The ebony veneered case has a shallow dome top surmounted by Knibb’s Phase I gilt-brass hooped handle and flanked by four gilt-brass ball finials. The main case has archetypal Knibb top and base moldings with large glazed side apertures, the front door has foliate escutcheons and the whole clock is raised on four gilt-brass bun feet.
The 8¼ inch square fire-gilded brass dial signed Joseph Knibb Londini Fecitto the lower edge and each corner mounted with gilded and chased cherub spandrels. The silvered chapter ring has trident half hour markers and Arabic five minutes, with each other individual minute marked with spade symbol. The finely matted centre has a calendar aperture above VI with finely shaped and pierced blued steel hands.
The substantial six-pillar movement has large twin spring barrels and fusees with gut lines. The going train has a knife-edge verge escapement, while the strike train is regulated by a large rose engraved half-hour and hour numbered countwheel to the backplate. The backplate is beautifully engraved with a spray of flowers and signed Joseph Knibb Londini Fecitin an arch above an engraved royal sturgeon.
Sotheby’s London, 19th November 2000, lot 334, sold for £108,000 (auction record)
Private collection U.S.A.
R.A. Lee, The Knibb Family: Clockmakers, Byfleet, 1964, pp.84-93.
Alan Lloyd, The Collectors Dictionary of Clocks, 1964, p.74.
Garnier & Carter, The Golden Age of English Horology, 2015, p.351-2.
Carter & Dipper, Iconic English Clocks and Barometers, 2018, forthcoming.
Joseph Knibb Londini Fecit, Circa 1675
A very fine Charles II ebony Dutch striking Phase I table clock.
There appear to be fewer than 20 Phase I table clocks currently recorded by Joseph Knibb and they were all made during his formative years in London perhaps between c.1673/4 and 1678. By 1677 Knibb had produced his first silver-mounted Phase II table clock, a royal commission in a fashionably smaller sized case, this clock was probably also his first Roman striking example, and fairly soon afterwards Knibb introduced his standard smaller Phase III table clocks. The Phase I clocks often have different striking methods but all share a very similar case style. Like this superb example, the majority are ebony veneered onto an oak carcass, however there are also Phase I clocks in walnut and olivewood and at least one walnut example uses cariniana as carcass wood.
Knibb’s striking methods:
More than any other maker, Knibb offered an intriguing array of different strike options within his clocks, most were introduced prior to the general uptake of rack and snail striking and were governed by countwheels. The duration of each movement dictates where the hour countwheel is planted but it is always on an arbor making a full rotation every twelve hours. As in this instance, this is usually attached directly to the fusee arbor, while on his longer duration weight driven clocks it will usually be on the second or pinwheel arbor.
Knibbs countwheel strike systems can be subdivided into those using a single countwheel and strike train and those using two interconnected countwheels on two separate (hour and quarter) strike trains.
Single countwheel strike train:
- Hour striking
- Roman striking
- Dutch striking (hour and half-hour)
- Hour and quarter striking
Two countwheels with two strike trains:
- Petite sonnerie striking
- Double-six grande sonnerie striking
- Full grande sonnerie striking
Dutch Striking (hour and half-hour)
This system uses a single countwheel divided for the hours twice and numbered with each hour, a cam pumps the hammer assembly to control which hammer is collected, half-hour or hour. There are two bells, striking the hour conventionally on a large bell, while the following hours are struck at the half-hour on the smaller higher-tonedbell – for instance at 10.30, the smaller bell strikes 11 times.
Joseph Knibb was born in 1640 and it is thought that he served his apprenticeship under his cousin Samuel Knibb in Newport Pagnell from 1655 to 1662. He began his career working just outside the City of Oxford, but by the mid 1660s had moved within its jurisdiction. There was some initial resentment to his becoming Free of the City and it was only through the support of the University that he was granted Freedom in 1668 on payment of a fine of 20 nobles and a leather bucket.
In 1670, the same year that his cousin Samuel died, Joseph moved to London probably to take over Samuel’s workshops.
By 1673 Professor James Gregory from St. Andrew’s university had commissioned two longcase clocks and a split second timer, all three clocks remain at St Andrews today. In a letter to John Flamsteed, dated 19th July 1673, Gregory commented:
I have 2 Pendulum Clocks making, with longe Swinges, Vibratinge Seconds; and Pointinge Houres, Minits and seconds, without Strikinge; And also one little Pendulum Clock, with a short Pendulum, vibratinge 4 times in a Second, alsoe without Strikinge; for discerninge small Intervalls; when there may be a pointe of a Second in Question.
In 1675, the politician Sir Richard Legh of Lyme Hall, Cheshire (1635–87) wrote to his wife describing Knibb’s advice on choosing a case for a longcase clock:
I went to the famous Pendulum maker Knibb, and have agreed for one, he having none ready but a dull stager which was at £19; for £5 more I have agreed for one finer than my Father’s, and it is to be better furnished with carvedcapitalls gold, and gold pedestalls with figures of boys and cherubimes all brass gilt. I wold have had itt olive Wood, (the Case I mean), but gold does not agree with that colour, soe took their advice to have it black Ebony which suits your Cabinett better than Walnut tree wood, of which they are mostly made. Lett me have thy advice by the next.
Legh’s wife, Elizabeth, replied in agreement:
My dearest Soule; as for the Pandolome Case I think Blacke suits anything.
Two years later, in 1677, Knibb was commissioned to supply a turret clock for Windsor Castle. The Dukes of Sussex and York also ordered clocks from Joseph and in 1682 he was paid for work carried out for Charles II.
Knibb was Assistant to the Clockmakers Company in 1689 and in 1697 he retired to Hanslop. Joseph Knibb died in 1711.