Colchester 30 hour tall clock movement circa 1770

Discussion in 'Your Newest Clock Acquisition' started by rstl99, Dec 4, 2019.

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  1. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
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    I recently acquired the movement and dial from a Colchester clockmaker named Nathaniel Hedge (III) - 1710-1795. The signature dates this from around 1770. It's a typical 11" brass dial. According to the written provenance that came with the clock, this movement/dial belonged to an old English clockmaker who apparently restored it, and gave it to his son prior to his death. I assume the son later died and the seller acquired it from his estate.

    I own Bernard Mason's exhaustive book on "Clock and Watchmaking in Colchester", so have seen many photos of very similar 30 hour clocks by Hedge, so know that it is genuine. However, Mason does not show detailed photos of a movement of a Hedge clock. According to Mason, Hedge produced a good number of these clocks and made his own movements, which were always of very good quality.

    At a recent NAWCC club meeting, a long-time member who professes to be quite knowledgeable about old clocks looked at the movement and told me that he felt it was not genuine, and probably a later fabrication, based on the appearance of the brass and steel components.

    I hope that some members here are familiar with the fabrication techniques and appearance of movements from that era, and could offer their opinion on the authenticity of the movement.

    If it is authentic, then the previous owner has most lovingly polished and restored it. And if it is a later fabrication, it appears very well done indeed. Though why someone would take the time and effort to fabricate a movement for a relatively little known provincial clock maker is not clear to me.

    I attach some photos of the details of the clock to examine and give me your informed opinion on authenticity.

    Thank you.

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  2. Kevin W.

    Kevin W. Registered User
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    Very nice find Robert. I am quite envious, its in great shape.
     
  3. DeanT

    DeanT Registered User

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    If it was new it won't be been rebushed. Look for wear on the pinions as well.

    Suspect the hand are slightly later looking at the style.
     
  4. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    It has been cleaned to within an inch of its life, but I don't think it is wrong.

    I would say the hands are wrong, and the click is a replacement, I guess it was rope and has had a modern conversion to chain. The hands would be right on a verge dial clock of a similar age but I think wrong here.

    There is a new fixing to the new seatboard, usually the movement is not fixed to the seatboard and the seatboard isn't usually fixed to the case. Can be a right pain so this often gets altered.
     
  5. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
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    #5 rstl99, Dec 4, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2019
    Thanks very much, Dean and Nick, for taking the time to look at the photos and sharing your impressions. Glad to know things appear generally right.

    Good point about looking for re-bushing and pinion wear, I'll have a close look at those elements.

    Sorry if the "seat board" was misleading. It didn't come with any, and I just made a little plywood base quickly, so that the movement would sit on my mantle, while I repair the crutch, fit the missing pieces (weight, balance rod) and possibly hang it on a wall shelf at some point.

    About the hands, I agree they're a little late. Actually, pretty well identical hands are shown on p. 88 of English Domestic Clocks, by Cescinsky and Webster. They write that these hands were found on "silvered arch dials ... used from about 1790 to the middle of the nineteenth century". Unless the clock dates from later in the 1700's than I estimated, in which case who knows, they may be original? (see attached, second from bottom).

    Perhaps the enthusiastic cleaning that the movement has been subjected to, fooled that club member to utter (rather confidently I should add) that the movement was not original, and rather a recent construction. Glad to know he may well have been wrong in his quick conclusion, because it means a lot to me to own a movement and dial from Hedge's shop.

    Cheers.

    IMG_0290.jpg
     
  6. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
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    Just checked and several of the pivot holes have indeed been rebushed, so that speaks to authenticity.

    Here are a couple of photos of similar "posted frame" thirty hour clock movements from Ernest Edwards's "The Grandfather Clock".

    The first is from a clock by S. Hammond of Battle, ca. 1726. The second is from a clock by Budgen of Croydon, ca. 1776.

    IMG_0290.jpg IMG_0291.jpg
     
  7. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
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    Question:
    On the attached photo (taken from above the clock), what would have been the original purpose of this cross-shaped opening in the top plate, just behind the dial, and just in front of the vertical piece that serves as landing spot for the anchor escapement arbor?

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  8. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    I don't know, but I think it helps when assembling the clock. The bottom of the cruciform bar has two little spigots usually so you need to raise the bar and slot it in then push it home as you lower it before fitting the wedge (sometimes pins) to hold it in place. The wedges are usually numbered with cuts on the top that match cuts on the top of the cruciform bar.

    The posted frame construction in itself is not an indication of age, it started in the 17th century (earlier in mainland europe) and continued to the 19th century. Dating features on posted frames are collets, thickness of fly, shape and size of arbours, size of plates, method of securing posts, all nuances that taken together can help.

    BTW I think your clock is probably later, and it is possible the hands are correct, the style of dial when silvered was to compete with the growing fashion for white dial clocks which started to take hold in the 1780s. I would usually expect to see a spectacle hour hand with perhaps a serpentine minute, but as I said on a verge dial clock of this period those hands would be seen.
     
  9. DeanT

    DeanT Registered User

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    Yes, you can see several rebushed pivot holes in the photos you provided which is why i pointed them to you. Hard to believe someone would fake a clock to that extent!
     
  10. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
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    Thanks much Nick for the additional insights and information.

    Dating through details and features is important information that I don't see readily in books that I have (thickness of fly, size of plates, etc.). I suppose one learns by experience and by measuring and comparing clocks that come into one's possession or that one gets a chance to look at closely, at sales or in museums.

    I imagine that some of that kind of information on particular components, related to lantern clocks, is probably imbedded throughout Loomes's massive book on the subject (for ex. thickness of brass used for frame plates or doors).

    At the recent NAWCC meeting I was referring to above, I had also brought along my Smorthwait lantern clock (that I've shown on another thread here, minus the replacement movement that I am presently servicing) for a show and tell on Colchester. The same long-time member who had dismissed the above Hedge movement as being a "modern fabrication" also expressed serious doubts about the originality of my Smorthwait clock frame. Saying that it was probably "put together from a junk clock that someone just added new or replacement parts to complete it". In particular, he pointed to the two side doors, saying "they would never have put thick brass like that on there, because of the cost!". Well, the doors look very original to me, as does the rest of the frame (except the back door of course, which would have been steel and not brass), and people here commented favourably on it when I shared pictures.

    I suppose there will always be people who, while seeming to possess significant knowledge, will sometimes needlessly or mistakenly discredit someone's new acquisition for some reason or another...

    BTW Mason's book contains photos of very similar 30 day long case dials (and clocks) to mine, and some of them are dated as late as 1780, so it's quite possible that mine may have been made by his shop as late as 1790 or so, which would match up the period of the hands.

    I appreciate the thoughtful and helpful insights and perspectives offered by people on this forum!

    Cheers.
    --Robert
     
  11. DeanT

    DeanT Registered User

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    Robert, always beware of self proclaimed experts. I know enough to know I don't know very much.....

    It's called Dunning Kruger effect. Google it and you will understand!
     
  12. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
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    Haha well said Dean, and indeed the Dunning Kruger effect well describes it, in scientific terms!
    There's certainly a reason I borrowed Romilly's saying as my signature (much imperfect knowledge) a few years ago. Although my horological knowledge in some limited areas has increased substantially over the last couple of years, I also "know enough to know I don't know very much...". It's a lifelong quest for information and hopefully, some knowledge gained at the end, to be shared whenever required or appropriate, with generosity and humility.
    Robert
     
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  13. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    I don't know about Essex but in the Southern counties silvered sheet dials are said to have continued even into the 19th century. Obviously not this one if the chap died in 1795 but it does suggest it could have been made in his later years.

    When you get a chance for a closer look see if there is evidence of a different click, you may well see wear on the great wheel that doesn't match the current click. Kits were sold to convert clocks to chain ( they still are I believe) I think the idea was to keep the greatwheel but change the sprocket and click.
     
  14. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
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    Maybe some day I'll try my hand at re-silvering the dial, we'll see...
    Hedge died in 95 but had retired some years before that, leaving the family business to two of his sons. So yes, end of the century is a good possibility. Another son started his own business (Nathaniel IV) and that kept going longer.

    Thanks I'll take a close look at the click area when I have some time. Owning a clock from these different eras (I don't have many old clocks) allows one to get more familiar with these technologies. Nothing replaces the learning opportunity of playing with and inspecting an old clock with one's own hands and eyes, as opposed to books.
     
  15. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    I avoided resilvering dials for a long time. It is a repair that can frequently be a lot easier than one might think. I was amazed at how easy it is to accomplish after I did it for the first time. There are a lot of "how to's" on dial resilvering available on line I think.
     
  16. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
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    Thanks for the encouragement Jim! I will add "re-silvering Hedge dial" to my to-do list... Cheers.
     
  17. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    Yes, learn to do the resilvering, it isn't difficult and you don't need special tools or even a workshop. Even I can do it and I use the kitchen sink. I have not tried rewaxing, the one chapter ring I had where all the wax was missing I have to the clock restorer to do.
     
  18. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    This little project does not reflect my best work on resilvering, but it was done recently. The subject clock is a very funky American clock with wood plates and wheels, with some brass pinions and the like, and is a rack and snail control striking clock. It is perhaps the only whole example known with a couple of partial movements and dials known too. And the case also acquired some patina too. But, to the real point, I would guess I had 3 or 4 hours in total from start to finish on the resilvering process. The dial looks too bright and shiny IMO, but its owner is happy with it, so be it.

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  19. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
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    #19 rstl99, Dec 7, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2019
    thanks for the additional encouragement Nick!
    And Jim, that is a wonderful example. Definitely will bump up that item on my to-do list!
    I may also re-silver the chapter ring on my Smorthwait lantern clock, too!!

    At the same chapter meeting where I showed my humble Colchester timepieces, and did an hour long presentation on the subject, a young man brought this clock to show to the group and get some insights as he wasn't sure what it was, he had picked it out of his father's estate. His father had left a note describing it inside. I advised him to be careful and keep it because it was likely quite valuable, and obviously meant a lot to his father so should stay in the family. The "expert" who had pronounced himself on my clocks, told the young man it my fetch 10,000 GBP in the UK, not sure that's true or not. But at least the young man walked away with a better appreciation of his father's clock, by no other than Vulliamy. I took a few snapshots while it was on the table next to mine. I find it always interesting how these objects wind up in the hands of uninformed and unsuspecting owners. The antique roadshow is always full of these kind of stories...

    p.s. looks like the "expert" was right on this one. A similar one sold for 11,000 GBP. Happy for the young man and his family.
    A Fine and Rare Small George IV Rosewood Striking Library Clock, signed Vulliamy, London, numbered 769, circa 1830, stepped chamfered pediment, case with brass inlay, wooden block feet, silvered dial with Roman numerals and signed Vulliamy London, fast/slow regulation arbor at 12, lower section of the dial elaborately engraved with an animal's head and scroll decoration, heart shaped hands, twin chain fusee movement, anchor escapement, striking on a gong, movement backplate signed Vulliamy Londo - Price Estimate: £4000 - £6000 | Tennants

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  20. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    I guess this must be Benjamin Lewis Vulliamy, the last of the family to be a clockmaker. He was a wealthy chap and did a lot for the Clockmakers Company, his clocks do go for a great deal of money, anything with a Vulliamy name does, but I prefer the work of his Grandfather.
     
  21. NigelW

    NigelW Registered User

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    Nice clock. I recently bought a Hedge longcase in an oak case c. 1755 and almost identical to a picture in Mason, whose book I also have. My grandfather, father and I were all born in Colchester and although I no longer live there I have always wanted a clock by a maker from what I still regard as my home town. Mason was an obsessive collector of Colchester clocks and gave them all to the town plus a handsome half-timbered townhouse to house them in. I saw the collection in its home before the town council decided to move most into storage and rent the house out a tea room and events venue. Local wags used to say that clock dealers for miles around would scrub out the names of other clockmakers and replace them with Colchester ones in order to get some money out of Mason, but I think he was too smart for that, if it ever happened.

    On the question of faking, I can't see why anyone would go to the trouble of making a thirty day movement for a provincial clock. These were much less sought after than 8 day ones and there just wouldn't have been any money in it. If they were after a sale to Mason (highly improbable as that would be) it would have been much easier and cheaper to switch the movement out of one from another maker.
     
  22. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
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    Yes you're probably right Nick.
    By the way, I stumbled upon your thread of a couple of years ago about chancing upon a John Knibb 8 day clock movement, and your restoration of it. It was a great read. You've probably seen that someone is selling a "possible" John Knibb lantern clock on the bay...
     
  23. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
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    Hi Nigel,
    Glad you finally got your hands on a fine Colchester clock!
    Was it you who told me a couple of years ago that Tymperley's had been converted to a tea shop, and that several of the tall clocks in Mason's collection had been water-damaged in storage?
    I almost made a day trip to Colchester while visiting London in April, but it didn't work out. Would have liked to take a walk through the streets, and the cemetery where Smorthwait and Hedge are buried. Maybe some day...
    Funny story you had about dealers faking Colchester clocks to get money from Mason. Indeed, he was probably shrewd about such attempts.
    Yes, faking such a movement as on my clock makes no sense. Not sure why our local club member even thought that...
    Cheers.
    --Robert
     
  24. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    No I haven't seen the one on ebay. The John Knibb is running happily in my bedroom and looks grand. (well it stopped in the night as I got the doughnut caught in the door) It is the closest I will get to having a clock by a World famous maker, even though he is really just his brother.
     

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