White marble case with an ormolu armillary sphere raised on a concave marble socle over the marble pedestal, mounted with ormolu panels and inset with Wedgwood jasperware plaques. The front depicting Aurora and her chariot of Dawn and having two squares; top and bottom, for pendulum regulation and winding. The pedestal on an ormolu acanthus and anthemion-cast plinth signed Vulliamy LONDON No.266. All flanked by two later boys on a stepped and bow-fronted marble plinth applied with ormolu geometric attributes and a sextant, books, a telescope, a sector and a chart.
Central rotating enamel chapter ring with Roman hours sub-divided by diamond quarters and dot half-quarters mounted within an ormolu armillary sphere engraved with the 12 signs of the zodiac.
The thick brass plates with four pillars, chain fusee and spring barrel. The chapter ring driven by a vertically mounted long steel arbor with contrite wheel to the centre pinion. The half deadbeat escapement with an ebony-rod pendulum and folding holdfast mechanism to the backplate, signed Vulliamy London No. 266 within a foliate engraved oval cartouche.
Private collection USA
Christie’s, London, Hilborough Hall, Norfolk house sale, 21 October 1985, lot 28
Benjamin Vulliamy, London No.266 Circa 1793
An important white marble ormolu and jasperware architectural mantel timepiece with rotating armillary dial.
While some of the Vulliamy papers survive the earliest existing record book starts with clock no.296, made in 1797.
Displaying the time by the rotation of a horizontal chapter ring was an idea derived from French ornamental clocks, but the use of an armillary sphere to show time on an English clock is very rare indeed. A similar arrangement was employed on Vulliamy No. 167, a large sculptural clock made for the Duke of Northumberland and now at Syon House, London. It shows ordinary time on a conventional dial, but sidereal time by the chapter ring in the armillary sphere. To date only two other similarly arranged clocks by Vulliamy with boys flanking the sphere are extant.
The most recent example to appear, from the estate of late Baron Hesketh, was sold for £78,000, despite being a 19th century example with a later movement. The present 18th century clock has replacement boys but is otherwise in wonderful condition.
THE VULLIAMY FAMILY – Royal clockmakers 1730 – 1854.
Francois Justin Vulliamy was born in Switzerland and emigrated to England circa 1730. He was a man of great ability and in 1743 went into partnership with his future father-in-law Benjamin Gray of Pall Mall (c.1720-64), whose daughter he married in 1746. Gray was by that time Clockmaker to George II, having been granted the Royal Warrant in 1742. They produced clocks and watches of outstanding quality. From around 1780 Justin Vulliamy’s clocks started to be numbered. Justin Vulliamy died in 1797.
The son of Justin, Benjamin Vulliamy was free of the Clockmakers Company in 1781 and continued the business, with Royal patronage, from Pall Mall. The author F.J.Britten states that he was ‘much favoured and consulted by George III on mechanical subjects especially in connection with Kew observatory, which was a hobby of the King’. There were many clocks supplied to the Royal family, including in 1785, a very fine regulator for the King. Benjamin Vulliamy died in 1820.
Benjamin Lewis Vulliamy
Born in 1780, the son of Benjamin, Benjamin Lewis Vulliamy was free of the Clockmakers Company in 1809 and went into business with his father, continuing to trade from Pall Mall. He was clockmaker to George IV, William IV and Victoria. Benjamin Lewis Vulliamy died in 1854. He supplied many clocks to government offices as well as the Royal palaces.