Collection online

weight-driven clock / wall clock / lantern clock / hour-striking clock / alarm clock

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Escapement

  • Description

    Weight-driven wall clock with alarm and hour striking. Brass wall lantern clock; verge escapement with balance; weight-driven; alarum mechanism mounted on the exterior of the back-plate; striking-train (hours only). TRAIN-COUNTS. Going train Great wheel 56 Second wheel 54 pinion 7 Crown wheel 19 pinion 6 Extended gt wheel arbor with pinion of 4 driving hour-wheel of 48. Striking train Great wheel. 56 With 8 pins. Pinion of report of 4 drives count wheel of 39. Hoop wheel 56 pinion 7 Warning wheel 54 pinion 6 Fly 6 Alarm. Crown wheel. 17


  • Producer name

  • Date

    • 1625-1635
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 43.9 centimetres
    • Width: 14.8 centimetres
    • Depth: 14.7 centimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Content

        William * Bowyer * Fecit [dial]
  • Curator's comments

    Text from 'Clocks', by David Thompson, London, 2004, p. 62.
    William Bowyer
    Lantern clock
    London, c. 1630
    Height 43.9 cm, width 14.8 cm, depth 14.7 cm
    In the sixteenth century, the wall-mounted, weight-driven chamber clock became a relatively common type in the Low Countries (Holland and Flanders). They were mostly constructed from iron and controlled by a balance wheel. The last quarter of the sixteenth century saw an influx into England of Protestant Flemish makers who brought with them their skills in making domestic clocks and, indeed, watches. It comes as no surprise therefore that a style of clock should develop in England which had its origins in the iron chamber clock and such clocks came to be known as lantern clocks. They have also been called 'sheep's-head' clocks and 'Cromwell' clocks, and it was to be a style which would last relatively unchanged for more than 150 years, first in London and other large cities, but increasingly in the country.
    Designed to hang on a hook or stand on a bracket high up on the wall, these clocks commonly struck the hours on a large bell mounted at the top of the clock, which could be heard all over the house. The dial has a prominent chapter ring with large numerals and a single hand to register the hours and quarters. Mounted on the outside of the back plate is a small weight-driven alarm mechanism, which is set by turning a small dial in the middle of the main dial. The clock has a verge escapement controlled by a balance wheel and, while nearly all of these clocks were converted to pendulum control in the second half of the seventeenth century, this example has retained its original verge escapement and balance wheel.
    William Bowyer lived in Leadenhall Street in the City of London and is thought to have been a member of the Joiners' Company. In 1632, however, he was a founder member of the Clockmakers' Company, becoming an Assistant in 1651 and Warden in 1653, the year in which he is thought to have died. He was principally a clockmaker and a number of his lantern clocks survive, as well as an interesting sundial made in 1630 for Governor John Endicott of Salem, Massachusetts. As a 'great' clockmaker he was probably not involved in the making of watches and there are no surviving examples bearing his name. In 1642 William Bowyer presented to the Clockmakers' Company a 'great chamber clock' in order that he might be excused holding any office in the company. He clearly changed his mind about this in later life when he did indeed hold office and it is likely that it was his death which prevented him becoming Master of the Company.
    Ilbert Collection.


  • Bibliography

    • Leopold bibliographic details
    • Thompson 2004 p.62 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G38/dc4

  • Exhibition history


    1999 1 Dec-2000 24 Sep, London, The Queen’s House, The Story of Time

  • Acquisition name

  • 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. Ilbert'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.

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • CAI.2094 (Ilbert Collection)
    • Q333 (Ilbert Ledger)
COMPASS Title: Lantern clock by William Bowyer

COMPASS Title: Lantern clock by William Bowyer

Image description



If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: 

View open data for this object with SPARQL endpoint

Object reference number: MCC3056

British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.

View this object

Support the Museum:
donate online

The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.

About the database

The British Museum collection database is a work in progress. New records, updates and images are added every week.

More about the database 


Work on this database is supported by a range of sponsors, donors and volunteers.

More about supporters and how you
can help