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Works of Art and Clocks

Wall Clocks

Wall clocks come in various categories, such as the early square brass dialled examples with thirty-hour movements generally made in the early eighteenth century and known as hoof-and-spike clocks as that was the method used to fix them to the wall.

These clocks tended to be a variation on the lantern clock (the first-known type of wall clock made for general use), the earliest of which was made circa 1650 with a fair proportion being made in the Westcountry, most notably Bristol. These lantern clocks tended to be free-standing with side doors and enclosed to protect the movement from dust, whereas the later hook-and-spike clocks where left open.

A lantern clock signed 'Richard Tracy fecit' (FS18/772) fetched £3,200, in the antique
        clock auction held within the April 2013 Fine Sale.

A lantern clock signed 'Richard Tracy fecit' (FS18/772) fetched £3,200, in the antique clock auction held within the April 2013 Fine Sale.

Therefore, a further development saw the implementation of a hood to the movement, producing the hooded wall clock. A further development saw these hooded wall clocks housed in a long case to protect the weights and pendulum, giving them a more secure base. Hence, the formation of the grandfather or longcase clock.

For many years, the hook-and-spike clock was seen as a rather poor relation to the lantern clock, but in the last few years interest has risen in them, especially for the small, single-handed variety, and prices have shown this.

Wall clocks were always in demand from clockmakers as they were easy to locate within a premise and tended to house timepiece movements, rather than the more expensive striking variety.

A Drop-dial Wall Clock with Alarm by T Watson of London (FS24/732).

A Drop-dial Wall Clock with Alarm by T Watson of London (FS24/732).

By the late eighteenth century, most English wall clocks were of relatively simple design, round cases with round dials, housing single fusee movements, although a selection of makers, such as Jason Cox of Longacre, John Hocker of Reading and probably most famous of all, Justin Vuillamy in London, were producing elaborately shaped wall clocks, with cases that drop below the dial to take the pendulum and weight, and which were lacquered and decorated with raised chinoiserie.

These clocks were often housed in inns and taverns and are, therefore, referred as tavern clocks, although many tavern clocks are incorrectly termed Act of Parliament Clocks after the 1797 Act, which briefly taxed the ownership of clocks. It was assumed that these public-style clocks were made to counteract all those removed from homes. This is obviously quite incorrect as most of this style of clock were made in the decades before the act came into force.

The tavern clock has become much sought after in recent years with examples that have most of their decoration intact and are of good proportion fetching very good figures in the saleroom.

The Victorian period saw the proliferation of simple, round dial wall clocks as the railways grew and this type of wall clock became standard on stations and in signal boxes countrywide.

As makers, such as John Walker and Skarrats of Worcester, were set-up to mass-produce this style, they were also made for the domestic market and became known as the railway clock or school clock.

To improve the generally bland look of wall clocks, they were embellished, often with brass inlay to the case and a drop to the case to house a long pendulum, these becoming known as drop-dial wall clocks.

Wall clocks can be bought at a reasonable price, although it is worth being wary of those wall clocks that are signed with the names of English retailers, but which were made in America. Although of reasonable quality, and often with beautifully inlaid cases, these wall clocks do not command the same prices as English fusee examples as their movements are, in the main, simple pressed out examples of lower quality.


Martin McIlroyMartin McIlroy
Department Head

Leigh ExtenceLeigh Extence
Clock Consultant