A remarkable, recently discovered important late 18th century mahogany longcase regulator of one month duration Vulliamy, London, number 220

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Lot 125W
A remarkable, recently discovered important late 18th century mahogany longcase regulator of one month duration
Vulliamy, London, number 220

Sold for £ 120,000 (US$ 163,660) inc. premium
A remarkable, recently discovered important late 18th century mahogany longcase regulator of one month duration
Vulliamy, London, number 220
The case with architectural triangular pediment over a moulded cornice and canted stop-fluted front angles, the sides of the hood with rectangular moulded panels, over a long trunk door with well moulded edge framing the flame veneer, on a base with applied raised panel, on a double plinth, the interior of the trunk set with a frame that once held a hinged door approximately 11 inches high to protect the pendulum bob, and with a pair of brackets that presumably held a beat scale, the 12 inch square one-piece silvered dial with outer concentric minute ring enclosing the subsidiary dials for running seconds (with Observatory marks) and for hours, numbered "No.220" just outside the minute ring below 30 and signed in copperplate script in a straight line across the centre, the movement wound through the centre of the hour dial with maintaining power to a five-wheel train, with high count pinions and each arbor set in endstops, terminating in a deadbeat escapement with Vulliamys screw adjustment between the pallet arms with a more finely threaded section over the entry pallet-arm, the pallets themselves made of large facetted jewels within screwed jaws, (the 'scape wheel in a jewelled endstop), the thick plates united by five tapering cannon barrel pillars and protected from any ingress by sliding brass covers to each side (brass leaf springs mounted on the dial feet ensure that the side covers are a good fit), and to the top with screwed-on cover, the heavy gridiron pendulum suspended from a pair of heavy brass L-shaped uprights united at their apex with a heavy brass bracket over the backcock, the long rectangular-section steel crutch set between steel 'banking pins' and with screw-adjustment to the top and terminating in a very rare U-shaped brass cradle, itself mounted on centres in order to 'rock' slightly, and now lined with a red composition, (this may have originally been lignum vitae), the pendulum with a T-bar suspension on a central circular-section steel rod flanked by two zinc and two steel rods to a heavy brass bob with brass calibrating nut 217cm (7ft 1in) high.

Footnotes

  • Although better known for other types of clocks and watches, the firm of Vulliamy of Pall Mall, London, made a number of high-quality regulators during their century of existence from the mid eighteenth to the mid nineteenth centuries. These ranged from observatory-style pieces to more conventional regulators, sometimes with striking train, intended to be the 'standard clocks' of grand domestic households.
    The present regulator No. 220 is an early example, with the number dating it to the very early 1790s, when the senior partner in the business was still Justin Vulliamy (1712-97) but the active partner was his son Benjamin Vulliamy (1747-1811), the King's Clockmaker. Even for this firm, with its grand clientele, No. 220 is of particularly high quality for its date, with month-going movement, adjustable jewelled pallets, and a zinc and steel gridiron pendulum. It is therefore unfortunate that it predates the surviving Vulliamy records, and there is no direct evidence concerning its manufacture or who may have ordered it.

    However, it is close in both specification and detail to another month-going regulator, No. 330, which Vulliamy delivered some ten years later to the Prince of Wales for Carlton House, and which is still in the Royal Collection. [Note 1] Fortunately, the records for that clock survive, [Note 2] and describe it as having a month-going movement with 'a dead escapement, steel wheel and stone palates (sic), with an adjusting screw to the frame of the palates, the verge holes, the balance wheel holes and the 4th wheel holes are jewelled.' The pendulum is described as having 'a piece upon centres to the crutch to give motion to the pendulum and a new expansion work to correct the effect of heat and cold upon the pendulum'. (This pendulum no longer survives, having been replaced in 1815 by Vulliamy's son, B.L. Vulliamy (1780-1854), with a new mercurial pendulum, spring and suspension piece.) Finally the movement was placed in a 'very fine mahogany case' of typical Vulliamy pediment-top form, and sold to the Prince of Wales for the very high sum of 70 guineas (£73 - 10s), a price that can be compared with just 15 guineas for the firm's standard long-case clocks at this period.
    Some additional details about No. 330 can be found in a surviving Vulliamy Clock Book, [Note 3] which records that the movement came from the firm's usual supplier at this date, [James] Bullock, for £31 - 10s, and the case from their leading casemaker, [Thomas] Brownley for £8 - 5s - 6d. [Note 4] (As usual with such products, both suppliers would have been working to tight specifications from Vulliamy.) It also notes that the pallet frame was of steel and the case had a glass plate between the weights and pendulum. Interestingly, the entry, which seems to be by Benjamin Vulliamy himself, describes the pendulum proprietorially as having 'my expansion curb': there is a similar 5-bar zinc and steel pendulum on the regulator with Harrison's grasshopper escapement which he made some years earlier for the King's own observatory at Kew. (Now in the Science Museum.)

    Comparing these detailed descriptions of No. 330 with No. 220, the latter is evidently an early version of the one delivered to the prince nearly ten years later. It also has a month-going movement protected by dust covers, and a dead-beat escapement with screw adjustment to the jewelled pallets. There is the same pivoted piece on the crutch, and a gridiron pendulum suspended from a substantial A-frame, as originally supplied for No. 330. The mahogany pediment-top case is, if anything, of slightly higher quality than on the later clock, and evidently once had a similar protective panel in front of the pendulum and weights. The only significant differences are that, by 1800, the model had gained another pillar to the movement and jewelling to the fourth wheel, while the pallet frame had become steel rather than brass, and the dust covers glass instead of brass. Stop work was also added.

    Given the many similarities, it is very likely that Vulliamy obtained the movement and case for No. 220 from Bullock and Brownley, who are known to have been supplying the firm for several years before 1800; and the final price probably approached that of the later clock. Which of Vulliamy's wealthy customers placed the order for this exceptional regulator has yet to be discovered.

    We are grateful to Roger Smith for compiling this footnote.

    Notes
    1. Illustrated in C. Jagger, Royal Clocks (1983), p. 114, fig. 157, where its number is wrongly given as 830.
    2. National Archives (Kew), C104/58, Vulliamy Day Book 29, p.269, 22 December 1800.
    3. Vulliamy Clock Book, now with the British Horological Institute at Upton Hall. (Note that this records delivery on 10 January 1801, some weeks later than given in the Day Book.)
    4. At this date, James Bullock was at Furnivals Inn Court, Holborn; and Thomas Brownley at 68 King Street, Golden Square, parish of St James Piccadilly.
A remarkable, recently discovered important late 18th century mahogany longcase regulator of one month duration Vulliamy, London, number 220
A remarkable, recently discovered important late 18th century mahogany longcase regulator of one month duration Vulliamy, London, number 220
A remarkable, recently discovered important late 18th century mahogany longcase regulator of one month duration Vulliamy, London, number 220
A remarkable, recently discovered important late 18th century mahogany longcase regulator of one month duration Vulliamy, London, number 220
A remarkable, recently discovered important late 18th century mahogany longcase regulator of one month duration Vulliamy, London, number 220
A remarkable, recently discovered important late 18th century mahogany longcase regulator of one month duration Vulliamy, London, number 220
A remarkable, recently discovered important late 18th century mahogany longcase regulator of one month duration Vulliamy, London, number 220
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