The Restoration of a Grandfather Clock by Hugh Knight of Stone
By Peter Hayes.
The text and images below record a point in the life of a Grandfather / Longcase clock which was bought and restored by Peter Hayes of www.hohobird.com during the year 2005. Once completed, the clock went to a new home with a lovely family in Sheffield.
The new owners were given a 'book' recording information we researched about the clock and recording the extent of the restoration work completed.
It is reproduced here as it may be interest to potential customers and those interested in clocks generally. It is of particular interest as the seatboard had clearly never been removed from the case in 225 years!
An 8-day Longcase Clock
Hugh Knight of Stone, Staffordshire
Information about the maker and other clues to dating
According to G.H Baillie's “Watchmakers and Clockmakers of the World”, a Hugh Knight is recorded as working in Stone in 1795 (no range given). There is also a “H. Knight” working in Stafford c1790 (just 7 miles further South) – These are probably the same man.
Joseph McKenna's "Clockmakers & Watchmakers of Central England" lists Hugh Knight in Stone from 1785 to 1798, taking 4 apprentices during that period. He looked after the church clock at Market Drayton.
Brian Loomes' excellent book “Painted Dial Clocks” identifies the style of the dial as Period One (1770-1800).
Styling clues include: Full minute numbering (at 5 minute intervals) ‘Dotted' minute track Short mouth calendar Gold corner painted spandrels, resembling contemporary brass ones
The falseplate, which fits between the movement & the dial, identifies the dial as being made by Osbourne of Birmingham (Thomas Handley Osbourne), who were in operation from 1777-79. He was succeeded by his widow, and later still by their son, through to 1813.
‘Painted Dial Clocks' illustrates (plate 35) an almost identical dial (even the fonts are the same), which is also by Osbourne, which Loomes dates to ‘the late 1780s'.
Hands are often an unreliable dating aid as they are so often replaced. However, we believe both the minute and hour ‘non-matching' blued steel hands to be original to this clock. The Seconds hand was missing and was replaced with a ‘hand-fettled' reproduction of the correct style. (The term ‘non-matching' is to me a little confusing. It refers to the style of the hands rather than attempting to make a judgement of their originality).
Note: On the photographs pre-restoration, the minute hand is ‘cable-tied' to the hood column together with the key. The brass seconds hand shown is a poor quality reproduction.
The design of the movement is typical of clocks from the late 18 th C and offers little clues itself. The plates are thick brass and the pillars well turned.
The pendulum was missing and was replaced. The (matching) weights came with the clock and are more than likely to be the original ones.
We are totally confident that the fine oak case is original to the dial and movement (more later) but it is reassuring to know that it exhibits many of the styling clues one would expect in a late 18 th C case from Staffordshire. (Itself a mixture of North-Western and Western / Midlands styles).
Wavy top door Raised base panel Complex trunk to base moulding Full length door
The case is pleasantly slim (unlike the Lancashire models from 40 miles North) and elegant. We particularly like the canted fluted trunk pillars. We've only sold one other clock with them, which came from Shropshire (just a few miles way from Stone).
Loomes' book illustrates (Plate 113) a clock of 1790 by Evans of Shrewsbury, whose case has many similarities to ours. Some the similarities are so striking that they may have been made by the same case-maker:
The (high) quality of the finely figured oak used The mahogany cross banding which is rather narrower than normal The base panel (although different in shape) with the matching cross banding to the ‘outside' of the base The slightly stretched proportions and the same 6' 10” height
All the above information is very consistent and points to the clock being made in the last quarter of the 18 th C. Without further researching Knight's working dates it's difficult to be more precise. Acknowledging that Brian Loomes has ‘a few' more years experience than the writer, let's take his clues and settle on 1785-90.
Condition & Restorations
The clock was bought from an auction in Cheshire. Due to its desirable proportions and being one of the first painted dial clocks, the sale was well contested and finished (unsurprisingly to the trade) well over estimate! Despite being ‘well-worn' and very dusty, the important factors that make a worthwhile project were all in place.
Despite the depth of dust, the clock had been stored in a dry and (probably warm) place. Many of the joints were loose and a few pieces of case came part as we moved it out of the saleroom!
The biggest fear when buying an expensive clock is that clock has been ‘messed about with' and / or the dial and movement are not original to the case. Most ‘messing' occurs with the seatboard (the plank on which the movement sits). The photos included here hopefully have recorded the 2-hour task we had to very carefully remove (un-nail) the original seatboard from the case cheeks. I'm confident this had never been done since the clock was new! We've retained (and refitted) the original Georgian hob-nails and the leather washers seen in the photographs. Despite the condition of the rest of the clock, the photos clearly show the small areas of the case cheeks that had never been exposed to the air and had retained their original light colour.
Some of the case was quite badly worn and the following repairs were made:
The base (particularly towards the rear) had been affected by damp. This is very normal to find and clearly related to 200 years standing on cold and damp floors.
Although the backboard was quite ‘chewed' at the bottom, we've retained it, as it is an important part of the case's integrity. The plinth around the base was beyond saving and has been replaced using period timber and shaped to the original pattern. All of the loose joints were re-glued The ‘wings', which run vertically at the rear of the hood, were missing and were replaced, stained and polished to match. As usual, the biggest job was simply removing the droplets of emulsion paint covering the sides. As most clock owners are not very confident to dismantle and rebuild their clocks once in situe, and choose instead to paint around them! The clock has retained its beautiful colour and patina, and has only had two ‘hard' waxes since purchase. The variation in colour (light to dark) and the accumulation of dirt in the corners is an important part of the clocks history and (in my opinion) should never be removed. I personally treated the whole case for woodworm and (as a precaution) against rot.
Repairs to the dial were as follows:
Although perhaps it didn't look like it, the painted dial had survived in very good condition. Most importantly, the original white ‘ground' was only missing a few chips and the original ‘signature' was clearly visible when correctly angled to the light (we've tried to capture this in the photos). The full size photocopy supplied manages to capture most of the original signature). Jonathan Nichols who works for Robert Loomes in Stamford restored what damage there was, and did an excellent job with the gold and blackwork. The extent of his work is best seen by contrasting the before and after photos.
Repairs to the movement: The photographs show the movement prior to overhaul. Fortunately the dust had done a good job of protecting the brass (!) and relatively little work was required to overhaul the movement. There were no missing parts.
Photographic record (Before restoration)
Photographic record (After restoration)