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Brian & Joy Loomes

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Antique Clocks


Collecting Antique Clocks Thomas Dyde of London, lantern clock maker

Thomas Dyde was born at Draycott in Blockley parish near Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire. He was baptised on the first of June 1635, the fifth of six children of Thomas Dyde and his wife Elizabeth. He was apprenticed in the Blacksmiths' Company in London in February 1648 to John Warfield. Also apprenticed to John Warfield in the Blacksmiths' Co. in 1655 was John Dyde, who was the son of William Dyde, believed to be the brother of Thomas senior, in other words cousin of Thomas Dyde the clockmaker. The two cousins served the same master. Thomas should have been free of his apprenticeship in 1655, so would have just been finishing his training as his cousin commenced his, although he may have worked for some years as journeyman to John Warfield. He is known to have been working on his own (i.e. independently) when listed in June 1662 by the Clockmakers' Company who carried out a kind of census of clockmakers in that year, and this is the earliest date we know for his working on his own.

Thomas Dyde the clockmaker was married 28th Feb 1666 to Ann Stock at St. Mary Magdalen's church, Old Fish Street, London. He was described as being of the parish of St. Bartholomew Exchange, and she from West Ham, Essex. His father, Thomas Dyde senior of Draycott, was buried on 9th March 1666, just days after the wedding. Thomas the clockmaker and his wife, Ann, seem to have moved location in their earlier years, if we can judge by the different churches in which their children were baptised. On the 25th September 1670 a child named Elizabeth was baptised at St. Botolph's Bishopsgate. Elizabeth must have died in infancy as on 10th November 1671 another child named Elizabeth was baptised at St. Mary Abchurch, where a child named Mary was baptised on the 20th January 1674/75 (dying in the October following) and a son, Charles, was baptised on the 18th August 1676.

Thomas took two apprentices through the Blacksmiths' Company, John Harris in 1660 (who was a relative, almost certainly from Blockley, though that relationship is not yet clear) and Charles Murray in 1680. He never joined the Clockmakers' Company, but was known to them and apparently accepted by them, just as his master John Warfield had been, who had died in 1665, probably in the Great Plague. This is strange because the Clockmakers Company usually tried to pressurise non-members practising the craft to join their ranks, including members of the Blacksmiths' Company, but they seem not to have troubled Warfield or Thomas Dyde in this respect.

Thomas Dyde's son Charles, who was presumably named after his elder brother, seems to have been the only child to survive, or at least was the only child mentioned in his father's will, he being only ten years old when his father died. This son Charles was apprenticed on the 6th July 1692 in the Vintners' Company to George Burley, described at he time as the "son of Thomas Dyde of Enfield, Middlesex, smith". Thomas the clockmaker had died in December 1686 and if he could have looked down, would probably have been pretty furious to see himself described six years after his death as a "smith". Perhaps to a Vintner all metal workers were "smiths" , the more so if the clerk was writing up his ledger through an alcoholic haze brought on by too much wine tasting.

Thomas's older brother, Charles Dyde, born 1630, also went to London to seek his fortune, and became a member of the Saddlers' Company, at what date is uncertain but he was a free member by August 1661. Charles was married on the 14th August 1659 to Susannah Child at St. Gregory's by St. Paul, and had two children, the elder, Thomas, baptised in St. Clement Dane's parish on the 1st April 1661, the next one, William, baptised in St. Martin's in the Fields on the 3rd May 1668. They too kept changing parishes.

When Thomas Dyde the clockmaker signed his will on 28th December 1686 he must have been on his deathbed, as he died, was buried and the will proved in court only fourteen days later, on 11th January following. He was then described as "of Enfield, late of London, watchmaker" and was fifty-one years old. He left everything to his only child, his son Charles, then still under twenty one, to inherit when he reached that age - in fact he was ten years old at that time. In the event of Charles's death before reaching the age of twenty one, everything was to go to Thomas's nephew, eighteen-year-old William, son of his late brother Charles Dyde, who had died some time previously, provided William paid £50 to Thomas's goddaughter, Elizabeth Harris.. He also mentioned his 'cozen' John Harris, the clockmaker, who was presumably the John Harris he had taken as apprentice in 1660. John Harris of the Clockmakers' Company (his kinsman) and John Hill of the Stationers' Company were left a £50 bequest each as well as a further £20 each "for their care and pains" in being executors and in managing the estate during his son's minority. Who did the son live with? Presumably he was brought up by John Harris, as part of his family. These constant references to John Harris's family make it even more annoying that I can't resolve exactly Thomas's relationship to them.

Though we can guess he was a clockmaker, it is difficult to know who this John Harris was, as there were at least seven different clock and watch makers named John Harris in London in the seventeenth century. John Dyde, Thomas's cousin from Draycott, took an apprentice named Benjamin Harris, and he too was probably a relative from their home village. But the Harrises are too complex to resolve genealogically speaking.

As property Thomas Dyde left the freehold house 'where in I now dwell' with a close of pasture at Fortee Green in the parish of Enfield. He also left a copyhold house and nine acres of meadow in Sewardstone near Waltham Cross in Essex. As it happens Thomas's wife, Ann Stock, was born in 1644, the daughter of William Stock (junior) of Sewardstone, Essex. A document exists dated 1648 'surrendering the use' of nine acres there called Upper Field and Lower Field from William Stock junior to William Stock senior, a customary practice whereby the natural heir, in this case the son, would forgo the right to rent this property so that the current copyholder, the father, could pass that on in his will. I have not traced a will for William Stock senior or junior.

William Stock (junior?), father of Thomas Dyde's wife, Ann, was himself married in 1644 at nearby Stapleford Tawney in Essex to Elizabeth Dye. It is very tempting to think she was Elizabeth Dyde, some distant relative of Thomas, but this seems not to be so as there is a surname Dye or Die in that area. William Stock senior (his father?) was in the records there as having two heifers stolen in 1625. But we now know that Thomas Dyde's land at Sewardstone came through his wife's family.

William Stock junior seems to have been an innkeeper at Waltham Abbey into the 1670s and was in trouble there several times, keeping an illegal alehouse in 1674, and concerning the stealing of a horse in 1676. He was described as a Victualler in 1676, the term meaning the same as an innkeeper, one who is licensed to provide food and drink. Today we use the term ''licensed victualler'. It may be through this connection of Thomas Dyde's brother in law, William Stock, to the Victualling trade that his son, Charles, was later apprenticed in the related trade of a vintner. In December 1686 Thomas and Ann were living at Enfield, almost certainly in property inherited through Ann's family.

lantern clock
This lantern clock by Thomas Dyde of London dates from the 1670s or a little later. Original iron hand. Click for closer view

Of the clocks known by Thomas Dyde only one longcase clock and three lantern clocks have so far been recorded, one of them converted later to a spring-driven movement. The month-duration longcase is signed 'Tho. Dyde Exchange Alley' and was sold at auction in London in 1978. His lantern clocks are signed 'Thomas Dyde Londini'. In 1979 a further lantern clock was then said to be in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, but today there is no record of that in their inventory. Of course there must be others, but these are the only ones so far documented.

The lantern clock illustrated here has one particularly unusual feature. It is an early pendulum clock, having a verge escapement. It is well known that the pendulum was introduced into England by Ahasuerus Fromanteel in 1658, and it is sometimes said that before about 1670 only the Fromanteels and their immediate associates (whoever they might be) were making clocks with pendulums. This may be true, or partly true anyway. For example we know Peter Closon, who died between 1660 and 1662 made lantern clocks with a pendulum, and nobody yet has suggested he was associated with Fromanteel, though that does not mean he wasn't. This background knowledge about the introduction of the pendulum would incline us to think this clock dates from the 1670s rather than earlier.

Interestingly those clockmakers who used the new-fangled pendulum on what had traditionally been a balance wheel clock faced a problem, where the clock was to be one with an alarm - as this one is. The problem was how to fit and alarm and pendulum in the space available. This was especially a problem in the earliest years of pendulum lantern clock making until a regular practice was adopted, but it was always a varying feature until the arrival of the long pendulum, which left them no choice as to the position of the pendulum.

The alarm traditionally sat at the back of the clock, attached outside the backplate. But the pendulum now competed with the alarmwork for this position. Different clockmakers adopted different solutions. Some decided to put the pendulum inside the backplate and kept for the alarm the outside position it had always had. A few, not many, decided to set the pendulum outside at the back and put the alarmwork inside the backplate. The majority eventually settled for keeping the alarm outside the backplate and setting the pendulum in the centre of the clock, where it could swing between the trains. This latter method meant a having four crossbars instead of the normal three, was therefore more costly to produce, and meant changing existing production methods, something which seems to have always been disliked by clockmakers, who for the most part were stick-in-the-mud engineers, who took the view if the system worked, no need to change it - 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'.

But Thomas Dyde, and a very few others, perhaps less than a handful being known, devised their own system. He put the pendulum outside the backplate, where it was always happiest in the sense of being easily accessible for time adjusting or any other reason. But he squeezed the alarmwork in half-way through the backplate, and this is the system he used in the clock illustrated here. For me this is something which adds considerable interest to the clock, as it is always a pleasure to see the work of a man who thought for himself, a maverick.

The rear feet originally carried iron spikes to allow wall hanging by the original iron hoop. At some time the threads on the spurs were driven in too tight and split the thread in the feet, after which some past restorer set brass spikes at the point where the baseplate meets the feet/pillar joint, which may have served the purpose but probably looked unprofessional. A later restorer resolved this by turning the feet round and re-fixing replacement iron spikes into them, as had first been intended. The stubs of the brass spikes can just be seen in the photograph of the back of the clock.

The original backplate is of brass, which is unusual as they are normally of iron. In the backplate view cracks can be seen to have been repaired at the top left, top right and a further crack has appeared at the bottom right. Cracks and repairs are no detriment as long as they are not in a prominent position such as on the dial itself, as most collectors like to see such signs of age.

It is interesting that having left his native Gloucestershire Thomas Dyde seems to have had no wish to return there in a professional capacity, though presumably he made occasional visits home to see his relatives. Another Draycott lad, John Warner, was born in 1647, and about the year 1661 would have begun to learn the clockmaking trade, though as yet we have no documentation for his apprenticeship. I cannot help wondering if the occasional visit home by the apparently successful Thomas Dyde, coming as he did from the big city, might have given inspiration to young John Warner to follow that trade. John Warner must have been aware of Thomas's existence and his profession, and almost always those who followed the clock trade did so because of inspiration from a relative, or perhaps, as here, another local hero. By 1670 John Warner was himself making lantern clocks, but he opted to remain in his home town to work. Two different approaches to the same problem.

Copyright © 2013 Brian Loomes

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