Just got my first 'Grandfather' clock c1730

SAR

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I loved the simple look of this one. The seller said he thought the case style might be Welsh c1730, with no columns on the hood and a flat top. It has a brass button on the face, but the inscription is not quite legible. I think it has the name of the maker and place, something like Byly or Digby, but no matter how long I look I can't quite make it out. The movement's turned columns with rings I think mean before 1740, though it seems few movements have turned vertical columns so maybe that is a clue to the maker.

Clock.jpg Face.jpg

Badge.jpg Movement2.jpg Movement1.jpg

Love the original hinges, and they still work perfectly. The wood at the front is good, the rear panel has seen woodworm in the past.

Hinges.jpg

Very happy with it, but would love to know who made it and when. I have yet to sort out the pendulum suspension, but assume a polished brass pendulum is expected when you have a lenticle.

Steve
 

Jim DuBois

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what a nice little clock! Congratulations. Not often you find a clock this old with no fiddling about. It looks remarkably correct!
 

FDelGreco

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A UV light on the nameplate might expose the rest of the letters. You can get a UV in a flashlight. Loomes shows a Charles Digby, London 1721 - 1760. There were others but later. There's a Christopher Bly, London 1744-1749. However, it doesn't look like a London case.

Frank
 

zedric

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It looks like the last word on the panel could be Rugby, or something like that. The first two words would usually be the name, while the last word would usually be the place the maker was working from. It is pretty worn through, so good luck!
 

jmclaugh

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Congrats, it's a very nice provincial case, the pillars on the 30 hour birdcage movement are lovely. A pity the name appears to be illegible.
 

SAR

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what a nice little clock! Congratulations. Not often you find a clock this old with no fiddling about. It looks remarkably correct!
Thanks, I bought it from a collector downsizing and he said it was all correct as far as he could tell, apart from the board under the movement being replaced with like for like probably due to woodworm, and it didn't have its original pendulum when he got it, so he has bought one that he thinks is correct. He clearly knows a lot about these clocks, talked about the different styles and types of wood used. I suppose if he couldn't work out where it came from then I don't stand much chance.

Steve
 

SAR

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A UV light on the nameplate might expose the rest of the letters. You can get a UV in a flashlight. Loomes shows a Charles Digby, London 1721 - 1760. There were others but later. There's a Christopher Bly, London 1744-1749. However, it doesn't look like a London case.

Frank
I will give anything a try - maybe a brass rubbing. Its so tantalising close to being legible. I think these are normally name then place or name then date - though haven't found other examples of this brass button - it seems engraving is most frequently on the dial, and probably done by the dial engraver. I wonder if this was actually inscribed with the owners name instead of the maker and it was deliberately erased when it changed owner.

If I have any success I'll post it on here.

Steve
 

SAR

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It looks like the last word on the panel could be Rugby, or something like that. The first two words would usually be the name, while the last word would usually be the place the maker was working from. It is pretty worn through, so good luck!
Thanks, I will add Rugby to my list.

Steve
 

Mike Phelan

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I wouldn't have thought that a birdcage clock would have come from a clock made as far north as Rugby; generally they were made in the South and East of England.

A contraction of Beaulieu?
 

novicetimekeeper

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I would agree the style was continued in the south west, I have a Wiltshire made alarm longcase from the first half of the 18th century that has them.

It is very much a quirky provincial clock, I hope you can get somewhere further with the name.
 

SAR

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I wouldn't have thought that a birdcage clock would have come from a clock made as far north as Rugby; generally they were made in the South and East of England.

A contraction of Beaulieu?
I had no idea that the birdcage movements were regional. I have searched for this type with turned columns and found images on-line of 4 with known makers, two by Thomas Honeybone of Wanborough, Wiltshire one dated 1770, the other no date given, one by Jno Godwin of Crudwell (North Wiltshire), and one by John Wilkins of Marlborough (Wiltshire) from 1765. Only the undated Honeybone movement has the rings on the column. The John Wilkins clock is of similar design to mine, with plain matted centre and only one hand, and similar case - though no lenticle and no rings on the columns. I think mine is quite a bit earlier.

No doubt there are many other makers of this unusual style of birdcage movement, but I have just looked on a map and these three makers - the only ones I have found making clocks with birdcage movements with turned columns - are really close to each other, within about 15 miles of Swindon.

Interesting stuff.
Steve
 

SAR

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I would agree the style was continued in the south west, I have a Wiltshire made alarm longcase from the first half of the 18th century that has them.
Are you referring to the turned birdcage movement colums? Wiltshire again ! See my comments to Mike Phelan above. Do you know the maker?

Steve
 

Mike Phelan

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All from the southern parts of England, but only as far west as Wiltshire. Mine's from Steyning, a small town near Brighton on the south coast. It's a single handed one with plain iron corner posts and top and bottom plates. The pillars holding pivots are brass, and most of them have never been bushed and don't need to be now!
 

Jevan

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I have a North Devon movement signed John Cole of Barnstaple & have seen another signed M Cole of Barnstaple, Mary I think.

My movement & the Mary Cole movement have turned pillars but I have seen birdcage flat pillar movements by both makers.
 

SAR

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All from the southern parts of England, but only as far west as Wiltshire. Mine's from Steyning, a small town near Brighton on the south coast. It's a single handed one with plain iron corner posts and top and bottom plates. The pillars holding pivots are brass, and most of them have never been bushed and don't need to be now!
Thanks, the geography of birdcage movements is interesting, but the birdcage movements with the turned brass corner posts seem even more localised. Even though I have now turned up a picture of one in West Yorkshire c1700 by Sam Ogden, and one by Jn Taylor of Bath, I have found 6 examples from 5 different makers in Wiltshire, plus Bath is just over the border from Wiltshire - here is the link for that one : link

I have been recommended to read English 30 Hour Clocks by Darken and Hooper, but its expensive, more expensive than buying clocks!

Steve
 

SAR

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I have a North Devon movement signed John Cole of Barnstaple & have seen another signed M Cole of Barnstaple, Mary I think.

My movement & the Mary Cole movement have turned pillars but I have seen birdcage flat pillar movements by both makers.
Even further West, thanks. I am going to have to get a map and start sticking pins in it.

Steve
 

SAR

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I have a North Devon movement signed John Cole of Barnstaple & have seen another signed M Cole of Barnstaple, Mary I think.

My movement & the Mary Cole movement have turned pillars but I have seen birdcage flat pillar movements by both makers.
Have found another Devon example by George Gould of South Molton c1790, very close to Barnstaple. I am going to have to start examining the details of these and see how they differ.
 

Mike Phelan

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Even more interesting to see birdcage movoement from as far west as Devon. The John Taylor one from Bath (where I came from!) is very much like mine apart from having a pin holding the count wheel in - ours has a cut on either side of the post and the spring is slotted.
 

SAR

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Wow, thats brilliant. I really am sticking pins in a map - albeit an 18th century digitised map, and will have to post it up here in due course. So we now have Torrington, Tiverton, and Exeter to add to the ones from Barnstaple and South Molton, plus Bath, Bristol, and several from Wiltshire - and one odd man out from West Yorkshire. So this looks like a regional style. I wonder if that is because it is passed from master to apprentice, or if it comes from the dictats of clockmakers guilds. Why put such effort into turning columns that are invisible to the owner, as I don't think these clocks generally had side windows to reveal the movement ?

Hopefully we will find some more.

Steve
 

novicetimekeeper

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Charles Gretton made one too, so London can be added but rather earlier. I did have an M Cole of bridgewater but that was not round posts.

The round posts are a follow on from Lantern clocks, so they tend to come from where Lantern clocks were made. That's why you don't really see them in the North. Bristol was big on Lantern clocks but also on the supply of parts to makers in Wessex area, and these posts are a specialised product.

These posts are not the same as lantern clock posts, they tend to be thinner.
 

SAR

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Charles Gretton made one too, so London can be added but rather earlier. I did have an M Cole of bridgewater but that was not round posts.

The round posts are a follow on from Lantern clocks, so they tend to come from where Lantern clocks were made. That's why you don't really see them in the North. Bristol was big on Lantern clocks but also on the supply of parts to makers in Wessex area, and these posts are a specialised product.

These posts are not the same as lantern clock posts, they tend to be thinner.
Thats interesting stuff. I didn't know lantern clocks were largely from a specific region of UK - I thought they were made everywhere. If there was a regional supplier of posts ready made for lantern clocks in this area, then maybe he came up with the idea of ready made turned birdcage posts at a price attractive to the the birdcage clock makers. Its certainly not a case of using up some lantern clock posts that were lying around, it went on too long, and you see the early ones with rings and the later ones without rings.

Bristol was the centre for brass foundries from the early 18th Century, so a good location from which to manufacture and supply brass clock parts. Spandrels spring to mind as well. Do we know who were the suppliers of such parts? I find it fascinating how this all worked back in the days before railways, canals, and telephones. I bet commerce was every bit as complicated, just a bit slower.

Steve
 

JeffG

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Coming out of left field here, but could that first character on the bottom be an ampersand?
 

SAR

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Coming out of left field here, but could that first character on the bottom be an ampersand?
Not sure I see that, but could be. I might have to compare with other engravings, maybe I can work out more of the letters. The previous owner said based on case style the clock might be Welsh ! So that complicated matters! Also I see clockmakers use some unusual abbreviations for place names, so clocks made in Exeter for example may have Exum on them. Its going to be pretty tricky to wotk this one out.
 

SAR

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Think this map (which is c1685 and public domain) has captured with the blue stars where the birdcage movement with turned brass corner posts mentioned above have come from (we have 2 outliers, Ripponden in Yorkshire and one in London, which are on my copy of the full map). No doubt there are a lot more examples out there. Hopefully with a bit more digging I will be able to post an updated map.

MapExtract.jpg
 

SAR

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I have some more reports of these birdcage movements with turned pillars :

One from Hilperton, Wiltshire for sale on-line, with finned/ringled columns so fairly early

And these reported from looking through Darken & Hooper's book on 30 hour long case clocks :

William Monk of Berwick St John, Wiltshire,
James Roper of Shelton Mallet, Somerset,
William Townley of Bourton and Temple, Somerset,
Dennis Chambers, Pucklechurch, Gloucestershire,
Henry Lintott, Surrey,
Richard Savage, Wenlock Magna, Shropshire

I haven't seen the book to confirm these are not lantern clock transplants or hybrids - the Richard Savage one is probably one of these as I have seen a photo of it in an article, and it has the square washers between the columns and the top plate, like a lantern clock. I will reserve judgement on the rest until I see the book, but the emphasis is again on the west country.
 

SAR

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Very nice find! Is it a single weight time & strike?
Yes - and its a big weight. endless chain. The engraved brass button on the face is still proving to be unreadable, so I don't know the maker. I think these early provincial clocks have a charm of their own, perfect for a country house. Just think how different things were when that was new - it is mind boggling.

Steve
 

novicetimekeeper

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Yes - and its a big weight. endless chain. The engraved brass button on the face is still proving to be unreadable, so I don't know the maker. I think these early provincial clocks have a charm of their own, perfect for a country house. Just think how different things were when that was new - it is mind boggling.

Steve
It shouldn't be a big weight, they usually run on 8-10 lbs, a lot less if you don't want it to strike
 

SAR

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It seems the Bilbie family of Chewstoke, Somerset, famous for very fine provincial clocks made birdcage movement with turned brass pillars, I have found examples from William Bilbie, and Edward Bilbie (not sure which Edward).
 

Chris Radano

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You know, on the dial it looks like the place could be Bilby, Nottinghamshire.
The first name looks like Glen, on John. Is Glen an older, or more modern first name?
Here is Bilbie of Chew Stoke (click "see item details"):



I just don't see the name on your dial signature.
 

SAR

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It shouldn't be a big weight, they usually run on 8-10 lbs, a lot less if you don't want it to strike
The weight that came with this one is 6kg (just over 13 pounds). Its just a large cylindrical black lead weight with an iron closed loop cast into the top. Maybe someone has swapped in a heavier weight to make up for a movement that needs a good clean and oil. I have got some decent clock oil, so ought to give it a clean and oil before trying to get it going. Have other projects to sort out first.

Not sure what you mean by "if you don't want it to strike". There is only one weight, and so that must drive both the going train and the striking train, so if the striking train is somehow disabled (and not sure how I would do that) then surely it still needs the same weight to drive the going train, but runs for longer? Maybe I need to look again at how this works, I thought it was just like a single weight lantern clock movement.

Steve
 

SAR

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You know, on the dial it looks like the place could be Bilby, Nottinghamshire.
The first name looks like Glen, on John. Is Glen an older, or more modern first name?
Here is Bilbie of Chew Stoke (click "see item details"):



I just don't see the name on your dial signature.
Thanks for your thoughts. I think we have both been jogging down the same path. I was thinking that the last part is more likely the location rather than a persons name, and I also spotted Bilby. However the brass turned columns on the movement are looking distinctly west country, with very few outliers, so making Nottinghamshire unlikely, and also Rugby as had been suggested seems unlikely. I also explored the name Bilbie to see if it was ever spelled Bilby, but no joy there. There were at least 2 clockmakers called Bayly mentioned in an old book I dug up, John Bayly admitted to the clockmakers company 1700 - but not sure if he made longcase clocks or where. Its a tough one ! I am going to spend some more time on stylistic aspects and movement details like columns shape, bell mount, etc, see if I can narrow it down further on that basis. The location of the bell mounting bracket on front right corner seems unusual.

The problem is that there were so many makers, many of them only known by one or two surviving clocks. So I may never get my answer.

Steve
 

novicetimekeeper

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Bilbie is a famous family of makers from the Chew Valley which would fit with west country.

The traditional way of silencing the strike on a 30 hour is to put a wooden clothes peg on the fly. The clock needs less driving force for the time alone than driving the strike train as well and it also extends the run time.
 
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Chris Radano

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Perhaps you are correct, The clock is a Bilbie.
It's possible the dial signature is the clock's owner. Perhaps you can try to see what place names are in the vicinity of Chew Stoke, maybe you can get a match.
Or the signature is the owner's First, Middle, and Last name?
The badge could be as we say today, an "aftermarket" piece.
 

Mike Phelan

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It will be the West Country one - a clockas far north as Nottingham would have a plated movement. A shame for it not to strike! That loud bell and whirr from the train .... luvverly :D
 

Chris Radano

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Yep, I think the signature cartouche was possibly added. The rivet is visible and maybe not like the rest of the dial construction. The brass is a different color. Also, the signature is painted? How many longcase clocks are signed with painted cartouche? They are most frequently engraved.
So the signature may be the owner. At least that is a consideration.
 

SAR

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Perhaps you are correct, The clock is a Bilbie.
It's possible the dial signature is the clock's owner. Perhaps you can try to see what place names are in the vicinity of Chew Stoke, maybe you can get a match.
Or the signature is the owner's First, Middle, and Last name?
The badge could be as we say today, an "aftermarket" piece.
My thoughts at present - and I am just learning and reading, so a way to go ..

I really doubt that the wording has been removed by over enthusiastic polishing, there are scratches there that make me think it might have been abraded away deliberately.

That the engraving is either an owners name or maybe a family motto would explain why it appears to have been deliberately removed. So far I haven't spotted examples of clocks being marked with an owners name or motto - at least not on the face - have seen a motto on the hood above the dial.

Another alternative is some makers deliberately not marking clocks - something about restrictions on clockmakers imposed by guild or something. Maybe it was the makers mark and it was deliberately removed when new to get around some restriction like this. But I am still reading up on that sort of thing.

But I am sure there are other explanations, and I haven't given up on reading the description yet - there are some forensic techniques that might work.

But I appreciate everyones interest here - there is a lot to learn for someone new to longcase clocks.

Steve
 

novicetimekeeper

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The guilds only applied in the City of London. Some clocks were unsigned because they were made by Quakers, some presumably unsigned because the makers saw no advantage in spending money on a signature.
 

SAR

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The guilds only applied in the City of London. Some clocks were unsigned because they were made by Quakers, some presumably unsigned because the makers saw no advantage in spending money on a signature.
Thanks for that. The quaker angle is new to me, and of course in most cases inscriptions were not carried out by the clockmakers themselves, plus I believe quakers tended away from excessive decoration. I had initially assumed that the relative uniformity in design of clock movements and faces was down to guilds having rules about how they should be laid out - but as I read more I am discovering that in 18th century most parts of the movement would be bought in and assembled, so while a clockmaker would have served his apprenticeship and been able to make each part - the business of clockmaking relied on specialist providers of clock components, the clockmakers oversaw the assembly. So uniformity is in some respects due to different clockmakers, and there were many hundreds if not thousands, using components from a relatively small number of brass founders, wheel cutters, engravers, hand makers, pillar turners etc.

Learning all the time ...
 

novicetimekeeper

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There is surprisingly little uniformity in the 17th/18th given, as you say, that there were parts suppliers.

I think you can put this down to the clocks being made to order, so the batches of components were small and spread out. There are conventions on size, and a close following of fashion, particularly in London. However provincial makers very much went their own way in many things.
 

SAR

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Yep, I think the signature cartouche was possibly added. The rivet is visible and maybe not like the rest of the dial construction. The brass is a different color. Also, the signature is painted? How many longcase clocks are signed with painted cartouche? They are most frequently engraved.
So the signature may be the owner. At least that is a consideration.
The signature appears to have been engraved and then abraded away. I have just discovered that the Digby family had a major estate in the right part of the country for this clock. For example Edward Digby (1730-1757) was elected for Malmesbury, Wiltshire in 1751 - so became the Hon Edward Digby - and in 1752 he succeeded he grandfather as Baron Digby. In 1754 he was MP for Wells. Maybe it says Hon Baron Digby ? His father, Edward (1693-1746), was also an MP, and married Charlotte Fox from Wiltshire. So this could be a fruitful line of enquiry. The turned column 30 hour movements come from the same part of the country and the dates are reasonably close.

I have a vintage car where an owner 30 years ago engraved his address on the windscreen - it is a nuisance. Having a previous owner's name on a clock would likewise be very irritating.

Steve
 

SAR

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There is surprisingly little uniformity in the 17th/18th given, as you say, that there were parts suppliers.

I think you can put this down to the clocks being made to order, so the batches of components were small and spread out. There are conventions on size, and a close following of fashion, particularly in London. However provincial makers very much went their own way in many things.
I suppose the provincial longcase clock was made over a very long period of time along relatively similar lines - but I don't think the many provincial clockmakers would have necessarily been turning their pillars, cutting and crossing out wheels, casting spandrels, making hands, marking out chapter rings. I assume that at any point in time there were a few specialist suppliers for such items, offering a limited range - though that range would change as the years went past. I suppose it is possible that the suppliers made batches to order, but I find it more likely the provincial clockmaker would buy from a 'trade catalogue' from somewhere in the local region given how slow transport was back then.

It was the use of the turned pillars on these west country birdcage movements that triggered me to think along these lines. It is an unseen part of the clock, there are no side windows. If it is not down to a local guild, then I thought maybe its because the west country had a supplier of these pillars, and its possible as Bristol took over from London as the main centre for brass founding in the UK early in the 18th century.

Then, yesterday, I read this from the London Tradesman of 1747 "The Watch-Maker puts his Name upon the Plate, though he has not made in his Shop the smallest Wheel belonging to it. It is supposed, however, that he can make all the Movements: and Apprentices are still learned to cut them by Hand." This is in Anthony Bird's book on English House Clocks where he suggests the manufacture of components for clocks dates back to the lantern clocks of the mid-17th century, and that the 'masters' in the component trades were also subject to regulation from the clockmakers company.

But all of this must have been looked at many time before as if its true then you could look at a clock and say those are 1720-1745 Bristol-made spandrels, and those are 1730-1750 hands, that chapter ring is by so and so, and dating clocks would be so much simpler. So maybe we just don't have a big enough sample of unmodified, dated clocks to work it all out. That said - I still hold out hope of finding a clock like mine which has a similar finned pillar birdcage movement, or the same chapter ring engraving and further narrowing down its date and maker.

Steve
 

Chris Radano

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Now we're getting somewhere.
In your original pics, it does look like the cartouche was rubbed out.
Some 18th-early 19th c. European clocks will have a maker painted on a medallion on the boss of an arch dial. On many clocks the signature is long gone.
But yours was engraved. So if the cartouche is removed, you have a hole in the matted center. So someone's (not much better) solution was to rub out the signature.
So, what's more of a nuisance? Someone else's name, or someone trying to figure out what was the name?

I think here in the US, or at least me personally, we are more tolerant of other people's names on a clock. I am referring mostly to those presentation plaques placed on clocks in Victorian times. I have a clock with a plaque stating the clock was presented as a wedding gift, and has the name of the couple. It's part of the history of the clock. Remove the plaque and you have the shadow and nail holes.

I used to see a lot of people monogramming their luxury cars, mostly painted on the driver door above the handle. This was popular in the 1980's and 90's. I really don't see that anymore, so I guess it fell out of fashion. As for myself, I don't feel like drawing that sort of attention to my stuff.
 

novicetimekeeper

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Spandrels were bought in bigger batches I think, Peter Bower of Redlynch favoured the same spandrels for a long time, and he also hung dials in the tree outside his house as advertising so that people could choose a dial and he would make a clock to go with it.

He used shoes on the sidecheeks of his cases too, that may be an indication that the cases were not made for a specific dial and seatboard, so that he could fine tune the position of the dial in the mask of the selected case.
 

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Excuse me for jumping in at this late stage, but I have been reading a new book Gothic Clocks to Lantern Clocks..Short-Duration Clocks & Rural Clocks 1480-1800 by John Robey. Chapter 5 covers English Lantern Clocks & Thirty Hour Clocks and describes in some detail a tall and slim rustic 'coffin' longcase clock with a movement converted from a Lantern Clock in Somerset c1680/1710. The case and converted movement look very similar to the one you are talking about here.

Richard
 

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