Dial

10¼ inch square gilt-brass latched dial signed Tho=Tompion Londini Fecit in Roman script along the base interrupting the double wheatear border, the chapter-ring with Roman and Arabic numerals and sword hilt half-hour marks and pierced at VI for the shuttered winding square, single-screwed winged-cherub spandrels, matted centre with pinhole-set date aperture above VI and unusually large-diameter slender seconds ring intersecting the hour numeral XII, the tapered needle hands of blued-steel.

Movement

Very substantially built, the 12 inch tall plates with paired scalloped incisions each side and one at the base, with latches to the six massive ringed pillars, four wheel train with stopwork, altered deadbeat escapement and bolt-and-shutter maintaining power, a side roller-pulley riding on an endless-screw arbour for carrying the driving line off up to the right above the movement, the underdial work on the front plate with an unusually long bridge over the canon pinion, (originally?) fitted with a right-angle winding mechanism to enable winding from the left side (when facing dial); the barrel allowing a line of 7ft. 6in

Duration

Currently 8 days; originally probably month.

Provenance

The late Henry Gandy, offered Sotheby’s London, 26 Oct., 1962, lot 118, and sold 13 Dec., 1963, lot 89 (£620 to R C Hills of USA).

Dorothy and Robert C Hills of Louisiana, USA, sold Sotheby’s London, 19 Dec., 2000, lot 351 for £91,500 to Tom Scott.

Literature

Antique Collector, October, 1962, pp. 205 & 224;

Anon, ‘A Tompion Problem’, Horological Journal, Oct., 1962, pp. 628-29;

Derek Howse & Beresford Hutchinson, ‘The Tompion Clocks at Greenwich and the Dead-beat Escapement’, Antiquarian Horology, Vol. 7, no. 1, Dec., 1970, pp. 18-34, & no. 2, Mar., 1971, pp. 114-33;

Derek Howse, Francis Place and the Early History of The Greenwich Observatory, 1975;

Eric Bruton, The Longcase Clock, Granada, 1979 reprint, plates 86 & 108.

Escapement

Currently Graham deadbeat, the pendulum was sometime suspended from a bracket on the backboard of its case; originally possibly Tompion-Towneley deadbeat with pendulum suspended above the movement.

Dimensions

12 inches, width 10¼ inches.

Notes

When it resurfaced in 1962, the ‘Scott’ observatory regulator movement by Tompion was then housed in an 18th century oak case basically of Graham or Shelton regulator pattern but with special pylon-shaped spreading trunk and a correspondingly broad plinth. Offered at a Sotheby’s auction in London on 26th October 1962, lot 118, the sale catalogue note mused on the possibility of it being the missing third clock from the Great Room, sometimes known as the Cameram Stellatum [Star Chamber] or Octagonal Room, in Flamsteed House at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

The movement is exceptionally well made with a remarkably substantial frame of heavy-gauge plates and pillars and was never intended to be used as a conventional domestic clock. This is confirmed by the way the line is carried out off to the right above the movement, suggesting the clock was to be a fixture in a room, located in panelling, probably at an observatory. An exceptionally long line is required to fill the turns of the barrel, so giving month duration from a conventional 12-hour dial.

The present dial, although a previously-unused genuine 1680s stock dial of Tompion’s make was retrofitted some time after the movement was made, and the original to this movement would probably have been of larger dimensions suitable for an observatory. This ex-stock dial had already been engraved with its chapters and was also drilled for conventionally-placed dial feet but those holes had never been used; the present dial feet were newly fitted instead to suit the parameters of the plates. This stock dial needed a calendar aperture cut within the matting and a winding aperture drilled through the numeral VI of the chapter-ring, corresponding with the location of the lowest original, former chapter-ring foot-hole. The seconds ring, possibly transferred over from the original dial, is unusually large and as result the chapter-ring required relieving at the base of numeral XII. There is evidence a previous, conventionally-sized seconds ring had been fitted, its three feet-holes now plugged and matted, but there is contrastingly no evidence of previous winding holes that would have needed plugging and matting. The area under the former seconds ring was evidently already matted and other than the filled feet holes needed no attention.

The present note builds on the invaluable research of Jeremy Evans, itself furthering the pioneering study by Howse and Hutchinson and incorporates the results of a symposium at Greenwich in 2010, convened by Richard Garnier, attended by Jeremy Evans, Jonathan Betts and the late owner, Tom Scott. At that symposium both the year clocks and the present clock were brought together for direct comparison, and the general feeling was that all three movements were by Tompion and had been on his workbench at the same time. Close correspondences between the three movements were noted, especially in the corresponding gauges and separation of the plates. A second symposium was held at Greenwich 2014, attended by Jonathan Betts, Rory McEvoy, Jonathan Carter and Richard Garnier.