The AHS Blog

Journal Volume 35 Issue 1

Where on earth have you been?

This post was written by David Thompson

Sometimes watches have a particular association with a particular person and we know about from an inscription written somewhere on it.

This particular watch, by Samuel Toulmin of the Strand in London, made in 1775, has a finely engraved inscription on the back of the outer case, ‘Thos Justice Esq. Appleford Berks’. There was a Thomas Justice of Appleford who is described as having died of ‘intemperance’ in September 1789. Could he have been the first owner of the watch who had it inscribed on the back in 1775?

Watch, by Samuel Toulmin of the Strand in London, 1775
Movement of the watch
Inscription on the back of the outer cover

Further information about an owner of the watch appears on an advertising paper inside the case. The information on the paper tells us that by 1822 the watch was in Abbingdon, in Berkshire, where it was looked at by Thomas Ansell near the Abbey – presumably a routing clean and re-oil. We are fortunate that an inscription on the reverse of the paper reveals the name of its owner at that time as Mr. Thomas Justice, Appleford.

Inscription on the reverse of the watch paper
Watch paper from inside the back cover of the watch, for Thomas Ansell near the Abbey

On Wednesday 20th January 1830, a group of properties in Appleford, Sutton Courtney, formerly owned or rented by Thomas Justice were auctioned at the Crown & Thistle in Abingdon. It may be that Thomas was trying to realise some cash. On Monday 8th February 1830 a petition was heard at court in Portugal Street, Lincolns Inn Fields, London, concerning the Insolvency of one Thomas Justice, late farmer of Appleford.

In the church of St. Peter & St. Paul in Appleford is the following memorial:-

'In a vault near this church lie interred the remains of Thomas Justice Esquire, late of this parish who departed this life on the fourth day of January 1843 aged 54. Also of Martha Justice reliat of the above who departed this life on the 8th day of September1848 aged 59. Also of Thomas Francis Justice, Esquire, son of the above. Who departed this life on the 13th day of January 1847 in the 28th year of his Age.'

There’s a lot more to say about the Justice family of Appleford but it’s amazing what can be found on the internet in a very short time.

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As one journey ends another begins

This post was written by Matthew Read

It was with some sadness (weep!) that postgraduate and MA students Francoise Collanges and Brittany Cox recently fled, or rather graduated from the West Dean nest. Over the summer period they completed their practical MA projects and accompanying 12,000 word theses.

Both Francoise's work in the study of early electro-magnetic clocks and Brittany’s in the materials used inside automata that smoke (!) will undoubtedly add value to the body of knowledge in these specialist fields. During the process, a lot of fun, blood sweat and tears ensued. Result! We wish them both well.

MA Student Francoise Collanges turning boxwood. Rubber hammer at the ready

Early October saw the intake of new students and the welcome back of those returning. All students new to the clocks programme at West Dean begin their long journey through horological bench craft skill by designing and making their very own clock.

As a beginning, clockmaking embraces so many of the materials, tools, techniques required for later life as conservator restorers. The world of turning, soldering, filing and scraping, geometry, mechanics and a little mathematics thrown in is a demanding one, and interestingly, the outcomes from what is outwardly a uniform process, are as diverse as the students themselves. Christmas should see trains and frames completed, entire clocks by awards day 2013.

Clock model taking shape
Three wheel train clock, hand-made by every new student

Returning students on Diploma and Postgraduate programmes are working on historic clock projects. These span sensitive cleaning and conservation of a mystery clock by Houdin, through the repair of an imposing ormolu mounted mantel clock signed Cellier, to the reinstatement of verge and crownwheel escapement to an early eighteenth century spring clock.

Many of the projects are multi-media and therefore require interdepartmental liaison in the conservation and repair processes. Never a dull day in clockmaking.

Postgraduate Student Kenneth Cobb disassembles a ‘Mystery’ clock by Houdin
Dial signed Cellier with damage to dial foot. An interdepartmental project

As always, lots to do, lots to see.

Cutting a contrate wheel
Quest scholar Tim Hughes inspects a minute wheel pinion for wear

West Dean holds its Open Day on Saturday 10th November 2012. All welcome. See

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Surprising old-timers

This post was written by James Nye

Several of us field enquiries that come from all over the globe, addressed to the secretary at Ticehurst, and which predictably often turn on the issue of ‘How much is my clock worth’, or ‘I found this in the attic. What is it?’

We don’t do the Antiques Roadshow valuation bit – we leave that to our good friends at places like Bonhams and Christies – they know markets.

But if there’s a bit of a challenge in working out who made something, or where, or even why, the AHS team fires up. On the fringes of timekeeping, all sorts of things can crop up, like the ‘pipsqueak system in fighter planes, which David covered back in April.

On a theme from my last post (bombing), a colleague and I found ourselves swapping pictures of mine timers recently – mine’s a Mark IV (did you see what I did there?) but his is a splendid Mark I – giving 44 days and 23 hours of delay – all part of the dirty tricks played by both sides in the Second War with secondary and much delayed explosions catching rescue workers.

The movements of these British timers are of the excellent ‘Reform’ type, from Schild, which featured in David Read’s wonderful journal article on the electric remontoire.

Mark I mine timerMark IV mine timerMark IV mine timer
Mark IV mine timer

A recent enquiry offered another object lesson in technology linking distant people and allowing the discovery of deeply hidden information. A Ticehurst correspondent (location at first unknown) asked about an electrical clock movement, admitting ‘it is in very bad shape’ and ‘the only name partially visible on the clock is PATENT K. HEIDECG’.

Settling down with a sandwich, and priding myself on an ability to navigate patent databases, I was on the case in seconds, but as I came to the end of my lunch, the crumb-filled keyboard had yielded no answer. Dispirited, I wrote back and asked for pictures.

Movement of the clock
Dial of signal clock inscribed "PATENT K. HAIDENEGG"

These came, and within moments we had our quarry snared with a one-for-one map to a patent taken out in 1896 by a postmaster – Mr Konstantin Haidenegg – from Pakrac in (what was then) Hungary, for an unusual timer, or signal clock.

Drawing from the patent
GB patent for Haidenegg's signal clock, 1897.

There was a Swiss patent as well, and no doubt a local Hungarian version first of all, but that has not been digitalised yet. However, all this was much to the delight of our correspondent, who lives in – wait for it – Pakrac (now in Croatia)!

No longer Hungary, and no longer hungry, my lunchtime wanderings weren’t wasted and we had another satisfied customer with a local object identified and destined for preservation. Job done!

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