Another 18th Century Puzzle

Discussion in 'Your Newest Clock Acquisition' started by wspohn, Jun 27, 2020 at 4:25 PM.

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  1. wspohn

    wspohn Registered User

    Feb 3, 2020
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    I always find acquiring an antique clock the beginning of a detective investigation to try and determine what was original, what was later modified and why, and the origins of the particular clock.

    I have one that someone here might be able to aid me with - it is an 18th century long case from Lancashire area. It is a carved oak case, 7'6" high.with brass faced 8 day movement labelled "Jonathan Lees - Oldham"

    First question arises is whether this is the same Jonathan Lees for whom many clocks have been recorded, but all stamped as made in Bury, another town about 14 km away. He is a known maker shown as producing clocks between 1730 and 1760 in Bury, and later moving to Middleton from 1760 until his death in 1785. To add uncertainty, the case has "1709" carved into it as part of the design. If it were the same man, that chronology doesn't work as while I don't know how long a clockmakers apprenticeship took, I would think that the earliest one would be selling clock in his own name would be by the age of 25 or so.

    If that 1709 date was correct, a birthdate in the 1680s would make Jonathan around 100 by the time of his death.....

    Some details of the clock indicate likely age - the dial centre is nicely engraved (a practice that was less likely after 1730), and there are rings around the winding holes (common until c. 1750). The dial is 12" which would become common from about the 1740s. The caddy style top would indicate early, but OTOH, it may have been added later to a pagoda top or a flat top case. There is one hole right on top and one (filled) at the top on each side, so finials are likely at some point.

    I haven't been into the movement yet so no help from that.

    Any guesses on whether the case or much of it is original based on what you can see? 00D0D_5D8Eimqv6cj_07r09V_600x450.jpg 00H0H_66utLRZfFyc_08J08U_600x450.jpg 00Z0Z_69eEA8z3LXU_07009E_600x450.jpg IMG_0320.JPG IMG_0321.JPG IMG_0322.JPG
     
  2. jmclaugh

    jmclaugh Registered User

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    The typical apprentice period in the UK at that time was 7 years and 14 was the usual starting age so 21 at the earliest before working on their own and not all carved oak cases were Victorian embellishments.
     
  3. wspohn

    wspohn Registered User

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    Thanks - so at least possible that this might be the early work of a maker who was later much better known.
     
  4. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User
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    I don't think the clock is 1709, that's the date of the first clock known to have those spandrels as far as I'm aware andit seems very unlikely they would have been used in Oldham in the same year. it is listed by Barder as popular in the Provinces 1730-65
     
  5. wspohn

    wspohn Registered User

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    Much of this seems consistent with this being an early clock for Lees, before he took up residence in Bury, except that 1709 carved date which seems too early. Hard to know if that indicates a celebratory date for the maker (maybe the year he became a clockmaker) or whether the case is later one with spurious date into which the movement has been fitted.

    And hard to know whether it would be appropriate to fit age correct finials or just leave it as found. I generally like restoration to be true to the original so far as that can be determined, or at least period correct if it is impossible to know what the original state was.
     
  6. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User
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    I'm not a huge finial fan, but I would have thought they would be gessoed wood. I only have one clock with them and those are, and I have clocks that seem to have had them and jusging by the holes they were too.
     
  7. wspohn

    wspohn Registered User

    Feb 3, 2020
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    I think I agree, particularly on a hood shape like that.

    If it was later and had 'horns' intended to seat finials, I'd be more inclined to add some.
     
  8. Les harland

    Les harland Registered User

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    Loomes Watchmakers and Clockmakers of the World lists:-
    Lees Jonathon Bury Lancashire c 1730-c1760 then Middleton Lancashire where d1785
    That is the only Jonathon listed
    I am not sure if it is the right Jonathon, I posted just in case
     
  9. jmclaugh

    jmclaugh Registered User

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    On the off chance I checked Loomes' Brass Dial clocks and low and behold there is a longcase in there by Jonathan Lees. It is dated to the 1740s, the dial is signed Bury, differences to the dial of the Oldham clock are the spandrels, half hour markers, presence of half quarter markers and no ringed winding holes. The carved oak case is also shown in the book and is very similar to this one, the age of the carving is described as indeterminable. The dates and where he worked given for him are as already posted and there is no mention he worked in Oldham.
     
  10. Les harland

    Les harland Registered User

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    According to Green Routefinder Bury and Oldham are only about 13 miles apart
     
  11. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User
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    Yes they are very close, I'm sure it is the same guy, but it isn't 1709. I've seen features on Northern clocks from the 1740s that you wouldn't see on London clocks after about 1710. Northern clocks are usually later than they look.
     
  12. wspohn

    wspohn Registered User

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    I don't know how common it would have been for a clockmaker to either still make their own cases or if they generally ordered them to suit from a casemaker. If the latter, I suppose it is possible that he ordered up one case for 12" dial and the casemaker had this one unsold from years earlier? No way of knowing.

    I think it is a reasonable assumption that this movement, predates all of the others for which he is known that are marked as being from Oldham. So that would mean probably sometime in the 1720s which better suits some of the details on the dial. If true, this one would just extend the date of his known production a little.
     
  13. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User
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    I'm not familiar with any history of clockmakers making their own cases. They were metalworkers, and many of the provincial ones were metalsmiths finding additional work.

    Clocks were still very expensiive things and were made to order. We know that dials may have been kept in stock by more prolific makers, Peter Bower of Redlynch was said to hang dials in the tree outside his cottage as advertisements.

    I doubt very much that the case dates to 1709, but it may have been original to the clock and carved later.
     
  14. wspohn

    wspohn Registered User

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    Excellent point - later embellishment would cover it nicely.
     
  15. Evernia

    Evernia Registered User

    Jun 12, 2020
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    Is the '1709' carved by cutting back the wood surface around it? I can't be sure from your picture, but it looks like it could be an 'enhancement' to the case and added later than the rest of the carving.
     
  16. wspohn

    wspohn Registered User

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    Yes it is. The surface of the numbers is the same height as the surrounding wood so that's exactly what they did. The more I look at it the more I think it is possible or even likely that this was a later modification. Going on all other indicia one would go for 1720s. Was that a bit early for a 12" dial, though?

    I do wish people wouldn't mess about with antiques (he said, while owning a lovely antique mahogany table that some blackguard cut down to make a cocktail height table - probably before I was born).
     
  17. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User
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    12" dials were in London before 1720. I think your clock is later than that though.
     
  18. wspohn

    wspohn Registered User

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    I was concluding that it was prior to 1730, the date the maker is first recorded in Bury, so between 1720 and 1730. What do you think? If later than 1730 then I have to account for the difference in town....
     
  19. P.Hageman

    P.Hageman Registered User

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    Nice looking clock with a nice dial. Typical Northern "busy" dial. Case is certainly not from 1709, the construction of the door does not fit in with that period. In that era the surface of the door sits flat with the surrounding, like this one.

    door.JPG
     
  20. jmclaugh

    jmclaugh Registered User

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    Well with have this clock signed by Jonathan Lees in Oldham though he is not recorded as having working there and another signed in Bury where he is recorded. He could have worked in Oldham prior to being in Bury or later or have had some connection to Oldham as I agree it is very likely the same man. There are many examples of 12" dials on longcase clocks made in the provinces as early as 1710 though this dial is not that early.
     
  21. wspohn

    wspohn Registered User

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    #21 wspohn, Jun 29, 2020 at 11:26 AM
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2020 at 11:40 AM
    Well if the proposition that the clock may have been made in Oldham prior to the earliest one we have from him in Bury, this movement could be 1729. How does that sound? Otherwise, one is left scratching one's head about why there are the two towns marked on his clocks, just as one wonder what the 1709 was about unless it was a later carved modification.

    The door is certainly a good indicator that it isn't earlier that about 1730.

    What do you think about the dial. No earlier than about 1730 as well? But not much later either given the engraved foliage in the centre?

    And the hood, with that style and two and possibly three holes that might have carried brass finials? There is a strike repeat function, but that was recorded in both earlier and later clocks. I shall have to get into the movement a bit to see if there are any other details, movement pillars etc. that might be indicators.

    The case is quite sound, structurally, so I am inclined to do only minor restoration on it. The movement had been overhauled back in the 1970s here in Vancouver, after the family that owned it moved here from England, and I doubt it was run very much as there is no appreciable wear. Unfortunately the original pendulum was not with the clock, but rather a pendulum from a different long case clock that had a piece of metal soldered to the top to improve clearance in the crutch, that someone managed to drop and bend at some point. The usual things that stack up on old clocks over time and all easily fixable. I was a bit surprised to see what appears to be the original lead weights are still with the clock, as for some reason, at least over here in the colonies, they often seem to have gone missing. Possibly to do with shipping costs.

    I greatly appreciate the collective wisdom and knowledge shared by all here as it allows one to test one's assumptions and suppositions against them.
     
  22. P.Hageman

    P.Hageman Registered User

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    If I had to put a date on this nice clock, I would say 1735. It is known (Loomes) that clockmakers did sign clocks with different places at the same time. I remember having read clockmakers sometimes rented a showroom in a different place and clocks sold there where signed with the name of that place although the clock had been made somewhere else nearby. Remember 1735 is still quite an early date for a "country clockmaker". The carving on the case is almost 100% sure done in Victorian times due to the nature of the carving. I enclosed a few pictures on what is believed to be original late 17th century carving on a clockcase.

    4528250119.jpg 4528250126.jpg 4528250128.jpg
     
  23. wspohn

    wspohn Registered User

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    Interesting about the marketing and marking in more than one place.

    Just to be clear on the case - are you saying that the clock was completely recased in the 19th century, or that an 18th century presumably original case was 'got at' by some Victorian carvers who embellished the original case and stuck the incorrect date on it, not knowing any better?
     
  24. P.Hageman

    P.Hageman Registered User

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    No, the case looks certainly correct area and date. Without seeing anymore pictures of the case (seatboard, cheeks etc) I would say the case is original to the movement, carving has been done much later into the original case.
     
  25. Evernia

    Evernia Registered User

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    When did the first publication come out giving the date of 1709 in association with those spandrels? That might give a date to consider when thinking about when some unscrupulous dealer had the date carved into this example.
     
  26. novicetimekeeper

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    In 1709 I imagine, that was when the Tompion clock was installed in the pump room in Bath, and it has been there ever since. It is the earliest date known for those spandrels as far as I am aware. It is a very famous clock and has been celebrated since its installation.
     
  27. Evernia

    Evernia Registered User

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    This to me has a smell of someone looking at a 'development of clock design' guide, fixing on the spandrels and deciding to carve the earliest possible date into the case - not someone actually looking at the Tompion.
     
  28. novicetimekeeper

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    It is an odd coincidence, having 1709 on the case and that being the date of Tompion's use of the spandrels.
     
  29. jmclaugh

    jmclaugh Registered User

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    A quick google reveals 1709 was the coldest ever winter in Europe and Alexander Selkirk was rescued after being marooned on a desert island for 5 years which inspires the story of Robinson Crusoe but if there was a spandrels conspiracy it has been rumbled but actually could boost the clock's value.
     
  30. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User
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    Well I doubt we will see another winter like that.
     
  31. wspohn

    wspohn Registered User

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    I had a look in Barder and the Lees clock in plate 93 is dated by him as 1745-50, so slightly later than we were talking about.

    Without the 1709, it would be easy to assign this to a correct period case in the 1730s/40, but one has trouble coming up with a reason for someone carving that spurious date into the case. Perhaps this was done later, or perhaps the entire case IS a Victorian creation, although other details seem fairly authentic to the mid 18th century. I can't get any clues from the interior of the casework as the seat boards, cheeks etc. were renewed, probably in the 1970s overhaul (if I have to do that sort of restoration I like to mark the new work with the year I did it or had it done, but most don't seem to bother doing that).

    I had thought of fitting some finials (possibly wood as suggested), in the holes one can see where something was once attached, but given the rather extreme level of adornment/embellishment on this case, I am leaning toward leaving the nicely balanced hood alone.

    A friend that came t see it a couple of days ago said that the case looked like it had been attacked by a bunch of Black Forest dwarves carrying a surplus of schnapps on board. On the other hand he quite admired the 30 hour clock with 10" dial that I posted on in an earlier thread (the one converted to add a minute hand) which he praised as being slightly austere.
     
  32. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User
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    You never came back about the dial fixings on that one to see if it was a converted motion work or a different movement.
     
  33. wspohn

    wspohn Registered User

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    Thanks for the reminder - I must take a look but have been preoccupied with this clock. I will pull that movement and see if I can get some pics of the minute wheels.

    The dial on the Lees clock has been restored and looks very nice. The dial on the Dicker is fairly dark from whatever varnish, shellac, etc. coating that was used and I am always of two minds about restoring them. Do you restore your dials if they are undamaged and simply time darkened?? I do if the wax in the numerals is missing or fragmented but otherwise tend not to touch them.
     
  34. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User
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    It depends, my London ones are usually fully restored, my provincial ones have a more faded look usually, but they are all clean. Dirt and corrosion do not equal patina. It does depend a bit on how they arrive, sometimes they have to be fully restored to put them right. I always resilver if needed, but rarely do they need rewaxing, I only have one clock that got rewaxed and that had been electroplated (yuk) losing the wax in the process.

    Thomas Hall, Longford, early moon roller, 1730s?
     
  35. jmclaugh

    jmclaugh Registered User

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    It is entirely the owner's choice but I always think provided you can restore it without damaging more than you restore then restore it. An example would be the fact a once silvered brass dial has had the silvering polished or worn away doesn't mean you shouldn't re-silver it, after all it was silvered first. I agree with Nick that dirt and corrosion do not equal patina and add that is even more true of tarnish.
     

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