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Exhibit № 47. The Grimthorpe Brock No.1209, Circa 1852

Exhibit № 47. The Grimthorpe Brock No.1209, Circa 1852

An important mahogany wall regulator with a very early example of Denison’s four-legged gravity Escapement by James Brock, London

£50,000


Height

6 feet 2 inches (1880 mm)

Case

The arched top mahogany glazed case with substantial concave base and finial below. The base and backboard combined and wall fixed, with a massive cast iron movement bracket and integral pendulum suspension block, the long glazed removable hood locking to the backboard on both sides. The glazed front door, running the full height of the hood, with carved mahogany Gothic tracery decoration, shaped and mounted below the dial.

Dial

11½ inch circular silvered brass dial, incorporating an angled silvered bezel, engraved with ‘reversed’ seconds and hour rings, the standard layout for a gravity escapement due to its positioning at the bottom of the plates. Counter-balanced second and hour hands with protective brass dust shutter, through the front door glass, to the winding square.

Movement

The single train rectangular plated movement with semi-circular cut to the base for the four-legged locking ‘wheel’, with four cylindrical pinned pillars and signed to the backplate Brock, 21 George St., Portman Square, London. No.1209. The train with large anti-friction rollers supporting the great wheel arbor, the two steel gravity arms with ivory impulse rollers at the ends, acting on the substantial steel pendulum rod. This mounted lower centre with a ‘tray’ for fine regulation weights above the mercury filled, ceramic lined, adjustable iron pendulum jar. The triple line with a solid top pulley mounted on the cast iron bracket and a 6-spoked pulley holding the 28lb weight.

Duration

7½ days

Provenance

Said to have been made in 1852 for E B Denison, later becoming Sir Edmond Beckett and finally Lord Grimthorpe, designer of the great clock (Big Ben) at the palace of Westminster;
Private collection UK, sold by Derek Roberts in 2000, for £53,500;
The John C Taylor Collection, inventory no.53

Literature

Derek Roberts, English Precision Pendulum clocks, 2003, (illus.) p.192-193;
Erbrich, Präzisionspendeluhren, 1978, (illus.) p.220-221;
Antiquarian Horology, June 1983, Martin & Roberts, ‘Lord Grimthorpe and his Experimental Regulator’, (illus.) p.157-168

Escapement

Very early version of Denison’s four-legged gravity with mercury compensated pendulum

The anti-friction rollers supporting the great wheel arbor are needed for the heavy driving weight required to power the gravity escapement, particularly on ‘unlocking’, while the triple line for the double-pulley is to compensate for lack of drop and increase duration to over 7 days.

James Brock (1826-1893) was Edward Dent’s foreman and oversaw the construction of the ‘Big Ben’ clock for the Houses of Parliament, Westminster. He probably left Dent’s in 1855 to take over the business of his father, who died in that year. He was held in great esteem by Dent, and therefore allowed to produce clocks under his own name while employed by Dent’s, for whom he seems to have made the majority of their regulators, including for E J Dent’s successors after he had left their direct employ. As their outworker, his serial numbers therefore fell within Dent’s own series, and can be dated by reference to the records of Dent’s production. Brock was also held in high esteem by Lord Grimthorpe, the designer of the Westminster clock and its escapement, and for whom Brock made the present clock.

Edmund Beckett, Lord Grimthorpe (1816-1905), progressed through a confusing series of names in his lifetime. He was born Edmund Beckett, the eldest child of like-named Edmund Beckett, who in the year of his son’s birth added Denison to his name on receiving that family’s inheritance, they both then being called Edmund Beckett Denison. On the father’s inheritance of the Beckett family baronetcy, he dropped the Denison, becoming Sir Edmund Beckett, 4th Bt., a process the son followed on the father’s death, becoming Sir Edmund Beckett, 5th Bt.; finally the son was ennobled as Lord Grimthorpe in 1886. Their considerable wealth sprang from the family bank, of Leeds and Doncaster, and the 4th baronet was also a politician (MP for West Riding) and a railway developer, being chairman of the Great Northern Railway. Grimthorpe was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, then in 1841 being called to the Bar as a barrister of Lincoln’s Inn, becoming QC in 1854, a bencher in the same year, and treasurer for his Inn in 1876, before finally retiring in 1881, having specialised in railway bills and famous for his very severe cross-examining; he had by 1860 become recognised as the leader of the parliamentary bar, though his powers of sarcasm and assertive manner stood him in better stead with committees and rival counsel than his knowledge of law.

He was known for his published technical books, being an eminent mechanician, horologist and self-taught architect, still infamous today for his over-thorough ‘restoration’ of St Albans Abbey, Hertfordshire, carried out at his own expense as an effective rebuild in a supposedly more authentic Gothic guise than before, the effect of which single-handedly caused John Ruskin to found the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, effectively a pressure group to prevent such inauthentic ‘restorations’ from then on, and continuing today as SPAB. Indeed, the verb ‘to grimthorpe’ was coined as a pejorative term for such insensitive restorations. Overall, Grimthorpe was a great polemicist and controversialist, an over-domineering presence in any project he was involved in, unsympathetic to other’s ideas or contributions, quoted as saying he was the only architect he had never quarrelled with. Nonetheless, he was elected to the Royal Astronomical Society in 1866 and the presidency of the British Horological Institute in 1868, holding that office until his death, having stipulated from the outset that he would only accept the position if he were not required to attend any dinners. In 1877 he was appointed Chancellor and Vicar-General of the diocese of York, continuing in that office until 1900. His obituary in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society noted his mastery of ecclesiastical law, his publications (ranging from Astronomy without Mathematics to Clocks, Watches, and Bells (running through 7 editions to 1903) to Building, Civil and Ecclesiastical) and noted there was not a better locksmith in England.

In the preface to the eighth edition of his Rudimentary treatise on Clocks and Watchmaking he stated that he had either directly or indirectly designed over forty clocks, including those at Westminster and St. Paul’s (with the great peal of bells), and in many other cathedrals and churches, as well as town-halls, railways stations and others in several of our colonies. The design of the Houses of Parliament, or Palace of Westminster clock and its hour bell, ‘Big Ben,’ like most of Grimthorpe’s undertakings, involved him in fierce controversies, and he waged battle for sixteen years with the office of public works, with Sir Charles Barry, the architect, with Sir George Airy, astronomer royal, who withdrew from the undertaking, and others, being at one stage involved in an associated libel action. The DNB sums him up as Lord Grimthorpe, who owed his peerage to his activity in ecclesiastical matters, combined with his architectural skill and mechanical genius, possessed a manly intellect and varied talents. If he won his position at the bar by his self-assertive personality rather than by learning, his knowledge of horology was unquestioned, and he had a genuine grasp of architectural principles, though he was inclined to be ruthless in carrying them out. His mind, unfortunately, was given to cavil, and, troubled by no doubts on any subject, he rushed into print, often without provocation. In his ecclesiastical controversies he at times appeared in an unamiable light. His faults were, however, outweighed by the strength of his friendships, the largeness of his generosity, and his kindness towards those who stood in need of help.

This wall regulator, dating from 1852, is integral to the story of the fascinating development of Edward John Dent’s ‘Big Ben’ clock at the Palace of Westminster, installed with great fanfare in 1859, following delays in the construction of the clock tower. That story is one of long gestation, following the acceptance of Dent’s tender to the parliamentary rebuilding commissioners in 1843, at which date the precise design of his intended clock was not fixed; the contract was signed on 25th February 1852.

Dent was well aware of the prestige the intended clock would give him with the resulting, beneficial publicity for his clock and watch business generally, on account of the stipulated requirements for what was intended to be the most accurate and largest-sized public clock then existing in the world – destined as a marker for Britain’s leading position in the world during the Victorian Age and a direct product of the Victorian love and pursuit of accurate timekeeping, whether for observatory, navigational or domestic purposes. It is no accident that the Westminster clock became and has remained one of the most potent symbols of London’s identity, and of Britain generally, featuring as a ‘locational anchor’ in many publications, films and tourists’ photographs or online blogs. Accordingly, and with great foresight, Dent deliberately set a low price in order to win the commission, probably somewhat below the actual cost of making it. To get there he combined with the talents of the amateur clockmaker and horological theorist and designer, Sir Edmund Beckett (1816-1905), subsequently, in 1886 ennobled as Lord Grimthorpe, who was in close contact with the Astronomer Royal, George Airy (1801-92).

To obtain the required accuracy for such a large-scaled clock, Grimthorpe designed his four-legged gravity escapement, which he subsequently modified to a three-legged escapement as installed in the Westminster clock. For the first working model of his gravity escapement, Grimthorpe employed the skills of James Brock, the workshop foreman in the business of Victoria London’s leading precision clockmaker, Dent’s. It is clear that Grimthorpe had great respect for Brock as a clockmaker, seconding Dent’s own opinion, who as his employer appears to have allowed the two to work directly together, rather than through Dent’s business. Brock then went on via Dent’s own shop to supervise the construction of the parliamentary clock and its eventual installation in the clock tower at the Palace of Westminster. Dent clearly allowed Brock to sign his work for Grimthorpe in his own name, while the serial numbers of such clocks remained within the general sequence of Dent’s workshop numbering.

There are two known wall regulators matching the specifications of Grimthorpe’s original design: Brock no 1209 and Dent 1299. Grimthorpe, writing in the Horological Journal, 1902, recorded that he had had the first gravity escapement clock made for him by Brock in 1852 and that that clock was still going in his possession. Serial number 1209 accords with such a dating, Dent no.1299 fitting a dating of circa 1853, the following year: the natural deduction is no.1209 is the first ever clock made with a gravity escapement and as such survives to this day as a potent and tangible link with, and precursor to, the perhaps greatest and most universally acclaimed public clock in the world, whose accuracy throughout its long existence, successfully battling harsh weather conditions and the threats of the World War II bombardment, has become a talisman of the redoubtable British spirit. None of that would have been possible without the construction first of the present clock, the first incorporating the principles of the gravity escapement as then further developed for the Westminster clock, which depends on its escapement for its acclaimed accuracy and dependability without over-constant maintenance: evidenced by Grimthorpe’s own attestation of the superb way the present clock performed for him over so many years.

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Product Description

The anti-friction rollers supporting the great wheel arbor are needed for the heavy driving weight required to power the gravity escapement, particularly on ‘unlocking’, while the triple line for the double-pulley is to compensate for lack of drop and increase duration to over 7 days.

James Brock (1826-1893) was Edward Dent’s foreman and oversaw the construction of the ‘Big Ben’ clock for the Houses of Parliament, Westminster. He probably left Dent’s in 1855 to take over the business of his father, who died in that year. He was held in great esteem by Dent, and therefore allowed to produce clocks under his own name while employed by Dent’s, for whom he seems to have made the majority of their regulators, including for E J Dent’s successors after he had left their direct employ. As their outworker, his serial numbers therefore fell within Dent’s own series, and can be dated by reference to the records of Dent’s production. Brock was also held in high esteem by Lord Grimthorpe, the designer of the Westminster clock and its escapement, and for whom Brock made the present clock.

Edmund Beckett, Lord Grimthorpe (1816-1905), progressed through a confusing series of names in his lifetime. He was born Edmund Beckett, the eldest child of like-named Edmund Beckett, who in the year of his son’s birth added Denison to his name on receiving that family’s inheritance, they both then being called Edmund Beckett Denison. On the father’s inheritance of the Beckett family baronetcy, he dropped the Denison, becoming Sir Edmund Beckett, 4th Bt., a process the son followed on the father’s death, becoming Sir Edmund Beckett, 5th Bt.; finally the son was ennobled as Lord Grimthorpe in 1886. Their considerable wealth sprang from the family bank, of Leeds and Doncaster, and the 4th baronet was also a politician (MP for West Riding) and a railway developer, being chairman of the Great Northern Railway. Grimthorpe was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, then in 1841 being called to the Bar as a barrister of Lincoln’s Inn, becoming QC in 1854, a bencher in the same year, and treasurer for his Inn in 1876, before finally retiring in 1881, having specialised in railway bills and famous for his very severe cross-examining; he had by 1860 become recognised as the leader of the parliamentary bar, though his powers of sarcasm and assertive manner stood him in better stead with committees and rival counsel than his knowledge of law.

He was known for his published technical books, being an eminent mechanician, horologist and self-taught architect, still infamous today for his over-thorough ‘restoration’ of St Albans Abbey, Hertfordshire, carried out at his own expense as an effective rebuild in a supposedly more authentic Gothic guise than before, the effect of which single-handedly caused John Ruskin to found the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, effectively a pressure group to prevent such inauthentic ‘restorations’ from then on, and continuing today as SPAB. Indeed, the verb ‘to grimthorpe’ was coined as a pejorative term for such insensitive restorations. Overall, Grimthorpe was a great polemicist and controversialist, an over-domineering presence in any project he was involved in, unsympathetic to other’s ideas or contributions, quoted as saying he was the only architect he had never quarrelled with. Nonetheless, he was elected to the Royal Astronomical Society in 1866 and the presidency of the British Horological Institute in 1868, holding that office until his death, having stipulated from the outset that he would only accept the position if he were not required to attend any dinners. In 1877 he was appointed Chancellor and Vicar-General of the diocese of York, continuing in that office until 1900. His obituary in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society noted his mastery of ecclesiastical law, his publications (ranging from Astronomy without Mathematics to Clocks, Watches, and Bells (running through 7 editions to 1903) to Building, Civil and Ecclesiastical) and noted there was not a better locksmith in England.

In the preface to the eighth edition of his Rudimentary treatise on Clocks and Watchmaking he stated that he had either directly or indirectly designed over forty clocks, including those at Westminster and St. Paul’s (with the great peal of bells), and in many other cathedrals and churches, as well as town-halls, railways stations and others in several of our colonies. The design of the Houses of Parliament, or Palace of Westminster clock and its hour bell, ‘Big Ben,’ like most of Grimthorpe’s undertakings, involved him in fierce controversies, and he waged battle for sixteen years with the office of public works, with Sir Charles Barry, the architect, with Sir George Airy, astronomer royal, who withdrew from the undertaking, and others, being at one stage involved in an associated libel action. The DNB sums him up as Lord Grimthorpe, who owed his peerage to his activity in ecclesiastical matters, combined with his architectural skill and mechanical genius, possessed a manly intellect and varied talents. If he won his position at the bar by his self-assertive personality rather than by learning, his knowledge of horology was unquestioned, and he had a genuine grasp of architectural principles, though he was inclined to be ruthless in carrying them out. His mind, unfortunately, was given to cavil, and, troubled by no doubts on any subject, he rushed into print, often without provocation. In his ecclesiastical controversies he at times appeared in an unamiable light. His faults were, however, outweighed by the strength of his friendships, the largeness of his generosity, and his kindness towards those who stood in need of help.

This wall regulator, dating from 1852, is integral to the story of the fascinating development of Edward John Dent’s ‘Big Ben’ clock at the Palace of Westminster, installed with great fanfare in 1859, following delays in the construction of the clock tower. That story is one of long gestation, following the acceptance of Dent’s tender to the parliamentary rebuilding commissioners in 1843, at which date the precise design of his intended clock was not fixed; the contract was signed on 25th February 1852.

Dent was well aware of the prestige the intended clock would give him with the resulting, beneficial publicity for his clock and watch business generally, on account of the stipulated requirements for what was intended to be the most accurate and largest-sized public clock then existing in the world – destined as a marker for Britain’s leading position in the world during the Victorian Age and a direct product of the Victorian love and pursuit of accurate timekeeping, whether for observatory, navigational or domestic purposes. It is no accident that the Westminster clock became and has remained one of the most potent symbols of London’s identity, and of Britain generally, featuring as a ‘locational anchor’ in many publications, films and tourists’ photographs or online blogs. Accordingly, and with great foresight, Dent deliberately set a low price in order to win the commission, probably somewhat below the actual cost of making it. To get there he combined with the talents of the amateur clockmaker and horological theorist and designer, Sir Edmund Beckett (1816-1905), subsequently, in 1886 ennobled as Lord Grimthorpe, who was in close contact with the Astronomer Royal, George Airy (1801-92).

To obtain the required accuracy for such a large-scaled clock, Grimthorpe designed his four-legged gravity escapement, which he subsequently modified to a three-legged escapement as installed in the Westminster clock. For the first working model of his gravity escapement, Grimthorpe employed the skills of James Brock, the workshop foreman in the business of Victoria London’s leading precision clockmaker, Dent’s. It is clear that Grimthorpe had great respect for Brock as a clockmaker, seconding Dent’s own opinion, who as his employer appears to have allowed the two to work directly together, rather than through Dent’s business. Brock then went on via Dent’s own shop to supervise the construction of the parliamentary clock and its eventual installation in the clock tower at the Palace of Westminster. Dent clearly allowed Brock to sign his work for Grimthorpe in his own name, while the serial numbers of such clocks remained within the general sequence of Dent’s workshop numbering.

There are two known wall regulators matching the specifications of Grimthorpe’s original design: Brock no 1209 and Dent 1299. Grimthorpe, writing in the Horological Journal, 1902, recorded that he had had the first gravity escapement clock made for him by Brock in 1852 and that that clock was still going in his possession. Serial number 1209 accords with such a dating, Dent no.1299 fitting a dating of circa 1853, the following year: the natural deduction is no.1209 is the first ever clock made with a gravity escapement and as such survives to this day as a potent and tangible link with, and precursor to, the perhaps greatest and most universally acclaimed public clock in the world, whose accuracy throughout its long existence, successfully battling harsh weather conditions and the threats of the World War II bombardment, has become a talisman of the redoubtable British spirit. None of that would have been possible without the construction first of the present clock, the first incorporating the principles of the gravity escapement as then further developed for the Westminster clock, which depends on its escapement for its acclaimed accuracy and dependability without over-constant maintenance: evidenced by Grimthorpe’s own attestation of the superb way the present clock performed for him over so many years.

Additional information

Dimensions 5827373 cm