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Brian Loomes Antique Clocks

Brian & Joy Loomes

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Antique Clocks


Collecting Antique Clocks Thomas Moore of Ipswich and wings and fakes

Not many clocks are recorded by Roger Moore, which is hardly surprising as he was the earliest of several generations of clockmakers in this family. He was born about 1660, but his birth has not yet been traced. He was married on the 28th March 1687 to Elizabeth Page, who must have been pregnant at the time as a daughter, Susan, was born in September, just seven months later. Roger, the eldest of seven children, was born in 1688 and may have become a blacksmith like his father – a first son would usually follow the father's trade. The second son, Thomas, born 1690, was to follow the trade of a clockmaker in Ipswich, and was to become the most famous of the family. A later son, William, born 1699, also became a clockmaker, though he moved away to Woodbridge in Suffolk, where he worked till his death some time before 1762.

Full view of clock
1. This is one of Thomas Moore's very earliest lantern clocks, built about 1710 with centre verge escapement and alarmwork. It is modelled along the lines of that of his father, but he chose to use a bob pendulum that did not need wings.
Click for closer view.

Roger Moore senior died in 1727. He is known to have worked on local church clocks. In fact in their book 'Suffolk Clocks and Clockmakers', published in 1975, Arthur Haggar and Leonard Miller, both of them now unfortunately deceased, imply that Roger senior might have been principally a blacksmith, like his son, Roger junior. They record three longcase clocks and two lantern clocks by Roger (senior), the lantern clocks being pictured in the book. One of the latter is decidedly suspect however. The other was originally made with a verge pendulum swinging between the trains, what is usually known as a winged lantern clock, but has been converted later to anchor escapement. This clock was later sold at Sothebys in 2007. I have been recording lantern clocks for about forty years and I have come across no others by Roger, so his lantern clocks are pretty scarce, amounting in fact to a single clock signed 'Roger Moore de Ipswich fecit'.

Thomas Moore, the second son of clockmaker Roger Moore, was born in 1690. Thomas's first wife was named Sarah, to whom at least five children were born, the eldest named Thomas after his father. Sarah died in 1725, leaving Thomas a widower with three surviving children: Thomas aged about 15, Roger aged 11, and Sarah aged 10. He then married again on the 28thMay 1728 to Susan Hatley (or Hartley), by whom he had four more children. In 1718 he took as apprentice John Calver, son of John Calver of Wittlesham, Suffolk. In 1759 he took James Montague as apprentice. Susan died in 1761 aged 67. Thomas himself died in 1762 aged 72.

Side view of clock
2. This side view shows the pear-shaped pendulum bob (as used on bracket clocks). The alarmwork is positioned inside the backplate.
Click for closer view.

Thomas Moore (I) was also a goldsmith and was the most celebrated member of this clockmaking family. But there were two other Thomas Moores who made clocks. His brother, William of Woodbridge, had a son named Thomas, who became a clockmaker in London. And Thomas's own eldest son, Thomas (II), also followed the trade too. But Thomas (II) was married in 1733 to Mary, the widow of clockmaker Zephaniah Maynard of Long Melford, who already had her own infant children, and Thomas moved away to work there, perhaps in Zephaniah's old premises, where he died in1754, some years before his father.

So, despite the confusing number of clockmakers called Thomas Moore, only one of this name worked at Ipswich. He outlived the others and it is his work we usually come across. He is known for many longcase clocks and a number of lantern clocks. Haggar and Miller record that in 1729 Thomas Moore invented a fusee pocket watch that could be wound in either direction. It was announced in 1720 that his 'most famous astronomical and musical clock, with new additions' was being exhibited at the Great White Horse Inn at Ipswich, and the public were invited to view it for a charge of three pence each.

Door of clock
3. The original doors are preserved on this clock and have oval-shaped slots to allow for the overswing of the pear-shaped pendulum bob. Such doors seldom survive as many grew wings.
Click for closer view.

This appears to be a different clock from one exhibited at their work premises in 1763 (more than six months after Thomas's death) by his sons, Edward and Hatley (or Hartley) Moore, who succeeded him. That latter clock 'a most perfect and superb musical clock, the like never before constructed in Great Britain', was six feet square at the base and sixteen feet high with astronomical motions, etc. etc ... and could be viewed by the public at two shillings and six pence each (25pence). However this clock, though later referred to as 'Moore's Musical Machine', is believed to have been made by a London maker and just on loan to the Moore brothers for exhibition.

Unfortunately for Thomas Moore's reputation his name has been dragged through the horological mud in recent years because many modern reproductions exist of lantern clocks bearing this maker's name in the dial centre. These modern clocks were first offered on sale in the 1960s, supposedly made in Eastern Europe. I remember at that time you could buy one for about £60. Many were sold in the trade, some being battered and 'aged' a bit first. I recall hearing stories of people who buried them in the garden for a year or two to let them pick up a bit of colour and make them more convincing, and some of these now have rusted and can look at first sight convincingly old. They are offered for sale regularly, on Ebay and through auction, and are often passed off as real. Many auctioneers have no idea whether they are new or old, or pretend not to have, and I have seen these find victims anywhere from £200 or £300 to £1,400.

Replica clock
4. A modern replica lantern clock made in the 1960s and falsely signed 'Tho. Moor Ipswich'. Many such were made, supposedly in Eastern Europe and are often seen for sale today.
Click for closer view.

In fact they are about as convincing as lantern clocks as Monopoly money would be alongside pound notes. The dial centre is very plain, having just the name engraved on as 'Thos. Moore Ipswich' with no other engraved centre decoration, whereas his genuine clocks will normally have some floral or foliate decoration to the dial centre. The chapter ring of the repro clocks lacks an engraved circle around its outer edge, which virtually all genuine lantern clocks have. It has a diamond shape (sometimes called a 'lozenge') as a half-hour marker. The engraving in the foliate frets appears to be cast in (and perhaps the signature too) and is therefore of artificially uniform depth. The movement was made with original anchor escapement and the pinions show virtually no wear. An example is pictured here for comparison – when you have seen one, you should have no trouble recognising another. If in any doubt the signature on each of the reproductions is the same as in the one illustrated here. On his genuine clocks the signature varies.

The lantern clock pictured here by Thomas Moore is the earliest yet recorded by him. It is built very much in the style of that by his father Roger, that is in having a centrally positioned verge pendulum. These centre pendulum clocks sometimes had a pendulum with a wide bob (usually shaped like a ship's anchor) that swings out beyond the frame into side extensions called 'wings' or sometimes 'bat's wings'. We can see that, though altered later, Roger's clock once had wings, but these were removed as redundant when it was later converted to anchor escapement. Thomas's lantern clock has a normal bob pendulum that swings out through slots in the doors and never had wings. But apart from the pendulum Thomas's dial style of the early clock is closer to that of his father than it is to his own later lantern clocks, most of which were built with anchor escapement and long pendulum.

Thomas's clock has its alarmwork still preserved. Roger's originally had alarmwork but that was removed when converted to anchor as it would have been in the way, positioned as it was outside the backplate exactly where the long pendulum had to go. Thomas's clock was built as an alarm clock pure and simple, that is without strikework. It has the alarmwork positioned INSIDE the backplate, where the strikework would usually be. This clock was probably made as a special order. It would of course have been cheaper to make as a pure alarm clock than one with strikework, and by using a regular bob pendulum with door slots, he avoided the cost of casting wings. It makes good sense for an alarm clock to be non-striking if you plan to use it in a bedroom. Not many people would want to sleep in a room with a lantern clock striking all night long.

Quite a number of centre pendulum lantern clocks were made with wings (as Roger's was) and those usually had a bob shaped like the two flukes of a ship's anchor to be seen projecting inside the wings when running. Other centre pendulum clocks, like Thomas Moore's, were made with a regular pear-shaped bob and no wings, but simply a slot in each door. The latter type is now quite rare as very many were 'improved' in the late nineteenth century by 'restorers', who fitted a fluked bob and wings to suit the taste of clients.

This article was first published in Clocks Magazine.

Copyright © 2013 Brian Loomes

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