31930  VULLIAMY, NO 518.


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A large and impressive Vulliamy lion mantel clock. The clock dates from the time when both Benjamin and his son, Benjamin Lewis, were working together. The case, similar to the other lion clocks but significantly wider, has the large lions that were modelled ‘from nature’ by the sculpture James Smith. These larger lions, unlike the more normal size ones, are hollow as are the large lions on clock number 876 that we also own. The lions on the smaller clocks were normally cast solid. The eagle which surmounts the dial is unusual in the fact that it is mounted on a Roman style thunderbolt. Most other eagles are mounted directly onto the marble. The stepped plinth has finely cast and gilded decoration to the front and the sides and the clock stands on gilded bun feet. The mercury fire gilding on all of the lion clocks we have handled, including this one, is of the finest quality and in almost all instances they have retained their original gilding with only slight imperfections.

The dial is again typical of these lion clocks and is gilded and surrounded by a snake bezel, a form of ouroboros which in Greek and Egyptian mythology has the meaning of infinity.

The eight day chain fusee movement has a half deadbeat escapement, pendulum adjustment from the dial, and is signed and numbered for the maker on the backplate Vulliamy London 518, and also numbered 518 on the front plate. The dial plate is similarly numbered 518. It has its original numbered pendulum.

We have a number of Vulliamy lion clocks in our possession at present and have a lot of information about the numbering of various parts of these clocks and the size and type of eagles, lions and embellishments. For further reading on these clocks see Roger Smith Vulliamy Lions, Their Designers and Modellers. We have one other large lion clock slightly bigger than this clock, and with slightly larger lions, very similar to these but not identical. That is clock number 876.

Height: 12 ¼” (31 cm)
Width: 15 ½” (39.5 cm)


The clock was sold at Sotheby’s in 1970 and was the property of Lady Camoys of Stonor Park, Oxfordshire.


Benjamin was probably the most widely talented and artistic member of this clockmaking family. He was born in 1747 and died in 1811. His skills not only related to his clock and watch making but also to the case work and artistic side of the business. He was granted the Royal Appointment as the King’s Clockmaker in 1773 and, although his father had sold many clocks to George III, it was Benjamin who developed the connection and gave personal advice on horological matters in which the King was keenly interested.

He is known principally for his fine ornamental clocks, many with biscuit porcelain figures and ormolu decoration in the French taste. However, he also made a number of fine regulators, one in particular made in 1775 for the Royal Family is now in the Science Museum, although another regulator is still at Buckingham Palace.

In 1781 he was admitted to the Clockmakers’ Company as an Honorary Freeman.


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.

Restoration Notes:-

The clock was in good condition and working well.

1) It did not have an original key and so we made a key to the Vulliamy pattern and numbered it 518 as would the original key have been.
2) We did not need to overhaul the movement which appeared to have been done not long ago.
3) We checked the case embellishments and removed the gilded lions to confirm that they had their original gilding (they did) and to confirm whether they were solid or hollow. They were hollow, as they should be. The other case embellishments also have their original gilding.

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Vulliamy, No 518: Price £34,000

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