Lantern clocks

Brian Loomes Antique Clocks

Brian & Joy Loomes

Calf Haugh Farmhouse
Street Lane,
Bewerley, Harrogate HG3 5HW

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Antique Clocks


Collecting Antique Clocks A Beginner's Guide to Lantern Clocks

2. 'Bob' pendulum lantern clocks - made between about 1660 and 1680, and sometimes later.

The first form of pendulum, called a short or 'bob' pendulum, was introduced in 1658, and instantly improved timekeeping from plus or minus fifteen minutes a day to within a minute or two a day. The pendulum began in short form, its length barely any deeper than the height between the lantern clock top and bottom plates, around six inches. Sometimes the pendulum was sited outside the back of the clock, sometimes within the clocks' frame itself at the rear. Once you see one you cannot mistake it for anything else. Occasional examples were made with the pendulum swinging in the centre of the clock in a space between the going and striking trains, such types usually called a centre verge pendulum. These are the easiest of all to identify because the central gap between the trains could only have been originally for a bob pendulum.

Different terms are sometimes used to describe a lantern clock with this first type of pendulum - a short pendulum, a bob pendulum, or sometimes a verge pendulum. Its escapement is called a verge escapement. Within twenty years or so, the newer form of anchor escapement and long pendulum (varying in length around a yard or so) was invented, sometimes called a Royal pendulum, and this anchor escapement was exactly the same as used thereafter in a longcase clocks for the next three hundred years.

verge pendulum diagram
Click for closer view

The short pendulum form of lantern clock was not entirely limited to this short span of time, and in some instances it was made for far longer. There were special cases, such as with travelling alarm clocks, where the clock needed to be portable. These were usually in 'miniature' size at about six inches high against the usual fifteen inches - small because they were more easily carried on a journey, short (attached) pendulum because the long (loose) version was far from easy to carry around. Lantern clocks made for exporting, typically 'Turkish Market' clocks, usually had the short, verge pendulum for ease of transporting. Turkish Market clocks were made almost exclusively in London. A clock with the short pendulum was also far less fussy about being level, a further reason they were sometimes made well after the introduction of the much fussier long pendulum.

Lantern clocks with short pendulum were often converted later to long pendulum, for improved timekeeping, sometimes long ago, just as balance wheel clocks had been converted. Today we usually describe an unconverted short pendulum lantern clock as having its 'original verge escapement'. These are now quite scarce. Some verge pendulum clocks which had long ago been converted to long pendulum, were later re-converted back again in more recent years (the last fifty years?) for the benefit of collectors, who liked to think they could see the clock in its 'original' form. Such a clock is called a re-converted verge. Today the practice of re-converting clocks, which have been converted to long pendulum, back to short pendulum has pretty well ceased, as now we accept any conversion as being a natural part of the clock's 'improvement' in its passage through time. A 're-converted verge' lantern clock is not as desirable nor as valuable as an 'original verge' model.

How do we recognise a clock which now has a long pendulum, as originally having been a short pendulum type? The experienced can study the top-plate, which will show empty holes, where features now removed once fitted, and this gets a bit technical. But the very fact that a long pendulum clock has spare (now unused) holes in its top-plate, will reveal that is has been converted - if a right-hand hammer, then from a balance wheel, if a left-hand hammer, then from a short verge pendulum.

This illustrated article is divided into several sections: click on each link to navigate through it.

1. Balance wheel clocks - made between roughly 1610 to 1660 (and a bit later).
Balance wheel clocks were all converted anciently, almost always to long pendulum (anchor escapement) but just occasionally to short pendulum (verge). Some were re-converted later still back to balance.
2. 'Bob' pendulum lantern clocks - made between about 1660 and 1680, and sometimes later.
Bob pendulum clocks (verge) were mostly converted to long pendulum (anchor escapement). Some were re-converted later back to verge. A few retain their 'original verge' escapement.
3. Long pendulum lantern clocks with anchor escapement, from about 1680 to about 1780.
Long pendulum (anchor) clocks always keep their original escapement (except where converted to spring-driven clock, which are a quite separate category).
4. Lantern clocks converted to spring-driven mantel clocks.

Copyright © 2013 Brian Loomes

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