A fine and rare late 18th century mahogany month duration floorstanding regulator of exceptional provenance Arnold, London, Number 33
Lot 132W
A fine and rare late 18th century mahogany month duration floorstanding regulator of exceptional provenance
Arnold, London, Number 33
Sold for £ 60,000 (US$ 79,723) inc. premium

Lot Details
A fine and rare late 18th century mahogany month duration floorstanding regulator of exceptional provenance
Arnold, London, Number 33
The case.
Constructed throughout out of dense mahogany, the backboard measuring just under 2 inches in thickness, the seatboard measuring a full 2 inches in depth. The hood with moulded concave cornice over a flat-fronted door with brass lock, the sides solid and relieved by an applied moulded rectangle on each side in lieu of sight windows, the 30 inch trunk door of good figure within a simply moulded edge, and substantial lock in the usual position, the base panel also set with an applied rectangle, and set on original double skirted plinth. The case further mounted with a substantial iron strap measuring 1/2 an inch thick, 2 inches wide and 16 inches long at its shaped tips with screw adjustment, secured with seven large countersunk screws, set into the body of the backboard approximately two thirds of the way up to facilitate absolutely precise levelling

The dial.
The 12 inch square silvered one-piece dial with outer Arabic minute track with original blued steel hand, counter-weighted via a triangular brass weight set on the arbor behind the dial, enclosed by a single line border, the centre set with a large subsidiary dial for running seconds, again with original hand and marked in Arabic five minute divisions and with twelve bold Observatory marks, the hours shown in Roman numerals running from I to XXIV through a downward-curving aperture set immediately below the centre, signed in the lower half of the dial in elaborate copperplate script "Arnold, London, No.33". Winding to the left of centre and attached to the movement via four turned brass dial feet secured to the frontplate by three screws into substantial collets.

The movement.
The weight driven movement with very substantial brass plates one quarter of an inch thick and measuring 10 inches by 7 inches, with angled upper corners, united by six heavy tapering cannon barrel pillars screwed to the frontplate with heavy turned brass collets, with Harrison's maintaining power, the barrel arbor, great wheel, hour wheel and centre wheel all set in adjustable endstops, the third wheel and 'scape wheel arbors set in triple-screwed jewelled chatons, each wheel of six crossings and with screwed collets and twelve-leaf pinions, the deadbeat escapement 'scape wheel particularly well made with large polished steel anchor spanning 11 teeth and inset with jewelled faces, to a long steel crutch with twin-screw micrometer beat adjustment, the uppermost section of the fork overlaid with two strips of pink gold slightly wider than the steel section below so that the pendulum rod is in contact with the gold strip rather than the steel body of the crutch. The pendulum suspended from a heavy triangular brass bracket let into the body of the backboard, generally of massive construction and consisting of a central steel rod flanked by a pair each of zinc and steel rods, all contained within five heavy brass blocks at the top, bottom and mid-point, terminating in a brass bob of 7.25 inches diameter and flattened oval section, the central portion left deliberately open so as to expose the bimtellic terminal to the air, with engraved silvered brass regulation nut and pointed tip 193cms (6ft 4ins) high.


  • This important John Arnold regulator has only just come to light. Until now, only eleven regulators by John Arnold have been recorded, see Staeger: 100 years of precision timekeepers from John Arnold to Arnold & Frodsham, 1763–1862. It is has many similarities to its sequential number, 34, first mentioned by Mercer in his Supplement (p. 315), and illustrated in Staeger (pp.795-6). Both are of similar dimensions and have comparable dials with only minor variations. Both are signed simply 'Arnold, London' probably indicating a year of manufacture between 1796 and 1800 (Staeger, op.cit. p.795). The concurrent numbering sequence also suggests that they were made at the same time and that possibly the present regulator (No.33) was a prototype for No. 34. Mercer writes that "for about three years before his fathers death, John Roger had been in charge of the firm, and it was during this time that some of their finest productions were made". The Guildhall Library holds the only extant Arnold order book covering this period. The detailed workshop information covers the period January to April 1796, after which there is a four year gap until January 1800 when the book continues in the manner of a diary.

    Although the present regulator has a rather complicated provenance, it can be traced with a very high degree of probability from the lifetime of John Arnold to the present day. Three of its eight owners died without direct family heirs but a detailed examination of the terms of their wills and the fact that many of them lived in the same house, has helped substantiate their close family ties with the Arnold family:

    By taking each of these owners in turn, we can give a more detailed breakdown of the provenance:

    John Arnold (1735/6 – 25 Aug. 1799)
    A few years before he died, Arnold senior retired and passed his business to his son: in a letter dated July 1796 the son, John Roger Arnold, wrote "It is a few weeks since my father remarried, and he has given me his shop and his entire watch-making business" (Mercer, Supplement, p. 303). John Roger could either have received No. 33 at this point, or inherited it when his father died.

    John Roger Arnold (13 Feb. 1769 – 26 Feb. 1843)
    In John Roger Arnold's will (printed by Mercer, Arnold, pp. 205-06), dated 7 Sept. 1840, he leaves sums of money and a painting to various people, and appoints "Richard Steele Esq. of Froxfield near Petersfield aforesaid as my third executor and to him the said Richard Steele I leave the rest of my property i.e. all that may remain after the above legacies are paid". Apart from the painting no other individual items are mentioned in his will and it is sensible to suggest that the regulator came to Steele with the rest of Arnold's property.

    Richard Steele (1783 – 23 Oct. 1860)
    Immediately after inheriting it, Richard Steele sold the Arnold clock-making business and the stock in trade, for which, as a magistrate, he had no practical use, to Charles Frodsham (see Mercer, Frodsham, pp. 78-9). It would appear then, that John Roger Arnold had kept the clock as a personal possession at home, and that it was not treated as part of his stock to be sold to Frodsham.

    Richard Steele's brother James (b. 1786) and sister Clarinda (b. 1787?) predeceased him. In Richard's long and complicated will, dated 19 May 1860, he makes his cousin John Silvester the elder (see below) his residuary legatee, and leaves considerable property to John's son, also called John, with "the earnest recommendation that his parents will by a liberal education at the University of Cambridge and otherwise qualify him for a sphere of usefulness in the station in life to which his property will entitle him". Richard had one other brother, John Steele (1785-1873), but records suggest that he was unmarried and had only an illegitimate son. Richard left this John some money and land in trust for his lifetime, after which it was to transfer to John Silvester the Elder, the latter's son John, or his daughter Elizabeth, depending on who was still alive.

    It is interesting that the will of Richard's brother John Steele (d. 19 Nov. 1873), written on 23 Feb 1865, is specific about time-pieces: "I bequeath to John Silvester the younger, son of the said John Silvester, my gold and silver watches". Steele also appointed Silvester as the sole Executor of the will. This not only confirms the close relationship between the Steeles and Silvesters, but also suggests that John Silvester the younger had a particular interest in fine time-pieces (this is confirmed below).

    John Silvester (Snr) (?1801 – 21 Feb. 1886)
    His wife Elizabeth having predeceased him in 1884, John the elder's son, John the younger, was his sole executor and principal heir.

    John Silvester (Jnr), J.P. (c.1844 – 6 May 1928)
    A letter written by John Silvester, dated 15 Nov. 1878, a copy of which is sold with this lot, refers to "the papers in my possession" concerning "Mr J. R. Arnold (the son)", and explains that "Richard Steele was residuary legatee & presumably became possessed of Mr Arnold's papers, through him some of them have passed on to our family". The letter concludes "Mr J. R. Arnold ... made watches on the keyless principle now in fashion: two of them, No. 1 & No. 19 being in our possession, the latter given to my father in 1819. Mr J. Arnold the father also made a miniature repeating watch set in a finger ring which was, I believe, presented to George III; this or a complete model of it is in our possession." The implication is not only that the Silvesters inherited personal papers concerning the Arnolds through Steele, but also that the Silvester family had some earlier connection with J. R. Arnold himself, having acquired at least three timepieces made by him, at least one as a gift, perhaps from Arnold himself. The Steele papers confirm this and on the 6th June 1829 Steel asks Arnold not to forget John Silvesters watch. It is surely significant that Silvester owned Arnold watch No. 1, which strongly suggests that it passed directly from Arnold himself, rather than being acquired through trade. John Silvester does not mention Arnold No. 33 specifically, but this may be because at the time of writing the letter, it was still in his father's possession, not his own.

    Mercer (Arnold, p. 7) relates how in 1764 John Arnold the elder presented to King George III a watch so small that it was set into a ring; this was seen by the Emperor of Russia who offered Arnold 1,000 guineas to create a duplicate, but "Arnold refused ... so that he might not depreciate the value of the gift, but to allow it to remain unique". In fact, Arnold made a second ring-watch for the king five years later, in 1769, but this anecdote nonetheless suggests that the ring-watch owned by the Silvesters and referred to in the 1878 letter had come from Arnold's private collection, further supporting the hypothesis that No. 33 was part of a group of heirlooms that had never been offered for sale.
    In his will, proved 11 July 1928, John Silvester appointed his local doctor and friend, Dr William Panckridge Panckridge, as his executor and residuary legatee, and bequeathed money to the latter's three children, the eldest of whom, Robert Silvester Panckridge (see below), was named after him and was his godson.

    Dr William Panckridge Panckridge, OBE, MB, MRCS, LRCP

    (1874 – 1 Jan. 1963)
    William P. Panckridge left at least three Arnold time-pieces: he bequeathed the present clock to his eldest son, Robert; he bequeathed an Arnold ring watch (surely that mentioned by John Silvester in his letter of 1878) to a daughter (believed to have sold Sotheby's Belgravia, 11 April 1979, and thought to have been bought by Vaudrey Mercer); and he bequeathed an Arnold long-case clock to his other son.

    Surgeon Vice-Admiral Sir (William) Robert Silvester Panckridge, KBE, CB, Medical Director-General of the Royal Navy (1901 – 1990 )
    Robert was a godson and namesake of John Silvester the elder. In his will he mentions "two Arnold watches". As part of the residue of the estate the present clock was inherited by his daughter, along with a bound manuscript copy book of letters covering the period 11 August 1827 – 28 December 1828. Although the letter-book does not state the name of its writer, internal evidence proves that it was written by Richard Steele (see above); it includes copies of letters sent to John Roger Arnold; to John Roger Arnold's adopted son, Charles Willson Arnold; and to the latter's widow. This therefore confirms what was stated in John Silvester's letter of 1878: at least some of John Roger Arnold's property passed via Steele to the Silvesters, and thence to the Panckridges.

    Jonathan Betts, John Arnold (1735/6-1799), Oxford DNB, 2004, www.oxforddnb.com. (article 677).
    Vaudrey Mercer, John Arnold & Son, Chronometer Makers, 1762-1843, London, 1972, and Supplement, London, 1975.
    Vaudrey Mercer, The Frodshams: The Story of a Family of Chronometer Makers London, 1981.
    Hans Staeger, 100 years of precision timekeepers from John Arnold to Arnold & Frodsham, 1763–1862, 1997.
    Jacksons Oxford Journal, February 2nd 1833.
    Hants Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle, Saturday October 27th 1860.

    Unpublished Sources:
    File of research papers compiled by the vendors family.
    John Arnold and John Roger Arnold's Order Book (January 1796-

    October 1830), John Arnold Collection, Guildhall Library.


    STEELE (1783-1860) A letterbook combining financial affairs (mostly linked to the plantations of Jamaica), his various friendships and connections, and lively "country gossip" relating to his small Hampshire estate, The Hermitage at Wick Green, Froxfield, manuscript on paper, 82 closely-written pages, loose in original stiff marbled wrappers, folio, August 1827-December 1829

    The central characters of Steele's correspondence are his brother James (whose family grew so large that he was obliged to settle them at Gravesend and travel home at weekends by steamer), and William Harrison (born 1803) and his brother, the latter partners in Litt & Harrison, a long-established merchants of 50 Lime Street (London). Steele was a well-off former partner in the firm, but tied to the firm by money still owed him and affection for the Harrison brothers. The detail of the relationship is set out by Steele in a letter, effectively his will, to his brother on pages 14-15. The situation of Litt & Harrison is all too familiar. In good times the firm had given substantial credit to Jamaica planters or related businesses. These were now brought to their knees by, on the one hand, the disputes between Great Britain and the legislature of Jamaica over the abolition of slavery, and on the other by tariffs introduced to protect the West Indies producers who notwithstanding the continuance of slavery could not compete with other producers. The result was prohibitive prices and a collapse of trade. Meanwhile Litt & Harrison's UK creditors were in similar difficulties, and Steele's advice seems to have been crucial. The firm seems to have owned, or be in a position to arrange a sale of one plantation to Lord St. Vincent (nephew of the admiral). In addition Steele made enquiries after Salt Pond Penn, an estate near Morant Bay. Steele's other brother, John, was also in Jamaica at Shettlewood, and being associated with the abolitionists it was thought likely that he would be ejected from his position there by Lord Seaford, planter and representative-in-chief of the West India lobby at Westminster.

    Steele's friendships seem to have all had some foundation in the business of Litt & Harrison: the Mole family, whose daughters he appears to flirt with; the Pinsents of Plymouth who he visited by travelling to Portsmouth and taking the steamer service provided by the Brunswick to Plymouth; Charles Arnold of The Strand for whom he had a wagon built at Wick Green, but who died, closely followed by his wife. When a Pinsent son looked likely to become the victim of consumption Steel hatched the idea of his going to Italy, but was mortified when one of the Mole daughters turned down the request that she accompany a Pinsent. In the end the boy only got as far as Torquay, but seems to have survived. Other correspondents were his tenants, or prospective tenants, including a quarrel with one over the cutting of hedges.

    The chief charm of the letters is to be found in those that were written with no object in view other than gossiping, comprising funny stories he has heard and giving vivid vignettes of the country life he loved: how he feared Molly would go to prison when it was discovered she had two husbands, but being married to the second for 30 years she was fined 1/- and discharged; the awkward horse in the lane; moving corn and killing rats; wretched journey home perched outside the Rocket (coach); activities of 'prophets' among the country folk and many other details and observations on the seasons, farming and food etc.

    The correspondence with John Roger Arnold comprises seven letters written between 19th March 1829 and 18th October 1829. In these letters, the affection which Steel has for Arnold is plainly evident. He also writes to John Roger's adopted son, Charles during his illness; he is obviously concerned and asks others such as his old business partner William Harrison to look in on the Strand and update him as to Charles health.

    19th February 1829

    "Having heard nothing to the contrary, I wish very much to take for granted that my friend Charles is mending. Wm. Harrison has not written me for nearly three weeks, but I begged of him call at the Strand from time to time and send me word about it"

    Unfortunately, Charles succumbed to his illness and Steele writes with great sensitivity to his old friend on Charles' death. He does his best to help him cope with the grief, and shows concern for the health of Mrs Arnold and Charles' widow.

    9th April 1829

    "And so the last conflict is over; and poor Charles is now added to the number of those who were dear to us!.....I have no doubt that the happy spirit of our departed friend has "put off mortality" to enter upon a state of Being far more exalted in its nature. The loss then is all ours. I have begged of Wm Harrison to have the bed at L (ime) Street prepared for me & shall come up on Saturday to pay that last tribute of respect to the mortal remains of my friend..."

    His advice is for Mrs Arnold to keep busy and "divert the mind".

    "There is a sort of sweetness I know – a kind of soothing, melancholy pleasure – in dwelling upon circumstances which have converted our worst apprehensions in to sorrowful reality: but is is a dangerous pleasure; & its effect upon our mental system not very unlike that of opium upon the animal frame; a momentary relief: at the price of accumd debility ...Pray say for me everything that is kind to poor Mrs Charles"

    On personal and domestic matters:

    6th June 1829

    "Here is plenty of rare good beer, bacon & cabbage, and all that: Come and see me then.....We have been long enough friends to dispense with a more direct and formal invitation."

    11th August 1829: "As Mrs C is to remain with you & will I suppose be able to spare the time I shall beg of her to get me a flask of good Salad Oil, a common cup to drink ale out of – exactly a quart measure – a common one exactly a pint – a quarter lb black rappee snuff."...Dont forget your tobacco; & be sure to bring some fine weather with you."

    On business:

    6th June 1829

    ....."Dont forget Jno. Silvester's watch"....

    5th July 1829

    "John Silvester's watch came safely to hand on Saturday evening and also your letter written..the same morning; so that there were less than 12 hours consumed in the whole process from the Strand to P.Off & from thence to the Hermitage, in the worst of weather. How much time would it have occupied 50 years ago? So you see, if you & I have passed the summit of life and instead of ascending with fearless alacrity, are cautiously picking the way downhill in dread of hurting our toes, yet the nation seems to be on the advance..."

    Steel writes very plainly on a business proposition on which John Roger had consulted his friend.

    5th July 1829

    "If I had not been pretty well schooled in disappointments, the variation between your former letter & the last about "how the negotiation" alluded to "will end" would have surprised me; because I supposed it had been already ended: whilst it should seem your "second meeting" placed you farther off than the first. Does your man enter upon it in good faith, or can he either have any object not very plainly to be seen, or endeavour to obtain a plain one, by a shifting tortuous course, in order thereby to obtain it on better terms for himself? If he cannot raise the money in part & the remainder in unquestionable security why volunteer to do it? But if he is only fishing out your views and wishes under the mask of treating for the stock & business; & is unable to find the means to purchase these fifty meetings, and all the talk uttered for a whole day in all London will neither give him sincerity, or ability: therefore the less you say the better...."

    11th August 1829

    "I scarcely know whether to be sorry or not at Mr Murrays negotiation having ended in smoke, because it may for aught I can tell be all for the best; but I am sorry, very sorry, that the salutary principle of self love which pervades all nature should amongst us rational aminals so far outstep its proper limits as we find it does. And not only outstep its limits; but in doing so assume such odious forms as at once to disgust our taste as well as outragte all that is just between man and man. When we see half a dozen pigs called to their trough noboby wonders that they jostle each other; or even that one grudges another what he has no need of himself; that accords with the character of these useful tho' not very amiable animals; it is piggish – alas, alas, that we should be forced to increase in wariness & suspicion as we increase in years!"

    James Murray senior worked in London from 1810 and died in 1847. We have no idea what it was that he introduced into the negotiations,but it patently did not impress either Steele or Arnold

Saleroom notices

  • Please note the estimate should read £50,000-£70,000
Auction information

This sale is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future sales, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this sale, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations


If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Wine, Coins & Medals and Motor Cars and Motorcycles:

Buyer's Premium Rates
25% on the first £175,000 of the Hammer Price
20% from £175,001 to £3,000,000 the Hammer Price
12.5% from £3,000,001 of the Hammer Price

VAT at the current rate of 20% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges excluding Artists Resale Right.

Payment Notices

For payment information please refer to the sale catalogue.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licences please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

Lot symbols
W Shipping & handling restrictions apply

Objects displayed with a "W" will be located in the Bonhams Warehouse and will only be available for collection from this location.

Similar Items