Current issue of Antiquarian Horology


Volume 42, Issue 4 December 2021

The front cover shows A rainy day in Cheapside, with the time ball at Sir John Bennett Ltd visible from afar, depicted in an 1891 publication. It is one of the many illustrations in the first part of David Rooney’s article on John Bennett, published in this issue.

This issue contains the following articles and notes:

‘An early sixteenth-century drawing of a spring clock in a fifteenth-century astronomical manuscript’
by Philip A. Bell and Richard L. Kremer (pages 467-476)
Summary: Sketches opportunistically added to a fifteenth-century Vienna manuscript of astronomical texts have been identified as drawings of a spring-driven, drum-style clock or clock-watch of German origin. The principal drawing is annotated with technical information, including tooth and pinion counts, that suggest features characteristic of clocks made in the 1520s by Jakob Zech in Prague and others in Augsburg. We date the drawing to circa 1520; the clock on which it is based would therefore date from the end of the fifteenth or the early sixteenth century, earlier than any known and authentically dated clock of this type.

‘The changing face and place of John Bennett, 1846–1963 Part 1 – The nineteenth century’
by David Rooney (pages 477-492)
Summary: John Bennett (1814–1897) was a retail clockmaker, watchmaker and jeweller based in Cheapside, London, from 1846 onwards. He has been remembered for his views on the British horological industry and his use of modern advertising, marketing and publicity methods. Bennett retired in 1889 but the company he founded continued to trade in several London locations until 1963. This article explores the tangible public face of what became known as the ‘House of Bennett’, offering a case study in the history of horological retail that might prompt a wider examination of the subject.

'Harrison and Ellicott on watch wheel finishing, with notes on Samuel Hoole’
by Anton Howes and Anthony Turner (pages 493-510)
Summary: In this article we discuss two previously unpublished letters by John Harrison and John Ellicott, preserved in the archives of the Royal Society of Arts. The letters discuss the finishing of wheels for watches, and that by Ellicott identifies the watchmaker Samuel Hoole (1692–1758) as a pioneer of mechanisation in the late 1710s. We provide an account of this hitherto invisible inventor.

‘Carriage clocks that are five-minute repeaters’
by Thomas R. Wotruba (pages 511-518)
Summary: Since its earliest days at the outset of the nineteenth century, the carriage clock has provided features of distinct interest to horologists and collectors. Beyond their practical advantage of portability, many of these clocks offered attractive design and functional elements. One such functional element, originating before the widespread availability of electricity toward the latter 1800s, is the capability of indicating time at night when the clock dial was not visible. Known as repeaters, these clocks provided such measures on demand by means of a push of a button on the clock case. This article examines one such type, called a five-minute repeater, which has the capability of repeating on demand the measure of the last hour passed as well as the number of five-minute intervals passed since that hour.

‘Clocks at Ardingly College’
by James Nye (pages 519-524)
Summary: On 26 November 2012, the Dingwall Beloe lecture was given as usual at the British Museum, and in the convivial post-lecture atmosphere, created in part through Bonhams’ generous sponsorship of the refreshment, attendees swapped anecdotes and stories. One remarkable coincidence emerged, in that Peter Waller and I discovered we had something in common. We had both been custodians of our school’s clock system, at Ardingly College, in West Sussex, though our terms in charge were some twenty years apart. In March 2020, I led a party from the Electrical Horology Group on a visit to the school (reported in AH June 2020) and revisited familiar haunts from some forty-five years earlier. In the aftermath of the visit, while convalescing from Covid-19, I started to research the history of the clock system, and this short article is the result. (Read this article here)

‘Geo. Cotton & Sons – Clerkenwell spring manufacturers’
by Paul Myatt (pages 525-530)
Summary: Horological ephemera can lead to interesting discoveries. This article concerns two invoices from 1918 and a price list for spring makers George Cotton & Sons of Clerkenwell which reveal that they supplied tapered mainsprings for French clocks with cylinder escapements. Additional information shows that they were using Swedish spring steel for making mainsprings at an early date.

‘The firm of Drury Brothers, manufacturers of bells and gongs’
by Hugh Richards (pages 531-534)
Summary: Clocks that chimed on bells had long been popular but at the beginning of the nineteenth century, coiled steel gongs were first used in Continental Europe. By the middle of the nineteenth century, gongs were more widely available as an alternative, or an addition, to the use of bells in clocks. They became hugely popular and remained so into the twentieth century. A number of English clocks and French carriage clocks (the market for which was largely in Great Britain) used gong stands and bells that were branded JD or FD, usually appearing in an ellipse. Little or no research would seem to have been undertaken into the firm that might have made these bells and gongs, and this short paper is intended as a first step to rectify this.

Note: ‘The passive resistance watch’ by Chris McKay (pages 535-537)

‘Unfreezing Time #8’ by Patricia Fara (pages 538-540) (Read the whole series of articles here)

The issue totals 144 pages and is illustrated mainly in colour, and is completed by the regular sections Horological News, Book reviews, AHS News, Notes from the Librarian, Letters and Further Reading.