Uncovering the history and stories of antique clocks, barometers, chronometers and fine antique furniture
Our exhibition “The Three George’s: Clockmaking in Hanoverian England 1714-1820” has been a great success with collectors, clients, and interested members of the public visiting the gallery to view an impressive array of clocks from the Georgian period. Due to popular demand the exhibition has been extended for an extra week and the final day will be Saturday, June 7th.
One of the clocks featured in the exhibition is a magnificent and well-preserved George II period tavern clock of the earliest design signed Gabril Holland, Coventry and dated to circa 1730. The case had an elongated dial and deeply moulded surround. The Chinoiserie decoration to the trunk door shows an oriental scene of figures before a pavilion against a wooded background. To the sides are exotic birds.
The gilt chapter ring is painted with roman numerals with a double minutes circle and leafy scrolls to the bottom corners. The elegantly written signature beneath the chapter ring fills the full width of the dial, typical of early tavern clocks. The eight-day duration movement, with anchor escapement, is in good condition.
Little is known about Gabril Holland, although the records of the Herbert Art Gallery in Coventry reveal that Gabril was appointed a Quaker trustee in 1749. Early tavern clocks of this design are extremely rare and in the definitive book English Dial Clocks by R. Rose, only one comparable example by Abraham Perinot of London exists. This example by Holland is possibly one of the earliest tavern clocks to survive.
Tavern clocks are sometimes erroneously called Act of Parliament clocks, after the 1797 act which imposed duties on clocks for a brief period before the unpopular act was repealed, but there seems to be no correlation between the development of tavern clocks and this act. These wall clocks made of lacquered oak, consisting of large painted dials, with the pendulum encased in a rectangular trunk door, were common from at least the 1720s onwards. Their popularity seems to correspond to the growth in coaching routes and postal services across the nation. With specific times of arrival and departure becoming more common on coach routes, large wall clocks became a useful tool in coaching inns and taverns, so customers could keep abreast of the time and the schedule of the coaches.
Tavern clocks would reach their height during the 1750s and 60s, a period which corresponds to the popularity of Chinoiserie, and they were produced by both London and provincial makers. These clocks were both affordable and lightweight, so they could be easily attached to a wall, but they were also accurate timekeepers. Dials were large and clearly painted, as they were meant to be easy to read, and use of Chinoiserie lacquer may have been a device to make them stand out. As well as being employed in coaching inns, taverns, and coffee houses, such clocks could also be found in banks and offices and even large aristocratic kitchens and hallways, where knowing the time was a necessary part of the business being undertaken.
The story of the tavern clock and the popularity of Chinoiserie lacquered clock cases are just two of the stories relating to clockmaking during the age of the Hanoverians that we have explored in our Three Georges exhibition. If you would like to learn more about the fashions, tastes and technological developments that influenced clockmaking in the Georgian era, visit Raffety’s gallery at 79 Kensington Church Street before the exhibition ends on June 7th.
A full colour, illustrated catalogue is available in the gallery on request.
For more details visit our website www.raffetyclocks.com