Collecting Antique Clocks William Cockey of Wincanton
William Cockey was born in December 1663 at Warminster, son of Lewis Cockey, a brazier, bellfounder and clocksmith (born 1626, died 1711). Lewis's widow died in 1717. William was a member of a family who became very famous for their clockmaking and bellfounding.
William's father, Lewis Cockey, continued to work in Warminster for the rest of his life. His elder brother, Lewis Cockey junior, pewterer and bellfounder, moved to work in Frome in 1682 and died there in 1703.
His younger brother, Edward, remained at home to work with his father, then later became the most famous of them, making some exceptionally complicated astronomical clocks for local nobility. Edward was born 1669, working by 1692, married at Totnes (Devon) 1695, where he was buried in 1768, though they were living in Warminster, certainly by 1699. Edward Cockey first performed work at Longleat, ancestral home of Lord Weymouth, in the form of brazier work in 1701. The Longleat clocks had been tended to by James Delaunce of Frome between 1694 and 1705 and then by James Clarke of Frome from 1703. About 1706 Edward Cockey gave a quotation for making an astronomical clock for the Great Hall there. Edward eventually completed this and made five other such longcase clocks, as well as musical longcases and several bracket clocks, besides more 'commonplace' clocks. He became the most famous clockmaker in the family, probably because he had the custom of the local aristocracy early in his career.
William Cockey's work was of a much more modest nature, far more typical of a country clockmaker who did not have wealthy patronage. He had already moved to work in Wincanton, Somerset, by 1692. In that year he was church warden, as he was again in 1693, 1703 and 1711, in which latter year he was paid for repairing the town clock. He repaired it again in 1719 and 1721, when he also re-cast the church bell. He is not heard of after 1721, at which time he would have been about fifty-eight years old. We know little about his life or work, but it was certainly not on the grander scale of his brother Edward. A William Cockey who made clocks in Yeovil, Somerset, from at least 1732 must be a quite different person, as he was still working there in 1761 and perhaps later.
He took two apprentices that we know of from the written records:
24th October 1718 William Cockey, brazier, took on John Haden for £5.0s.0d
7th March 1720 William Cockey, clockmaker, took on Thomas Lawes, son of Ann Lawes of Alford, Wiltshire, for seven years for £20.0s.0d. Thomas Lawes is not recorded later as a clockmaker.
The big differences in the premium paid suggest the former was to train as a brazier, the latter in the more complicated trade of a clockmaker.
Three other lantern clocks are known by William Cockey, apart from this present one:
1. An example is pictured (loose dial sheet only) in George White's book 'English Lantern Clocks' signed William Cockey in Wincalton Fecit', having a much older dial design not too well engraved. This clock has a tic-tac escapement, believed to be an attempt to use a short pendulum with the advantage of an anchor-type escapement. It has one-piece (integral casting) pillars, very fancy and very different from the present one. In that clock William places the hammer and lifting arbors all together on the left of the clock, for reasons unknown and offering apparently no benefit. This meant having special one-off castings for the cross bars, probably another sign that he did his own castings. The spelling of Wincanton is odd. Wincanton was also anciently sometimes Wincanuton. Perhaps Wincalton is an attempt at writing what was pronounced as Wincanuton. It could be thought of as an engraver's error, but for the fact that it seems that William Cockey did his own engraving. An engraved brass plate survives marking the burial place in the church of South Brewham of Edward Bennet and his wife Susanna and son. The plaque is dated 1691 and signed 'Guliel Cockey de Wincanlton'. This would seem to be an attempt by William to Latinise Wincanton as Wincanulton.
2. A much-altered lantern clock has been recorded by Jim Moore in his book 'Somerset Clockmakers' by William Cockey of Wincanton, converted much later to fusee movement. He also records five longcase clocks by him.
3. Another lantern clock by William Cockey is said by George White to be in Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, its condition not known.
The only other lantern clock recorded at all by the Cockey family, apart than those by William, is one by Edward Cockey of Warminster, the most famous of the Cockey family of clockmakers, which demonstrates that even he was not above making lantern clocks. This was sold at auction in 1972 and later stolen from its owner, its whereabouts now unknown.
So lantern clocks by the Cockeys are very rare. Being a brassfounder it is highly possible that William made his own castings. His pillars were solid, that is with integral finials and feet cast in the one piece, which was normal practice in this part of England (the West Country), but his pillars are distinctively slender and elongated in the finials and foot section (pillar height 10.75 inches, plate width 6 inches, plate depth 5.75 inches, chapter ring diameter 6.5 inches, chapter ring width 1.5 inches). This means they are probably unique to his clocks. The only other maker in the area with pillars this tall was James Delaunce of Frome, but his pillars are distinctly different, which probably means that both Delaunce and Cockey cast their own, as these could not be bought 'off the shelf'.
This clock has its original verge escapement, unusual to be preserved today on any lantern clock of this sort of age. It has the original hand, cast in brass. Brass hands were unusual but were known in the West Country. Not surprising that a brazier should cast his own hand, rather than making one in steel.
The clock is offered for sale 'as is', that is in working order, but it would benefit from being cleaned & serviced. This way the purchaser can decide whether or not to have it polished, which is a personal preference. We can carry out any work so required.
Copyright © 2013 Brian Loomes
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