† Lot 236: A very fine George I Burr walnut eight-day longcase clock
George Graham, London, no. 662 circa 1725
Est. £30,000-50,000 (+ fees)
The five latched knopped pillar two train bell striking movement with thick plates measuring 7.625 inches high by 6 inches wide stamped 662 to the lower edge at the rear, the going train with bolt-and-shutter maintaining power, deadbeat escapement with inverted Y-shaped pallets, and regulated by the original brass-rod seconds pendulum with calibrated rating nut reading against a brass nib-piece to the lenticular bob, the rack strike train with finely worked steelwork and extensive use of cocks for the pivots incorporating distinctive sculpted feet screwed to the frontplate, the 12 inch square brass dial with narrow subsidiary seconds ring, shuttered winding holes, calendar aperture incorporating pin adjustment and oval plate signed Geo: Graham, London to the finely matted centre, within applied silvered Roman numeral chapter ring with diamond lozenge half hour markers and Arabic five minutes beyond the minute track, with scrollpierced blued steel hands and double-screwed fine gilt Indian mask and scroll cast spandrels to angles with foliate strapwork engraved infill to the margins between, the right-hand edge with slotted lever for the bolt-and-shutter maintaining power and the lower edge engraved with repeat signature Geo: Graham, London, the movement and dial with original seatboard and secured via a brass T-bracket applied to the inside of the backboard behind the movement, the case with moulded upstand to the domed caddy surmount set on shallow mounded box upstand with cavetto moulded upper edge, over ogee moulded cornice, foliate scroll fretwork frieze and hinged front with glazed dial aperture flanked by three-quarter columns with crisply cast gilt brass capitals and bases to the front angles, the sides with fine scroll-pierced frets and conforming quarter columns set against bargeboards at the rear continuing up past the frieze to meet the underside of the lintel, the trunk with concave throat moulding over 40 inch rectangular door fronted with fine book-matched figured veneers within a slender herringbone border and complex cavetto cross-grain edge mouldings, the interior of the door with remnants of the original paper equation table beneath ivorine service label for CAMERER CUSS and various inventory numbers, the left hand top edge of the door punch stamped 662, the sides veneered with twin herringbone bordered panels within crossbanded surrounds, the plinth base with cavetto top moulding over herringbone bordered book matched veneered front and conforming single panel veneered sides, on cavetto moulded skirt. 224cm (88.25ins) high, 49.5cm (19.5ins) wide, 26cm (10.25ins) deep.
George Graham was born in around 1673 in Kirklinton, Cumberland, but by 1688 he had moved to London and entered into an apprenticeship with Henry Aske. Graham gained his freedom of the Clockmakers’ Company in 1695 and went to work for Thomas Tompion, whose niece, Elizabeth, he married at St. Mary le Bow in September 1704. After the Tompion’s failed partnership with Edard Banger Graham was trusted to become his successor with the two makers entering into a formal a partnership in 1711. On Tompion’s death in 1713 George Graham inherited the business ‘on the corner of Water Lane in Fleet Street’ and continued there until 1720 when he relocated to ‘the Dial and One Crown’ further up Fleet Street, nearer Fleet Bridge.
George Graham maintained the same exacting standards as his former master and also continued the serial numbering system established in around 1680/81. In 1722 he served as Master of the Clockmakers’ Company and went on to establish himself as one of the most important clockmakers of his generation. Amongst his achievements was the further development of the deadbeat escapement, invention of the mercury compensated pendulum and the cylinder watch escapement. As well as clocks and watches George Graham was also a highly accomplished maker of scientific instruments with perhaps his most famous creation being the planetarium made for Charles Boyle, Earl of Orrery. He also produced the great mural quadrant for Edmund Halley at Greenwich observatory, also a fine transit instrument and the zenith sector used by James Bradley in his discoveries. Through his observations in testing his very highly regarded compasses Graham also discovered the diurnal variation in the terrestrial magnetic field in 1722/23.
George Graham also became an ardent supporter of John Harrison in the development of his marine chronometers to the extent that he forwarded an interest free private loan of £200 to Harrison to facilitate the building of H1.
George Graham died in 1751 and was buried next to his former master in Westminster Abbey, leaving the business in the hands of a former apprentices, Samuel Barclay and Thomas Colley. George Graham’s legacy is perhaps best reflected by the subsequent work of another former apprentice, Thomas Mudge, who went on to continue in the development of the marine chronometer after Harrison, and to invent the lever watch escapement.
The present clock is a fully-developed ‘textbook’ example of George Graham’s highly refined design of longcase clock produced from just prior to 1720 until around the time of his death in 1751. Very much following in his former master’s footsteps the fully latched movement incorporates bolt-and-shutter maintaining power, very finely finished delicate steelwork and extensive use of cocks for the under-dial motion and strike work. The escapement is of ‘Graham’ deadbeat type however this design of escapement was first used by Tompion for two regulators for Greenwich observatory in 1776. The original pendulum is a nice, relatively rare survivor and allows precise adjustment via the calibrated rating nut reading against a nib-piece applied to the large lenticular bob. The dial is beautifully finished with engraving between spandrels executed by Tompion’s engraver ‘G515’ (see Dzik, Sunny ENGRAVING ON ENGLISH TABLE CLOCKS, Art on a Canvas of Brass 1660-1800 page 224). The case is beautifully proportioned with sophisticated mouldings and very well chosen tight-grained veneers laid to exhibit their fine figuring to best effect. The extensive use of fine scroll-pierced frets is a Tompion/Graham trait and details such as herringbone bordered crossbanded panels to each side of the plinth demonstrate an attention to detail beyond any other maker of the period.
Amongst George Graham’s surviving walnut longcase clocks, number 661 (the preceding serial number to that of the present clock) was offered at Bonham’s, London, sale of Fine Clocks 9th December 2008, (lot 141 - with no caddy superstructure present) for £80-120,000; and was more recently sold (with a restored caddy) by Ben Wright, Tetbury for an undisclosed sum. Number 681 is known as ‘The Cay Graham’ as it still retains its original record of sale to Robert Cay (1649-1754) in 1728. The movement and dial of this example are essentially identical to that of the present clock and the case has only slight variations noticeable in the laying of the veneers and provision of finials. ‘The Cay Graham’ was sold by Carter Marsh, Winchester as part of The Tom Scott Collection in May 2015 against an asking price of £250,000. Also in The Tom Scott Collection was number 734 (circa 1739) known as ‘The Buccleuch Graham’ due to its provenance. Again, very similar to the current lot, but with some later evolution such as ogee-shaped caddy to the hood, number 734 sold against an asking price of £195,000.
George Graham’s clocks can be best described as the ‘Rolls Royce’ of 18th century clock making. The present example, walnut eight-day longcase clock number 662, survives in good original condition and benefits from being offered for the first time in at least 100 years.