL; Low Countries? early 16th century.
Given by Mr. and Mrs. G.Edgar; from the Knowles Brown collection.
HJ 110 (November 1967) 33.
AH 5 No. 9 (December 1967) 323.
Tait (1968) 22, pl.8 9.
Verlet (1970) 11.
Maurice (1976) fig.59.
Brusa (1978) figs.52 53.
Jagger (1977) 71.
Tait (1983) 10 11.
Whitrow (1991) 369.
Exh.cat. Avignon 1998 no.22.
No signature or mark.
The dial consists of an iron plate to which a series of iron ornaments have been riveted (the central turret is secured by a pin). These ornaments comprise raised bands at the bottom and sides, and the elaborate castelations at the top. The dial retains a good portion of the original paintwork. The main background is light blue, with a chapterring consisting of two yellow rings and the numerals I - XII in yellow centred by a sun in yellow on a red background. Below the chapterring is an apple(?) tree with a bird, in various shades of brown. The castelations and the raised borders are gold on a basis of red. The reverse of the dial is brown. For the restoration of the paintwork see Conversions.
The dial is now attached to the movement by a bracket on the back, which hooks into two holes in the top ring of the frame; the dial is further secured by pinning it to a post on the front bar. This is clearly not the original construction (the holes in the ring are threaded and the post is not original), and there are no traces of an earlier construction. Most likely therefore the dial was at first separate from the movement, which suggests that both were built into the fabric of a house, the dial being positioned higher than the movement. See for this also the Striking train.
Steel hand (built up out of separate pieces and not original).
Made entirely of steel; gothic construction with four diagonally set pillars riveted to flat rings at top and bottom. Each ring has a riveted cross-bar. The front, centre and rear bars are sunk in the bottom ring and pinned to small supports, which are riveted to the top ring; at the sides there are supports to pin the bars at top and bottom, and these supports form part of the rivets that secure the crossbars to the ring. Pillars with simple profile. - In the bottom ring, at left rear, there is an rectangular aperture; its purpose is uncertain (perhaps it allowed the movement to be pinned to a stand).
All wheels and the pinions-of-report have their teeth and leaves marked individually, except for the scape wheel. All wheels have four crossings, forged into the band; some of the crossings are markedly a-symetrical. The second wheel of the going and the second and third of the striking have the arbors faceted in eight. All wheels are pinned against the pinion which is integral to the arbor, except the second wheel of the going and the great wheel of the striking which are riveted (there are no pinholes), and the second wheel of the striking which has both the wheel and the pinion pinned against a square collet.
The ropes are wound on double barrels (wooden cores with iron flanges), the winding rope being wound up on the smaller part of the barrel as the weight-cord unwinds. The barrels have iron pipes inside. The arbor of the going has two brass sleeves to act as bearings. Such double barrels may have been the original construction; however, each arbor now has two grooves which suggest that in the past there have been conventional cordwheels. The barrel of the going train is secured on the arbor by a pin; that of the striking by a c-washer. Both barrels carry faceclicks acting on the crossings of the wheels.
All arbors run in brass bushes, except the outside pivot of the great wheel of the striking which runs in steel.
8 ║ 64 64
── ║ ── ── 23 (x 2)
12-hour 48 ║ 8 8
Great wheel: two pins for unlocking the striking.
Scape wheel: not original and in bad condition (a replacement was made in 1981: see Conversions). At some time the arbor was apparently cracked or broken and was repaired using a heavy sleeve. The gallows and the foliot are a restoration.
Dial wheel: mounted on a boss riveted to the outer bar of the going train. A square hole higher up in this bar suggests lead-off work for the dial; the present stud which secures the dial probably replaces the original support for the lead-off (see Commentary).
8 ║ 64 64 49
── ║ ── ── ──
12-hour ← 78 ║ 8 8 6
Great wheel: 8 lifting pins.
2nd wheel: arm for locking. Arm and arbor are constructed similar to the detend: octagonal arbor becoming square to receive the arm.
3rd wheel: arm for warning (the present arm is probably not original). The wheel has been re-finished to allow for deeper depthing of the pinion (the wheel was probably cut for a pinion of 7).
Fly: steel fly (not original); the fly is mounted in a separate frame screwed to the top ring.
Count wheel: one tooth repaired. The steel pipe at the centre of the wheel has been reinforced by a brass band. The piniuon-of-report was presumably originally pinned; it was subsequently pinned but is now loose.
Bellstand: wedged over a bracket which is riveted to the top ring. The whole construction, including the bell, are modern restorations. The hammer is riveted to the hammer-tail; hammer-head and -shaft modern.
Warning detend on top of the movement; the unlocking arm has been riveted so that the detend can no longer be removed. The warning detend has an arm with a hook (for a small weight to load the detend, or for a wire to synchronise striking at will). The locking detend (a modern replacement) is at the back of the movement. The two detends are connected by an hooked iron wire (modern); there is enough slack in this construction to allow the warning detend to return to the neutral position.
Warned striking with unlocking off the great wheel of the going, warning on the third wheel and locking on the second.
There is evidence that this clock was first converted at a very early stage. There is a blind hole on the inside of the outer bar of the going train, just above the hole for the second wheel, which appears to be for the original scape wheel. A square hole in the centre bar, just above the hole for the great wheel, shows where the bottom end of the verge originally was supported; any traces of the support for the inner end of the scape arbor have been oblitterated by the present support for the verge. In the striking train something similar has happened. The present fly with its screwed frame is clearly later: originally there will have been one wheel less and a large fly. The added wheels are in the style of the others, which suggests an early date for this conversion. It is to be assumed that in the original arrangement the great wheel of the going made one rev. per hour and had only a single pin for unlocking. Even so, and using a very high-numbered scape wheel, this will have been a very slow-ticking clock.
Since the scape wheel, the gallows and probably also the foliot are modern replacements it is very likely that this clock was at one time converted to pendulum. An anchor escapement could have been fitted: the two screwholes into which the dial now hooks would have supported one of the brackets for the crutch arbor, and at the other side the two holes that now accomodate the bridge to wedge the support for the bell would have secured the other bracket. - Perhaps at the time of this extensive overhaul the dial was repainted.
In what state the clock came into the hands of Frank Knowles-Brown is not known, but it is likely that he restored the escapement and made the present gallows, the bell-support, the locking detend and the hammer. He may also have joined the dial to the movement.
At some time while Frank Knowles-Brown owned the clock R.P.Howgrave-Graham (1880-1959) removed the over-painting of the dial. A page from his report and two photographs of the dial (before and after) survive. From these it appears that most of the dial was covered in a dark colour (black?) while the castelations were gold, as were (apparently) the raised borders, the star at the centre, the numerals, and the two circles that define the chapterring (these circles are described as "yellow"). The castelations had been partly covered with a crude gesso (apparently over the original gold over a basis of red). Neither the gesso nor the later paint had entirely set, which argues that the work had been done comparatively recently. The photographs show that Howgrave-Graham restored the dial to its present condition 1).
In 1981 J.L.Evans replaced the scape wheel 2); the previous one is preserved with the clock and is shown in fig. .
Hight - 510 mm
Width - 275 mm
Depth - 340 mm
Dial - 470 x 245 mm
Distance between the rings - 326 mm
Distance between the bars: going - (bottom) 115 / (top) 114 mm
striking - (bottom) 117 / (top) 123 mm
Going train: great wheel - 1 rev. in 2 hours.
escapement: 1472 beats per hour.
Striking train: great wheel 9.75 revs in 12 hours.
Seen from the dial-side the going train winds clockwise, the striking counter-clockwise.
HISTORY AND PROVENANCE.
Collection of Frank H.Knowles-Brown, London. Both Frank and his father Henry are known to have bought on the continent, but there is no indication where or when this clock was acquired. At some time (probably in the 30's) R.P.Howgrave-Graham (1880-1959) cleaned the paintwork of the dial, uncovering the present colours (see Conversions). Frank H.Knowles-Brown died in 1966.
Given by Mr. and Mrs.G.Edgar, 1967; reg.1967,6-1,1.
The shape of the pillars as well as the proportions of the movement of this clock suggest an origin in the Low Countries (see introduction).
There is strong evidence that the clock originally formed part of the fabric of a building, probably the hall of a large house. The movement was clearly meant to be separate from the dial and the bell, which will have been in a higher and more prominent position than the rest of the mechanism. This explains the lack of fitments for the dial and the bell, the traces of lead-off work on the outer movement bar, and also the fact that the present hammer and its tail are built up out of two separate pieces.
The most striking feature of this clock is the castelated dial. This is rare, but not unique: a similarly decorated dial is found on a French gothic clock thought to date from the early 16th century 3) and an illustration of another such dial survives in the manuscript of Taqi al Din, which dates from 1556 4).
Surprisingly, it appears that the clock underwent an extensive conversion at a very early stage, in the course of which both trains acquired an extra wheel. Originally the great wheel of the going train will have made one rev. per hour, but even with a much larger scape wheel this still must have been an extremely slow-ticking clock. The striking train will have had a very large fly on the arbor of the 3rd wheel.
The most important feature of the movement is, however, the fact that it appears to have had warned striking from the very first. Much has been altered in this part of the mechanism, and the present locking detend is modern. But there is no trace of a hoop or a disc to produce overlift, and it is clear that the unlocking detend was never on the side of the train, where the detend for unwarned striking would be expected. Moreover, the square part of the arbor of the warning detend originally carried three arms, one of which has broken off. They would have served the same purpose as at present: one for connecting this detend to the locking detend, one for the hook, and the one for the warning broke off and was replaced by the present arm 5).
1) Report and photographs are preserved with the clock.
2) This wheel is marked on one of the arms "J.L.E. B.M. 1981.".
3) Musée Calvet, Avignon (Schoppig  64-67; Exh.cat.Avignon 1998 no. ).
4) Tekeli (1966) fig.82 (p.262, see text p.172).
5) There is some similarity to the conversion of no. (CAI 2141), which however is considerably later.
Whitrow (1991) 369 (compares this clock with the Dover Castle one [!])
Exh.cat. Avignon 1998 no.22 (description by David Thompson, thinks the dial subsequent, perhaps 17th cent.)
BIBLIOGRAPHY (Pauline Wholey – 2019)
HJ 110 (November 1967) 33.
Foster (1967) - G.Foster, `An English Gothic Chamber Clock?', AH 5 no.9 (December 1967) 318-321.
Tait (1968) H.Tait, Clocks in the British Museum (London 1968).
Verlet (1970) - P.Verlet, La Mesure du Temps (Paris 1970). Privately printed for the Amis du Crédit Lyonnais; technical commentary by P.Mesnage.
Maurice (1976) K.Maurice, Die deutsche Räderuhr, 2 vols. (Munich 1976). Page numbers refer to vol.1, fig. numbers to vol.2.
Brusa (1978) G.Brusa, L'Arte dell' Orologeria in Europa (Milan 1978).
Jagger (1977) C.Jagger, The World's great Clocks and Watches (London etc. 1977).
Tait (1983) H.Tait, Clocks and Watches (London 1983).
Whitrow (1991) G.J.Whitrow, `The Measurement of Time, Its Role in Scientific Thought since Galileo', Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 16 no.4 (December 1991) 367 373.
Avignon 1998 - Tresors d'Horlogerie, le Temps et sa mesure du Moyen Age à la Renaissance, Avignon, Palais des Papes, May-September 1998.
- On display (G38/dc1)
- Exhibition history
1998 29 May-27 Sep, France, Avignon, Palais de Papes, Tresors d’Horologerie
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number