A fine first half of the 18th century silver-mounted ebony...
A fine first half of the 18th century silver-mounted ebony table clock with pull quarter repeat
George Graham, London, no.700, circa 1730
The 'Phase 3' case surmounted by a tied bud handle on an inverted bell top with fine mouldings and a double concave moulded cornice, each side with tall arched rectangular glazed windows, on a concave moulded base and block feet, the front door with red silk-backed sound fret to the top rail, and twin applied gilt metal escutcheons, the rear door with glazed panel.
The brass dial measuring 5.5ins by 6.5ins, (143mm x 165mm) signed Geo: Graham London between the silvered subsidiary dials, the left offering regulation via a rack and pinion system, the right offering the option of strike/silent, each dial set over a cast silver half-spandrel of foliate scrolls, the lower spandrels both double-screwed and depicting a mask and twin scrolls, the silvered Roman and Arabic chapter ring with floating lozenge half hour markers, the finely matted centre with chamfered mock pendulum and date apertures (the date with pin-hole adjustment) under pierced blued steel hands.
The twin chain fusee movement with pivoted verge escapement, the pendulum with lenticular bob and sprung suspension screwed to a tear-drop shaped cock on the rise and fall arm; the striking train with rack system and Tompion-type quarter repeat mounted on the cut-out frontplate and activated via pull cords to each side of the case engaging with a pair of interlocking double-cocked blued steel levers, the movement securing brackets of a similar form. The backplate plain except for the bold signature across the lower part Geo: Graham London, and the number 700 punched along the bottom edge. Ticking, striking and operational repeat system. Together with two case keys and a crank winding key.
22cm wide x 15cm deep x 37cm high, (8 1/2in wide x 5 1/2in deep x 14 1/2in high)
Little is known about the early life of the extraordinary watch and clock maker George Graham (circa 1673-1751). He was probably around fourteen years old when apprenticed to clockmaker Henry Aske in 1688. His indenture records that by then his father, also named George, had died and that his previous home had been Fordlands in Cumberland. In 1696 having gained his freedom, the young George Graham joined the workforce of Thomas Tompion (1639-1713) at the Dial and Three Crowns on the corner of Water Lane and Fleet Street. By 1696 Tompion's business was thriving and produced the finest clocks and watches in a distinctive 'house style', each piece with its own unique number. September 25th, 1704, saw the marriage of George Graham and his master's niece, Elizabeth Tompion, at St. Mary-le-Bow Church.
At this time Edward Banger (who had also married into his master's family) was Tompion's business partner and had been so for around three years. But the partnership was ill-fated and ended circa 1708. Whatever the reason behind Banger's sudden fall from grace, it ultimately placed Graham as Tompion's successor. Close to the end of Tompion's life, he elevated George Graham to business partner. During this period, Graham's intellect and interest in astronomy begins to shine through the 'house style', when he produced an accurate three-dimensional mechanical model of the Earth, Moon and Sun. His device became commonly known as the Orrery. After Tompion's death in 1713, Graham continued the business in the same manner as his late partner at the Dial and Three Crowns. In 1720 he moved to premises a little nearer to Fleet Bridge, retaining the sign of the Dial and Three Crowns. The 1720s were a highly significant and productive period for George Graham. In the early years of that decade he served as Master of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers as well as being elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. Graham developed the cylinder escapement and first applied it to his watches circa 1726, apparently abandoning use of the verge escapement entirely. Graham did not claim invention of the cylinder escapement. Like the dead-beat escapement in clocks, the cylinder was an improvement of an earlier design.
Like his late master, Graham made a number of important astronomical instruments. By applying his skill as a watchmaker to the precise construction of astronomical instruments he was able to create telescopes of unprecedented quality. Two notable examples are the eight-foot mural quadrant made for second Astronomer Royal, Edmond Halley and the twelve-foot zenith sector made for James Bradley. Bradley used his sector to identify two astronomical phenomena: the aberration of light and the subtle wobbling of the Earth on its axis (nutation). His frequent election to the council of the Royal Society gives a good indication to the high regard his contemporaries in the Society had for him.
Graham named two of his workmen, Samuel Barkley and Thomas Colley, as executors in his will. He also mentioned that they lived in his house on Fleet Street. Barkley and Colley carried on the business as partners, though Samuel Barkley died soon after in June 1753. It is interesting to note that Thomas Colley named his son, born in 1756, George Graham Colley.
We are grateful to Jeremy Evans and Rory McEvoy in their help in compiling this footnote.