The British longcase or grandfather clock, as it became known after the popular song ‘My Grandfather’s Clock’ written by the American Henry C. Work in 1876, has its origins in the mid-17th century.
An architectural longcase clock by Ahasuerus Fromanteel, c.1665. © Trustees of the British Museum
Makers such as Edward East, Joseph Knibb and Thomas Tompion, who made clocks for royalty and the wealthy, made the first true longcase clocks in London during the last quarter of the 17th century. These clocks usually had 8-day movements, square brass dials and were housed in finely proportioned ebonised cases of ‘architectural’ design.
Longcase clock in marquetry case with scrolls, foliage and birds of paradise by John Draper 1700-1710
© Trustees of the British Museum
Around 1700, cases of walnut or olivewood with veneered marquetry or parquetry (geometric) decoration became fashionable.
The flat-top hoods often had barley twist columns and originally had carved pediments, of which few have survived.
Image credit: Trevor Waddington
It should be noted that during the 17th and 18th centuries the name on the clock dial was normally that of the clockmaker. The cabinetmaker who made the clock case was subordinate to the clockmaker and only very rarely ‘signed’ his work inside the case.
[This article appeared previously in The Primrose, the newsletter of the Friends of Fairlynch Museum and Arts Centre. To be continued]