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Exhibit № 12: Henry Higginson, London. Circa 1668

Exhibit № 12: Henry Higginson, London. Circa 1668

A fine and rare Charles II ebony architectural striking table clock in unrestored condition

£75,000


Height

17⅛ inches (435 mm)

Case

The elegant case of simplified architectural form in ebony and ebonised fruitwood veneers onto an oak carcass. The full depth architectural pediment, set on either slope with matching raised rectangular panels, screw-fixed and removable above the plain frieze, over the unadorned front door that has a fine raised glazing frame-moulding, the side glazed apertures with quarter-round inset mouldings. The flat back entirely veneered, and inset with a rear door with matching raised glazing frame-moulding, all atop the shallow cavetto/ovolo moulded main plinth, and resting on replacement block feet, formerly on a turntable base.

Dial

The 8⅜ inch (213 mm) square brass dial retaining its original fire-gilding and very finely matted all over, except a narrow burnished edge-margin, and centred by an engraved Tudor rose, now applied with gilt-brass winged cherub’s-head spandrels to the corners. The slender chapter ring with inner quarter division ring, Roman hour numerals and stylised fleur-de-lys half-hour marks, the outer Arabic minutes marked every 5, within the division ring. The hour and minute hands of early form, finely pierced and shaped in blue steel, with the winding holes placed at level centre and a chamfered date square above VI; the dial is secured to the movement via four dial feet (1 pinned, 3 latched), and to the case by two rear-mounted levers into slots behind the mask.

Movement

The rectangular movement plates retaining traces of their original gilding, with ten finned baluster pillars, riveted to the backplate and latched to the double-split frontplate, with fusees and barrels; the going train now with anchor escapement and corresponding backcock, originally verge with a short bob pendulum; the strike train governed by the original, small Arabic engraved, countwheel, mounted high on the backplate and engaging an internal slotted detent, striking the hours on a replaced bell. The backplate superbly engraved with open and closed flower heads and scrolling foliage and signed in an upward curve below centre Henry Higginson Londini in cursive script, all set within a line border. The movement held by swing clips holding the bottom corners of the backplate.

Duration

8 days

Provenance

Edward Leigh Esq., 1969;

Anthony Woodburn, 2000 and sold for £43,000;

John C Taylor Collection, inventory no.55

Literature

Lee, The First Twelve Years of the English Pendulum Clock, 1969, no.36, pl.58

Escapement

Later anchor with lenticular pendulum

Strike Type

Outside hour countwheel, high on the backplate

Exhibited

1969, The First Twelve Years of the English Pendulum Clock, Loan Exhibition no.36

Henry Higginson received his Freedom of the Clockmakers’ Company in June 1662, and he is next recorded in 1675 as a watchmaker in Liverpool. His first wife, Martha, died there in 1676 and his second wife, Elizabeth, also pre-deceased him in 1679. Higginson himself died in Liverpool in 1694 and, considering his working life-span of over 30 years, very little more is known about his work, or has survived, apart from this rare early pendulum London clock.

Higginson’s move to Liverpool, then in the county of Lancashire and a stone’s throw from Prescot, places him in the early but significant circle of watchmakers, that was to become a part of that leading watch manufacturing centre from the 18th century onwards.  The earliest records in the manor court roll of Prescot, date back to 1673 and 1680 and a Henry Darbishire is mentioned as a clock-smith in 1673; and a Thomas Darbishire in 1680 is designated watchmaker. Among the wills proved in the environs is that of Christopher Horrocks of Warrington, watchmaker, proved in 1663, while in Liverpool there were three watchmakers; our Henry Higginson, Peter Lewis and Charles Ratcliffe whose wills were proved in 1694, 1699 and 1700 respectively. James Hoult in Watchmaking in Prescot in XVIII Century, 1925, suggests that the executors of these wills may have designated as ‘watchmakers’ the men who had been makers of watch parts or within that trade, and it may be that the lack of surviving work by Higginson could be explained by his being a trade maker. Thus, appearing in and around Prescot in the earliest days were ‘departmental’ watch tool-makers, watch motion-makers, watch hand-makers, watch wheel-makers and watch finishers. While John Carte, writing circa 1700, described a Curious Engine for Cutting the Teeth of the Wheel, far more precise than by hand, an Engine for equalling the Ballance wheel and an Engine for cutting the turnes of the Fusie, and an Instrument for the drawing of the steel pinion wier… all of which ingenious inventions were conceived and made in Leverpool in Lancashire in England.

In his 1976 article The Rise of Liverpool 1665-1750, Paul Clemens explains that at the beginning of the Restoration, Liverpool was a relatively insignificant seaport. The town’s merchants traded with Ireland and France, exporting small quantities of haberdashery, coal, salt, brass, ironware and cloth, while importing grains, dairy products, tallow, yarn, and Bordeaux wines. But none of the 140 merchants engaged in Liverpool’s overseas commerce participated in the lucrative trade that had developed between England and the Baltic, southern Europe, and the Atlantic colonies. The wine trade with Cadiz and Oporto, the importation of naval stores, iron, hemp, and flax from Sweden, Russia, and Germany, and the growth of sugar production in the West Indies and tobacco cultivation in the Chesapeake, all of which stimulated commerce at ports from London to Bristol, had, as late as 1665, left no mark on Britain’s north western coast. However, during the last three decades of the 17th century, Liverpool emerged as one of England’s leading ports. The port’s commercial expansion began with its exploitation of the American and West Indian trade, and its merchant fleets subsequently carried salt, naval stores, wines, iron, and eventually slaves.

That Liverpool’s trade development was a contributory factor to Higginson’s move north must be considered possible but, whatever the initial circumstances, he arrived and was living there during its meteoric rise in trade and fortune, and by the late 17th century twelve watchmakers are recorded in the registers of St Nicholas Church, Liverpool: Joshua Cobham, Thomas Darbyshire, Henry Higginson, John Hoult, John Litherland, Joseph Pryor, John Storey, James and William Winstanley, James, John and Robert Whitfield.

‌As far as we are aware this is the only clock currently known signed by Henry Higginson. The movement of this clock has definite affinity with Fromanteel’s work in the late 1660s; the split frontplate movement is of relatively light construction, and does not have such features as rear-pinned pillars and flanged barrels, as was the practice of Edward East and his followers. Equally, the case detail is akin to those being produced for the Fromanteel school, rather than East, with true architectural detailing, such as the cornice drip-moulding. In The First Twelve Years, Lee points out Two particular points of interest arise in this clock which seemingly put it into a transitional period of circa 1668. The dial matting extends into the spandrel corners with the traditional cast winged cherub heads laid over the matting. Were these originally plain matted corners as in the East group of clocks and cast spandrels applied later to bring it up to date? The second point being the engraved backplate. Somewhat significantly the signature is segmentwise, as in the East group, but this group had not yet reached in date the fashion for engraved backplates. Was this clock engraved 5-10 years after it was made to bring it up to date as is suggested by the spandrel treatment?

Applied spandrels over outer matting is not unprecedented, and would have been an easy and fashionable update, while the two holes suggest these may not be the first. However the backplate engraving, which is almost certainly early 1670s, seems more difficult to logically justify as a standard update. Perhaps it could be more easily explained as a final-finishing detail, particularly as the movement’s expensive mercurial gilding was applied afterwards. However, this initial production of Higginson’s can be dated to before 1670, so this might be more successfully interpreted as ‘old stock’ that for some reason, was held back unfinished? Since Lee’s famous 1969 exhibition, a simplified architectural clock by Samuel Knibb has surfaced which might help to shed more light on this clock’s production sequence, in that in all except those finishing details, the newly discovered Samuel Knibb is otherwise extremely similar in movement pattern and case detail. There also exists the case of a second Samuel Knibb example in the Clockmakers’ collection (on loan to the Science Museum), that most unusually shares this clock’s similarly removable pediment.

This could suggest that the watchmaker, Henry Higginson, perhaps ordered this clock from Samuel Knibb before he died in c.1670, which was then updated, as suggested by Lee. But perhaps a more logical and explainable hypothesis was that Higginson went to Joseph Knibb, who was newly arrived in London and who it is thought was holding his cousin’s ‘old stock’. This could explain how an expensive ‘old-style’ spring clock was held back, due to Samuel’s demise, but it also partially encompasses Lee’s theory; in that the Higginson was made in c.1668 but in this instance, ‘final-finished’ in the early 1670s, when spandrels and backplate engraving was coming into vogue. As Henry Higginson is recorded in Liverpool by 1675, and we know Joseph Knibb had moved to London by early 1671, this might suggest a final-finish date of c.1672/3, which is also in alignment with the Higginson’s early style of fully engraved backplate.

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Product Description

Henry Higginson received his Freedom of the Clockmakers’ Company in June 1662, and he is next recorded in 1675 as a watchmaker in Liverpool. His first wife, Martha, died there in 1676 and his second wife, Elizabeth, also pre-deceased him in 1679. Higginson himself died in Liverpool in 1694 and, considering his working life-span of over 30 years, very little more is known about his work, or has survived, apart from this rare early pendulum London clock.

Higginson’s move to Liverpool, then in the county of Lancashire and a stone’s throw from Prescot, places him in the early but significant circle of watchmakers, that was to become a part of that leading watch manufacturing centre from the 18th century onwards.  The earliest records in the manor court roll of Prescot, date back to 1673 and 1680 and a Henry Darbishire is mentioned as a clock-smith in 1673; and a Thomas Darbishire in 1680 is designated watchmaker. Among the wills proved in the environs is that of Christopher Horrocks of Warrington, watchmaker, proved in 1663, while in Liverpool there were three watchmakers; our Henry Higginson, Peter Lewis and Charles Ratcliffe whose wills were proved in 1694, 1699 and 1700 respectively. James Hoult in Watchmaking in Prescot in XVIII Century, 1925, suggests that the executors of these wills may have designated as ‘watchmakers’ the men who had been makers of watch parts or within that trade, and it may be that the lack of surviving work by Higginson could be explained by his being a trade maker. Thus, appearing in and around Prescot in the earliest days were ‘departmental’ watch tool-makers, watch motion-makers, watch hand-makers, watch wheel-makers and watch finishers. While John Carte, writing circa 1700, described a Curious Engine for Cutting the Teeth of the Wheel, far more precise than by hand, an Engine for equalling the Ballance wheel and an Engine for cutting the turnes of the Fusie, and an Instrument for the drawing of the steel pinion wier… all of which ingenious inventions were conceived and made in Leverpool in Lancashire in England.

In his 1976 article The Rise of Liverpool 1665-1750, Paul Clemens explains that at the beginning of the Restoration, Liverpool was a relatively insignificant seaport. The town’s merchants traded with Ireland and France, exporting small quantities of haberdashery, coal, salt, brass, ironware and cloth, while importing grains, dairy products, tallow, yarn, and Bordeaux wines. But none of the 140 merchants engaged in Liverpool’s overseas commerce participated in the lucrative trade that had developed between England and the Baltic, southern Europe, and the Atlantic colonies. The wine trade with Cadiz and Oporto, the importation of naval stores, iron, hemp, and flax from Sweden, Russia, and Germany, and the growth of sugar production in the West Indies and tobacco cultivation in the Chesapeake, all of which stimulated commerce at ports from London to Bristol, had, as late as 1665, left no mark on Britain’s north western coast. However, during the last three decades of the 17th century, Liverpool emerged as one of England’s leading ports. The port’s commercial expansion began with its exploitation of the American and West Indian trade, and its merchant fleets subsequently carried salt, naval stores, wines, iron, and eventually slaves.

That Liverpool’s trade development was a contributory factor to Higginson’s move north must be considered possible but, whatever the initial circumstances, he arrived and was living there during its meteoric rise in trade and fortune, and by the late 17th century twelve watchmakers are recorded in the registers of St Nicholas Church, Liverpool: Joshua Cobham, Thomas Darbyshire, Henry Higginson, John Hoult, John Litherland, Joseph Pryor, John Storey, James and William Winstanley, James, John and Robert Whitfield.

‌As far as we are aware this is the only clock currently known signed by Henry Higginson. The movement of this clock has definite affinity with Fromanteel’s work in the late 1660s; the split frontplate movement is of relatively light construction, and does not have such features as rear-pinned pillars and flanged barrels, as was the practice of Edward East and his followers. Equally, the case detail is akin to those being produced for the Fromanteel school, rather than East, with true architectural detailing, such as the cornice drip-moulding. In The First Twelve Years, Lee points out Two particular points of interest arise in this clock which seemingly put it into a transitional period of circa 1668. The dial matting extends into the spandrel corners with the traditional cast winged cherub heads laid over the matting. Were these originally plain matted corners as in the East group of clocks and cast spandrels applied later to bring it up to date? The second point being the engraved backplate. Somewhat significantly the signature is segmentwise, as in the East group, but this group had not yet reached in date the fashion for engraved backplates. Was this clock engraved 5-10 years after it was made to bring it up to date as is suggested by the spandrel treatment?

Applied spandrels over outer matting is not unprecedented, and would have been an easy and fashionable update, while the two holes suggest these may not be the first. However the backplate engraving, which is almost certainly early 1670s, seems more difficult to logically justify as a standard update. Perhaps it could be more easily explained as a final-finishing detail, particularly as the movement’s expensive mercurial gilding was applied afterwards. However, this initial production of Higginson’s can be dated to before 1670, so this might be more successfully interpreted as ‘old stock’ that for some reason, was held back unfinished? Since Lee’s famous 1969 exhibition, a simplified architectural clock by Samuel Knibb has surfaced which might help to shed more light on this clock’s production sequence, in that in all except those finishing details, the newly discovered Samuel Knibb is otherwise extremely similar in movement pattern and case detail. There also exists the case of a second Samuel Knibb example in the Clockmakers’ collection (on loan to the Science Museum), that most unusually shares this clock’s similarly removable pediment.

This could suggest that the watchmaker, Henry Higginson, perhaps ordered this clock from Samuel Knibb before he died in c.1670, which was then updated, as suggested by Lee. But perhaps a more logical and explainable hypothesis was that Higginson went to Joseph Knibb, who was newly arrived in London and who it is thought was holding his cousin’s ‘old stock’. This could explain how an expensive ‘old-style’ spring clock was held back, due to Samuel’s demise, but it also partially encompasses Lee’s theory; in that the Higginson was made in c.1668 but in this instance, ‘final-finished’ in the early 1670s, when spandrels and backplate engraving was coming into vogue. As Henry Higginson is recorded in Liverpool by 1675, and we know Joseph Knibb had moved to London by early 1671, this might suggest a final-finish date of c.1672/3, which is also in alignment with the Higginson’s early style of fully engraved backplate.

Additional information

Dimensions 5827373 cm