Published 25th March 2013
One of the highlights coming up in the antique clock sale in the forthcoming April 2013 Fine Art auction is a real piece of Westcountry history. A mahogany floor-standing regulator, signed on the silvered dial Gaydon, Barnstaple. The Gaydon family were clockmakers who had a shop at 99 High Street in Barnstaple from the mid-19th century until the premises were taken over by Garnish & Winkle, a firm set-up by recorded watchmaker Lionel Garnish in 1925.
As this regulator was removed from the premises when it finally closed some twenty years ago, and shows all the signs of having been made in circa 1850, it would be safe to assume that this was the regulator used by Gaydon as their shop regulator. The shop regulator was a timepiece of great accuracy that was used to regulate the other clocks within the shop and workshop; and quite likely was used by customers who would come in and set their own watches by this most reliable timekeeper.
It has a typical regulator layout to the dial, with the outer ring being for minutes and the two subsidiary dials showing seconds and hours. The large movement has a dead-beat escapement, to maintain power, with a wood rod pendulum to compensate for changes in atmospheric pressure.
The mahogany case has a glazed trunk door, a pediment top and stands on bracket feet - all signs that this timepiece was made to 'be seen'. Indeed, the case is almost identical to another local shop regulator made by Gregory of Exeter, which was sold by Hampton & Littlewood in 2006 and which could have come from the same local cabinet maker.
The Gaydon family were well-known jewellers and watchmakers in both North Devon and London, with a most interesting history. John Gaydon, born 1821, ran the High Street premises, whilst a number of others worked in Brentford, Middlesex. Some twenty-six are recorded as watch and clockmakers, and were Watchmakers to the Queen (Victoria) and Watchmakers to the Admiralty, with one Henry Martin Gaydon of Middlesex becoming Master of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers in 1925. He was a partner in the well-known firm of Birch & Gaydon Ltd, goldsmiths and silversmiths of Fenchurch Street, London.
The Barnstaple clock-making business supplied many local churches and public buildings with turret clocks, including one for the Barnstaple police station and another for the Globe Hotel that had double dials, one for the lounge bar and the other for the smoking room. The church clock at Swimbridge is inscribed as being presented and erected by the Gaydon brothers in commemoration of the restoration of the church in 1880, being 'natives of Swimbridge', and included John Gaydon along with his brothers from Middlesex.
This regulator, which stood for so many years in a prime position in one of Devon's most important towns, would surely have a few tales to tell.