A fine mid 18th century oak floorstanding regulator of one month duration George Graham, London, number 767

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Lot 65* W
A fine mid 18th century oak floorstanding regulator of one month duration
George Graham, London, number 767

Sold for £ 134,500 (US$ 173,959) inc. premium

Fine Clocks

10 Dec 2014, 14:00 GMT

London, New Bond Street

A fine mid 18th century oak floorstanding regulator of one month duration
George Graham, London, number 767
The flat topped hood with moulded cornice over solid sides and a glazed hood door with moulded inner edge, the long trunk door veneered in oak on an oak carcass of cleated construction, the door held internally by large shaped brass hinges and externally framed by a moulded edge, the tall plain base to a doube apron and block feet, set to the inside with a silvered brass beat scale set on a brass bracket mounted on an oak block.

The 10 inch square silvered dial with outer minute track enclosing the large subsidiary seconds dial, with upward-curving shaped aperture for the Arabic hour numerals, and chamfered date aperture with pin hole adjustment, secured to the movement by four screws set into substantial dial feet triple-screwed to the frontplate.

The massive movement secured to the oak seatboard by four L-shaped brass brackets, and to the backboard by another two - even more substantial - L-shaped brackets, the plates themselves with canted upper corners and united by six very large knopped brass pillars latched to the front plate, punch numbered 767 centrally to the rear edge, the five-wheel train with bolt and shutter maintaining power and high count pinions, with double-screwed endstops, the deadbeat escapement with long steel pallets to a 'scapewheel of six crossings and the long brass crutch, to a square-section mahogany pendulum rod terminating in a very substantial lenticular brass bob with engraved silvered rating nut

1.89m (6ft 2ins) high

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    This clock is known to have come from Dunham Massey, Cheshire, sold by the Earl of Stamford in the 1930s to antique dealers, Messrs Edinburgh, who then sold it to R.A. Lee in 1938. The clock is illustrated in the Connoisseur booklet, by R. Noel Hill, Early British Clocks from c. 1600 to c. 1800 and described as "A rare regulator clock by George Graham, London, No. 767, in its original oak case. The month precision movement with dead beat escapement and bolt and shutter maintaining power." R.A. Lee lent this clock to the Science Museum in 1956 for the Huygens Tercentenary Exhibition (see Hurst, Michael 1957. "A Visit to the Huygens Tercentenary Exhibition. Antiquarian Horology, Vol. 2, No.2: 25-8.). Lee advertised the clock for sale in June 1970. Shortly after that it was purchased by Seth Attwood, through Charles Allix, and was subsequently displayed at the Time Museum in Rockford, Illinois. The clock is also illustrated in Brusa, G. 1978. L'Arte dell 'Orlogeria in Europa (incorrectly cited as No. 728) and Roberts, Derek 1990, British Longcase Clocks.
    Importance


    George Graham F.R.S. (c.1673-1751)
    Details of the early life of George Graham are somewhat obscure. His date of birth is based on the assumption that he was fourteen years of age when he was apprenticed to clockmaker, Henry Aske, in 1688. It is from his apprenticeship indenture that we learn that, by then, his father, also named George, had died and that his previous home had been Fordlands in Cumberland. It is curious that there is no record of Graham being in the Aske household during the latter years of his apprenticeship, which suggests that he may have been unofficially transferred to another clock or watch maker. In 1696, having gained his freedom, he joined the household of Thomas Tompion (1639-1713) at the Dial and Three Crowns on the corner of Water lane and Fleet Street. On 25 September, 1704 he joined the Tompion family by marrying Thomas's niece, Elizabeth Tompion. At the time, the business was operating as a partnership between Tompion and Edward Banger, who married Margaret Kent, also Tompion's niece, on 18 December 1694. For some unspecified reason, the partnership was dissolved around 1708, ultimately placing Graham as the successor of the business.
    After Tompion's death, not only did Graham maintain the high standard and distinctive 'house style' of clock and watch production, but he, like his former employer, collaborated with the scientific community to produce some of the best precision instruments of their era. In 1714 an example of such association is found in an advert placed in the 23 October edition of the Post Man and Historical Account by William Whiston (1667-1752). The ad served to alert the public that he and Humphrey Ditton (1675-1715) planned to demonstrate their scheme for finding longitude by firing a rocket up from Black Heath to about a mile high and that they wanted to encourage the public send in their observations of the timing, azimuth and altitude of the spectacle. The rockets were set to be fired every Saturday at precisely 8pm "by Mr Graham's regulator, at Mr Tompion's former shop, near Water lane, Fleet street."


    The beginnings of the precision pendulum clock are intertwined with the early history of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. It was founded in 1675 with the single purpose of providing mariners with the astronomical data needed to calculate longitude at sea by observation of the moon's place against the back-drop of the 'fixed stars'. In simple terms, this method of navigation required two things: an accurate map of the night sky and predictive tables of the moon's position in the sky, relative to the bright stars.
    The first Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed (1646-1719), was provided with two state-of-the-art pendulum clocks by his patron, Sir Jonas Moore (1617-79). The clocks were unmatched in terms of accuracy and provided the bedrock for the work that followed by proving that Earth's speed of rotation was (as far as was detectable) constant, which up to that time had been assumed. These clocks can be considered the blueprint for the precision pendulum clocks that George Graham developed in his early years as master at the Dial and Three Crowns. They had heavy pendulums swinging over a small arc and a dead-beating escapement. It is often suggested that the dead-beat escapement contributes to greater accuracy, but this is not necessarily the case as any other carefully constructed equivalent can be just as reliable. Its key advantage is the fact that the seconds hand on the dial remains static between beats and enables the user to read the time to the nearest second at a glance.

    Biographical information often credits Graham with the invention of the dead-beat escapement, but scholarly research has shown that this existed in pendulum clocks from as early as 1675 (see Howse, Derek. "The Tompion Clocks at Greenwich and the Dead-Beat Escapement." Antiquarian Horology Vol. 7, No. 1: 18-34.). Graham refined this invention by using radial teeth on the escape wheel and a slender pallet frame that afforded a large centre distance between the pallet and escape wheel arbors. As is typical of Graham's work, once the design had been standardised, it was continually used, with only minor peripheral changes, throughout the history of the business. Regulator movements followed the distinctive format, seen in this example, from the very earliest examples, made around 1720 through to those made after his death by John Shelton (see lot 85, Bonhams, Fine Clocks, 12 December, 2006).


    John Shelton
    John Shelton is cited in several contemporary accounts as being, amongst Graham's workmen, the one responsible for the manufacture of the precision pendulum clocks. After Graham's death he continued to make them in his own name and advertised himself as "late operator to Mr Graham". Towards the end of Graham's life, Shelton began signing his work discretely. The unnumbered Graham regulator, purchased for the Royal Observatory in 1749, bears Shelton's stamped signature hidden on the underside of the back cock and this regulator, no. 767, is scratch signed "John Shelton, Shoe Lane", to the backs of the dial, hour disc and calendar ring.


    Importance
    To summarise the importance of Graham's clocks and instruments to eighteenth century natural philosophers, one can do no better than to quote James Bradley (1693-1762). Who, in his description of the discovery of the aberration of light and the Earth's nutation, which was arguably the most significant observational discovery of the time, wrote the following about Graham:
    "For I am sensible, that if my own endeavours have, in any respect been effectual to the advancement of astronomy; it has principally been owing to the advice and assistance given me by our worthy member Mr. George Graham; whose great skill and judgement in Mechaniks, join'd with a complete and practical Knowledge of the Uses of Astronomical Instruments, enable him to contrive and execute them in the most perfect manner."
    (Bradley, James 1748. "A letter to the Right Honourable George Early of Macclesfield concerning an Apparent Motion Observed in Some of the Fixed Stars." Philosophical Transactions, Vol. 45.)

    We are grateful to Rory McEvoy and Jeremy Evans for their help in researching this lot.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note: as this is a large clock this lot will only remain in Bonhams New Bond Street until 5pm on the day of the sale; it will then be removed to our Park Royal warehouse and will be available for collection from 2.30pm on Friday 12th December.
Contacts
A fine mid 18th century oak floorstanding regulator of one month duration George Graham, London, number 767
A fine mid 18th century oak floorstanding regulator of one month duration George Graham, London, number 767
A fine mid 18th century oak floorstanding regulator of one month duration George Graham, London, number 767
A fine mid 18th century oak floorstanding regulator of one month duration George Graham, London, number 767
A fine mid 18th century oak floorstanding regulator of one month duration George Graham, London, number 767
A fine mid 18th century oak floorstanding regulator of one month duration George Graham, London, number 767
A fine mid 18th century oak floorstanding regulator of one month duration George Graham, London, number 767
A fine mid 18th century oak floorstanding regulator of one month duration George Graham, London, number 767
A fine mid 18th century oak floorstanding regulator of one month duration George Graham, London, number 767
A fine mid 18th century oak floorstanding regulator of one month duration George Graham, London, number 767
A fine mid 18th century oak floorstanding regulator of one month duration George Graham, London, number 767
A fine mid 18th century oak floorstanding regulator of one month duration George Graham, London, number 767
A fine mid 18th century oak floorstanding regulator of one month duration George Graham, London, number 767
A fine mid 18th century oak floorstanding regulator of one month duration George Graham, London, number 767
A fine mid 18th century oak floorstanding regulator of one month duration George Graham, London, number 767
A fine mid 18th century oak floorstanding regulator of one month duration George Graham, London, number 767
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