Lantern clocks

Brian Loomes Antique Clocks

Brian & Joy Loomes

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Antique Clocks


Collecting Antique Clocks A Suffolk Lantern Clock by Richard Rayment of Bury St. Edmunds

Richard Rayment is a well-known name in Suffolk clockmaking, though he was not the first clockmaker in Bury. The little-known Richard Copping seems to have had that privilege. Copping may have worked there from about 1640, but the earliest date we know he worked there was from 1654, marrying there in 1662, and dying there in 1689. Only a couple of clocks are so far documented by Copping, one longcase and a solitary lantern clock, though there must be others surviving.

Copping's death seems to have left Bury without a clockmaker until about 1701, when we know he was followed there by Mark Hawkins the First. Hawkins was born about 1674, probably at Newmarket, may have worked at Bury as early as 1694, but we know for certain he had moved to work in Bury St. Edmunds when he married there in 1701and that he remained there till his death in 1750. Richard Rayment was born between 1686 and 1689, married in 1714 to Mary Browne, and worked at Bury till he died in 1754. When Richard Copping died Mark Hawkins was still a child and Richard Rayment was a babe in arms. Once they took over Copping's old territory, Rayment and Hawkins worked in Bury in rivalry for virtually their entire lives, certainly for forty years. Hawkins was the elder by ten years or so. Rayment outlived him by only four years.

Mark Hawkins was followed by his namesake son, Mark Junior, and it is difficult to know whether a clock bearing that name is by the father or the son. However, those clocks attributed to Mark Senior include a single longcase and a lantern clock. If the work of Copping and Mark Hawkins Senior is little known, the same cannot be said for clocks by Richard Rayment, who seems to have been far more prolific, or perhaps just more successful.

Details of Richard Rayment's career are charted in a long out-of-print book, 'Suffolk Clocks & Clockmakers' by Arthur Haggar and Leonard Miller. I have my own well-thumbed copy bought when it was first published in 1975 and signed by both authors. Tragically Leonard Miller died not long after. This book records several clocks by Richard Rayment including a number of longcases, bracket clocks, at least one watch and three lantern clocks. I have since come across at least ten more of his lantern clocks, which I have noted down, two of which I have owned and are illustrated here. I might well have seen others, but, although I try to keep a record of such things, I must confess to not always remembering to write these things down. By my rough reckoning we therefore know of at least thirteen lantern clocks by him, but there must be others which have escaped my notice.

It begins to be apparent why Haggar and Miller said of Richard Rayment that he was 'one of Suffolk's most important makers' - probably on account of the sheer variety and volume of his output. 'Richard Rayment was not only a fine craftsman, he was also very successful in business', they wrote. He voted in the Suffolk county poll of 1727 as a freeholder at Bury. In 1734 he served as churchwarden at St. Mary's.

All his lantern clocks I have come across had original anchor escapement and long pendulum, as we would probably expect for clocks made after about 1700. All were of what I call 'standard size', as we might expect, which means they stand about fifteen inches high including the top finial. The top finial on all lantern clocks was the highest projecting point and was that feature most prone to damage. This means that the top finial has been replaced on a great many lantern clocks by all kinds of clockmakers, and this is equally true of clocks by Richard Rayment.

Richard Rayment lantern clock
Suffolk lantern clock. Closer view.

Rayment's lantern clocks tend to have a similar style about them. Presumably he had his own individual stylistic preferences, but they conform too to the taste of the day. His dial centres often contain an engraved spray of foliage, usually emanating from the VI numeral and spreading out to each side towards III and IX. So too do lantern clocks by other makers of this period, especially in East Anglia. Rayment's half hours are usually, but not always, marked by what we call lozenge-shaped half-hour markers, being solid, diamond-shaped markers of a simple nature. So too are those on clocks by other makers of this area and period, including Mark Hawkins Senior and genuine lantern clocks by Thomas Moore of Ipswich.

I had to specify a genuine clock by Moore because poor Thomas Moore's clocks are always treated with great suspicion today. This is because about thirty-five years ago a massive number of reproduction clocks were made which bear his name and which faithfully copied his style - probably by virtue of one of his clocks being used as a model. They are said to have been made in eastern Europe and were shipped into Britain in great numbers. At the time they could be bought new, spanking brand new, for about £60.00, which was a bargain for the collector who could not afford the real thing. Unfortunately a number of unscrupulous dealers left them out in the rain to rust and acquire other signs of apparent age. Some are said to have left them buried in soil for a few years to mellow. Some pickled them in acids to produce apparent age pitting in the steel. These fake Thomas Moore lantern clocks crop up every now and then, and it is amusing to see them on sale as genuine clocks by those who either don't know the difference - or perhaps well do know the difference! Often they find their way into auctions. Either way it has frightened many a buyer away from the genuine Thomas Moore examples which come on the market now and then, for he too was a fairly prolific maker.

All lantern clocks have what are called frets, which sit above the dial at the front and sides to fill the vacant space between the top of the movement and the lower rim of the bell. The pattern of frets used by Richard Rayment was often the one incorporating crossed dolphins, strictly said to be sea monsters but known generally as 'dolphin' frets. Sometimes he used a foliate pattern, made up from scrolled foliage - so too did Mark Hawkins Senior. In fairness the fret patterns are probably more a reflection of the common taste of the day than his individual preferences, as the great majority of lantern clocks of the first twenty years of the eighteenth century have 'dolphin' frets.

Richard Rayment had several children, including a namesake son, Richard, but he became a lawyer, and so we don't have the problem with Rayment clocks which we do in trying to distinguish those by Mark Hawkins Senior from those by Mark Junior. Only one of his sons, named Giffin Rayment, became a clockmaker, and Giffin, who was born in 1722, went on to succeed his father in 1754, when he inherited his late father's tools, equipment and shop premises. Giffin's career was short lived, surviving his father for only fifteen years. He died in 1769 aged only forty seven. No lantern clocks seem to be known by Giffin, probably because by the late 1750s the demand for them had largely passed away in favour of longcase clocks.

A clockmaker named William Rayment worked at Stowmarket in Suffolk from about 1706, when he married, till his death about 1760. It is not know just how he was connected to Richard Rayment, if in fact he was related. It is suggested that he might have been Richard's brother - his age would fit that theory - but Haggar and Miller say they could find no proof one way or the other. They recorded one lantern clock by William, and I have since come across three more - again anchor escapement examples with long pendulum. A tally of four lantern clocks is not a bad legacy for a Suffolk maker, but the output of Richard Rayment seems to leave behind that of all his contemporaries with a score to date of thirteen examples.

Copyright © 2013 Brian Loomes

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