Many horologists sneer at marriages of a movement to a different case, but this marriage was made in Heaven! The ebony case was bought by Ronnie Lee, a London dealer. During restoration the Clifton Token was found in the base dated 1663.
Previously Robert Foulkes had told Lee that he had been informed by collector Ilbert that a Mr Saul possessed a very early Fromanteel movement. Eventually Ronnie tracked Saul down near the Witterings on the coast! The movement was made by Ahasuerus Fromanteel in c1658 – only very early Fromanteel clocks have square movement pillars. This feature and upright Roman hour numerals are also seen on the early Fromanteel clock in the Fogg Museum, Harvard. Apparently, the Lee movement had been later converted by Fromanteel himself to an anchor escapement with 11⁄4 second pendulum.
Facsimile of the contract between John Fromanteel of London and Salomon Coster, of the Hague, Holland.
Dated 1657 Facsimile of the contract between John Fromanteel of London and Salomon Coster, of the Hague, Holland, for the production of pendulum clocks between September 1657 and the start of May, following. Long transcribed as Coster teaching Fromanteel, this exhibition offers the alternative interpretation that in fact John was teaching Coster and his workshop staff. This leads to the presumption that Fromanteel, having been let into the secret of Huygens’s invention of the pendulum clock, was engaged by Huygens in developing practical domestic timepieces.
Dated 1657 Salomon Coster, The Hague. Made in 1657 probably by John Fromanteel in Coster’s workshop at The Hague, in Holland. It was made under the terms of the 1657 contract between Coster and Fromanteel (Exhibit 22) as a teaching aid to show Coster’s workmen how to make newly-invented pendulum clocks.
It differs in detail from the ‘Coster’ clock made the following year (Exhibit 24) in the same circumstances, perhaps confirming the role of differing clockmakers in Coster’s workhop, in finishing each clock movement under John’s instruction.
The mechanical specifications of the clock were kept simple, a timepiece running for
21⁄2 days, without any hour strike, making a perfectly performing domestic timekeeper.
It was made to a price, maximising the profit on the sale of these pioneering clocks and
offering greatly more accurate timekeeping than possible before.
Salomon Coster box clock.
Although this is essentially an exhibition of British clocks and it is signed and dated by Salomon, the movement was probably made by John Fromanteel! There are about six of these original box clocks surviving, made over 360 years ago. Within this group, there are some developments taking place. This particular clock appears to be the final development as it has an additional USP – an alarm! The set-up click springs have also been moved from being hidden on the movement side of the backplate onto the outside and turned into an aesthetic feature.
That development takes place in the movements made by John Fromanteel is required in the Contract where ‘John... obliges himself to execute and perfect his handicraft’, giving further veracity that John was no mere apprentice coming to learn the basics
of applying a pendulum to a verge escapement.
Horologium by Christian Huygens.
This very rare pamphlet, Horologium by Christian Huygens, has, as a fold down end plate, the first ever diagram of a pendulum clock with a crutch.
The diagram shows a weight driven wall clock regulated by a half second, silk-suspended pendulum connected by way of a crutch and intermediate (OP in the diagram) gearing to a verge escapement with a vertical crown wheel. The unusual features of a large seconds hand (Σ in the diagram) concentric with the hour hand and a counter clockwise minute hand (Ψ) were necessary if a minimal wheel train, combined with a prominent seconds indication were to be achieved.
Only the silk suspended pendulum is used in the Coster signed clocks (Exhibits 22 and 23), none of the other described design features appear.
The Commonwealth Mercury was published weekly during the Commonwealth period and this page from the edition of 18 November, which also contains a report on the preparations for Cromwell’s funeral, contains one of the first two known advertisements in London for pendulum clocks ‘that go exact and keep equaller time than any now made without this Regulator’. The advertisement by Ahasuerus Fromanteel came just over a year after Huygens had obtained his Dutch patent (but he made no attempt to obtain an English patent! Why?). Fromanteel was not just a clockmaker; he was an entrepreneur. In the second half of the advertisement he is extolling the virtues of his fire engines. Not only for putting out fires they are also perfect for ‘washing Vermin off the Trees and Hops and for the watering of Gardens’.
Ebony and silver mounted wall clock by Ahasuerus Fromanteel
This beautiful early ebony and silver mounted wall clock by Ahasuerus Fromanteel is one of a very small number of London-made clocks constructed in veneered box cases (see also Exhibits 19 and 20). It is wall-hung in a simple rectangular case with the dial and movement hinged to the left side. This clock is technically (fusees and side-by-side wheel trains) and aesthetically (the cast and chaste silver cherub head spandrels are particularly fine) more developed than these other examples suggesting it is of a slightly later date. Its side-by-side movement layout became the ‘standard’ for all future English spring clocks.
Almost immediately the pendulum-making skills taught by John Fromanteel in the Coster workshop (1657-8) spread to other Dutch workshops, as with this clock by Claude Pascal of The Hague, probably made in 1658-9. It closely follows the Fromanteel/Coster (Exhibits 23 and 24) model in the details and construction of the movement, but already a more decorative treatment of the case is evident in the use of turtle-shell veneer to the dial door,
and the movement pillars are now turned, not of square section.
The Norfolk Fromanteel.
On 29 May 1660, Charles II arrived in London on his 30th birthday after setting out for England from Scheveningen. The earliest complete clock designed as a longcase, The Norfolk Fromanteel, has the engraving on the cartouche of a springing horse with an oak sprig in its mouth ‒ from the rebus of the Fitzalan Earl of Arundel, Henry Howard, 6th Duke of Norfolk.
Luckily his house in the Strand escaped destruction in the Great Fire in 1666. Inside, this clock was preserved and probably later presided over meetings of the homeless Royal Society that were held there.
To reduce friction on the pendulum, Fromanteel introduced a roller cage; a forerunner of the roller bearings used today.
The Messer Fromanteel.
The Messer Fromanteel shows an interesting development of a wall clock to a longcase clock. In these early days of the pendulum clock with a short bob pendulum, a weight driven wall clock was less expensive to make than a spring table or bracket clock with complex fusees and difficult to manufacture springs. But these wall clocks had otherwise an obvious disadvantage, a good strong pull and the whole expensive clock crashes to the floor.
This early wall clock still has the lower finials but the hood is now integrated onto a fruitwood veneered oak carcass trunk, stained black to mimic more expensive ebony! Also, the junction between the old ebony hood and the new ebonised trunk looks slightly forced rather than a holistic design.