A good early 19th century ebony veneered library timepiece with interesting provenance Vulliamy, No.832

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Lot 91
A good early 19th century ebony veneered library timepiece with interesting provenance
Vulliamy, No.832

Sold for £ 9,560 (US$ 11,883) inc. premium
A good early 19th century ebony veneered library timepiece with interesting provenance
Vulliamy, No.832
the shallow chamfered top over a concave cresting, glazed brass bound side panels, plinth base and squat brass feet, the 6.5 inch signed and numbered silvered Roman dial with typical hands and regulation arbour through XII, with latched dial feet to the signed movement with very substantial rectangular plates and deadbeat escapement, secured in the case via two massive L-shaped brackets, the case further strengthened by a lead weight let into the hollow under the seatboard, the pendulum with lozenge section ebony rod and heavy brass bob 36cms


  • According to an entry in one of the surviving Vulliamy clock books (now in the custody of the British Horological Institute), Vulliamy No.832 was delivered to the United University Club by Benjamin Lewis Vulliamy (1780-1854) on 8th July 1824. This clock is typical of the high quality timekeepers which Vuilliamy sold to a number of the new gentlemen's clubs founded in London in the years following the end of the Napoleonic wars. In securing this business, he was helped by the connections with Court and political circles which his family, as Royal Clockmakers, had established over many years.

    A fascinating insight into Vulliamy's use of these connections comes from two letters which he wrote in 1822 and 1824 to the politician and clubman John Wilson Croker (1780-1857).(1) In the earlier of these letters, in which he offers to provide the clocks needed by another new London Club (the Union), Vulliamy claims the support of the Speaker of the House of Commons (Charles Manners Sutton), noting that on the latter's recommendation he had already provided 'some very common clocks' to the [United] University Club, on the understanding that they would be replaced by others 'of a very different description when the Club moves into its new House'.

    The United University Club had been founded in 1821 for graduates of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and although at first occupying temporary premises, a site was soon purchased for a new club house at the corner of Pall Mall East and Suffolk Street. The building was designed in the fashionable Greek Revival style by the architect William Wilkins (1778-1839), who was later to design the National Gallery, just to the east of the site. The new club house was essentially complete by 1823-1824, with the interiors, including the 'furniture and ornaments', owing much to the work of Wilkin's associate, the architect John Peter Gandy (1787-1850). This building was eventually replaced in 1906, the club itself amalgamating with the slightly younger Oxford and Cambridge Club in 1972.(2)

    The several clocks supplied by Vulliamy to the United University Club in 1824 were evidently those which his letter of 1822 said would be 'of a very different description' from the 'very common clocks' which he had supplied earlier for the temporary premises. Certainly, the severely elegant case of No.832, which was made by Vulliamy's best case maker, Thomas Brownley, would have fitted perfectly into the Greek Revival interiors of the new club house; while its substantial movement from Holmden, another regular supplier, was also top quality.

    Although the exact price of this clock is not known, it would undoubtedly have been expensive for a simple timepiece but, as Vulliamy asserted rather grandly in his second letter to Croker, 'it has been my constant practise...to spare neither pains or (sic) expense with the work I manufacture, consequently it necessarily costs more than work that is made merely with an eye to cheapness, without regard either to durability or accuracy of performance'.

    A very similar clock to No.832, but in a rosewood case (Vulliamy No.842), which was supplied to the Oriental Club a few months later, was sold in these Rooms on the 3rd December 2002 (lot 122).


    (1) These letters were published by David Penny in Antiquarian Horology, Summer 1992, p.178.

    (2) Information about the United University Club comes from John Thole, The Oxford and Cambridge Clubs in London (1992), p.2-6.
A good early 19th century ebony veneered library timepiece with interesting provenance Vulliamy, No.832
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