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We have had many Vulliamy mantel clocks of this type through our hands over the years and, without exception, they have all been timepieces only, unlike this clock which strikes the hours on a bell. In our opinion it is highly likely that this clock is unique in this style of case.
The case of this clock is in rouge griotte marble and is similar to the other mantel clocks of this type, but is slightly deeper to allow for the larger striking movement and bell. The case is surmounted by a fire gilded eagle and the dial, typical of these clocks, has a snake bezel or ouroboros (which in Greek and Egyptian mythology has the meaning of infinity), and gilded engine turned dial with black Roman numerals and very fine blued steel heart shaped hands. There is gilded brass adornment to the scroll work which holds the drum, and the base has a fine gilded mount of the heads of Silenus and Bacchus. The rouge marble is finely figured with occasional white specs which is typical of this type of marble normally found in the South of France, the Pyrenees and South Belgium. We have seen a small number of Vulliamy mantel clocks with similar marble. The extra depth of the case and the fine mount on the front gives this mantel clock a somewhat more imposing look than some of the more normal examples.
The movement has many of the hallmarks of the more usual timepiece movements to be found in these clocks, including the typical form of pendulum adjustment used by Vulliamy and the shaping of the escapement back cock. It has two chain fusees and finely shaped lever work under the dial. There is a pendulum hold fast screw which is stored on the backplate and fixes the pendulum if required for transportation through an additional slot in the pendulum rod and screw hole at the base of the movement. The movement has five nicely turned pillars. It strikes the hours on a bell mounted on the backplate which is signed and numbered Vulliamy London 729. The back door of the case and the pendulum bob are also numbered. The back door is identical to the few original doors we have seen on other Vulliamy mantel clocks. The pendulum bob is original and would have been numbered but at some stage, either because a new thicker suspension spring was fitted or because it was positioned somewhere not level so that it rubbed the case, it has been turned down to make it slightly lighter and thinner which has removed the number.
Height: 12¼″ (31 cm)
Owned for at least three generations and possibly from new by the Finch-Hatton family. Henry Finch-Hatton was the Earl of Nottingham and the 13th Earl of Winchelsea.
BENJAMIN LEWIS VULLIAMY
Benjamin Lewis Vulliamy was the last of a line of exceptional clockmakers in the Vulliamy family, the first of which was François Justin (always known as Justin Vulliamy), followed by his son Benjamin, and followed by his sons Benjamin Lewis and Justin Theodore.
Benjamin Lewis Vulliamy was born on the 25th January 1780, not a lot is known about his childhood except that he spent most of it at 68 Pall Mall. He joined his father in Pall Mall very early in life, certainly when less than 20 years of age. He received the Freedom of the Clockmakers’ Company in December 1809 and became a liveryman in January 1810 at the age of 30 and was admitted to the Court of Guild in the same year. There he served every office in the Court and was five times elected Master. In his years of service he did much to further the good reputation of the clockmakers’ trade and against increasing odds he succeeded in preserving high standards of craftsmanship which can be seen in almost all of the clocks that he produced.
Unlike his father’s main output, which was of ornamental house clocks and furnishing items, Benjamin Lewis tended to concentrate on using the very best of materials and workmanship in order to give long and trouble free life to his clocks.
The workforce that Vulliamy used were in many instances specialist craftsman or out workers. There were however a number of staff permanently employed at 68 Pall Mall. In particular were members of the Jump family who, after Vulliamy’s death in 1854, went on to found their own famous and very successful business.