Dorrin K Mace, Horologost

Dorrin K Mace, Horologost
The Clock Man in a pensive moment

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Lantern Clocks

A lantern clock is a type of antique weight-driven wall clock, shaped like a lantern. They were the first type of clock widely used in private homes. They probably originated before 1500 but only became common after 1600; in Britain around 1620. They became obsolete in the 19th century.
There are two theories of the origin of the name 'lantern clock'. One is that the name derived from the shape; the clock resembles a rectangular lantern of that period, and like a lantern was hung on the wall. The other is that it refers to brass, the main metal of which lantern clocks are made. Copper alloys, of which brass is one, were often called latten in earlier times and 'lantern' could be a corruption of this old word. In inventories of deceased clock makers, lantern clocks usually are simply referred to as 'house clocks', 'chamber clocks' or just 'clocks', since in 17th century England they were almost the only type of domestic clocks that existed. It was only after a century had passed, when other types of domestic clocks began to be used in British houses, that more descriptive names for it appeared. Other names used for these clocks are bedpost, birdcage or Cromwellian clocks. 'Sheep's head clock' was a fashionable term for a certain type of lantern clock that had an extremely large chapter ring covering almost the entire front.
The English lantern clock is closely related to lantern clocks that can be found on the European continent. Most likely a group of craftsmen from the Low Lands (Flanders) and France, of which some were clock makers, had established themselves in London at the end of the 16th century. At the same time the middle classes in towns and cities of England began to prosper slowly and a need for a new phenomenon arose: the domestic clock. Until that time clocks in English houses were confined to the nobility and ordinary people were dependent on the tower clocks of the local churches.
It is generally accepted that the first lantern clocks in England were made by Frauncoy Nowe and Nicholas Vallin, two Huguenots who had fled from the Low Lands.
Lantern clock were made almost completely in brass, whereas most earlier clocks had been constructed from iron and wood. Typical lantern clocks comprised a square case on ball or urn feet, a large circular dial (with a chapter ring extending beyond the width of the case on early examples), a single hour hand, and a large bell and finial. The clocks usually had ornate pierced fretwork on top of the frame.
The main style characteristics of English lantern clocks are similar to its Continental relatives. In brief: a wall clock with square bottom and top plates surmounted by a large bell, four corner pillars, a series of vertical plates positioned behind each other and a 30-hour movement with one or more weights. The English variant has some specific details that will be discussed in the next paragraphs. At the start of the 17th century the style gradually evolved to a standard to which all clock makers more or less complied. The guild supervised the clock makers who were compelled to work within a prescribed method. Suppliers to the clock makers' trade contributed to this general style as well. For example the brass founders supplied stylistically identical clock posts to several clock makers. In contrast to the Dutch variants, such as stool clocks, English lantern clocks were entirely made of metal (brass and steel).
Lantern clocks were originally weight driven, usually one weight for the time keeping and a second for striking. A few modern lantern-style clocks were constructed with spring mechanisms and many surviving examples of the original weight-driven type have been converted to spring or pendulum mechanisms.
Lantern clocks were produced in vast numbers during the decades before the pioneering invention of the pendulum by the Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens in 1656. Before this invention, lantern clocks used a balance wheel lacking a balance spring for their timekeeping element, which limited their accuracy to perhaps 15 minutes per day. Shortly after Huygens' invention, the bob pendulum was introduced in England, and most English clock makers adopted the new system quickly. The pendulum increased the accuracy of clocks so greatly that existing clocks were converted, with pendulums being added to the back. Measuring time became much more accurate but clock makers kept building most lantern clocks without minute hands. The reason for this isn't obvious, maybe it was just a matter of tradition. The result was, among other reasons such as the burden of pulling clock weights daily, that clock makers started to develop other types of domestic clocks.  clocks with 8-day movements made lantern clocks obsolete and gradually lantern clocks disappeared from the London interiors in the first decades of the 18th century. In rural areas lantern clocks were produced until the beginning of the 19th century and in those years they were even exported to countries like Turkey. In the Victorian era there was a revival of interest for the, by then, antique lantern clocks. Unfortunately this also meant that many clocks of renowned makers were stripped of their movements, which were replaced by 'modern' winding movements. Nowadays (almost) untouched lantern clocks are very rare.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.