A remarkable and complicated clock showing astronomical and tidal displays by James Ferguson and William Dutton of London circa 1775.

The present clock is described and illustrated in Ferguson’s 1773 compendium Select Mechanical Exercises: Shewing how to construct different Clocks, Orreries and Sundials. Where he notes in requires “…only two Wheels and a Pinion added to the common Movement.” (It may be of interest to note that the Nantucket clockmaker Walter Folger Jr. had a copy of this book when he built his masterpiece now in the Nantucket Historical Association.) From 1768, Ferguson lived in Bolt Court, off the Strand in London. His neighbors included the clockmakers Thomas Mudge and William Dutton with whom he was well acquainted. He was a friend of Dr. Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia, USA. While it is most probable that Ferguson himself made and painted the dial and its moving parts, the fine “common movement” with its two extra wheels and additional motion work was made by William Dutton.

In my reading, it appears that only four of these complicated clocks were made by this maker. This example is one of wo that includes all known complications associated with him. The other example differs in that it is a three train example. William Dutton’s work and level of skill has been compared to both Thomas Tompion and George Graham.

The case:

This case is constructed in mahogany and features a excellent figure. It stands up off the floor on six compressed ball feet positioned at the corners of the five side base platform. The base transitions to the waist section through the use of several different molding profiles. The waist section is long and is constructed in the form of a fluted column. An access door is also located in this section. The top of the column features a scroll work that is in the form of a Doric capital. The column visually supports the hood or bonnet. This hood is three dimensionally formed. The hood features an arched top and four free standing columns. This case was most likely made in the late 18th / early 19th century.

The movement:

This fine movement is constructed in brass and is good quality. Four knobbed pillars support the two large brass plates. Hardened steel shafts support the polished steel pinions and brass gearing. The winding drums are grooved. The escapement is designed as a recoil format. The pendulum is suspended from the rear post with an iron strap. It is calibrated with a rating nut positioned below the brass bob. The movement is weight driven and designed to run eight days on a full wind. It is a two train or a time and strike design having a rack and snail striking system. As a result, it will strike each hour on the hour. This is done on a cast iron bell which is mounted above the movement.

The dial:

The painted dial and the wheelwork of this dial are attributed to James Ferguson (1710-1776) of London. Ferguson was one of the most highly regarded and successful popularizers of the natural sciences in the 18th century. This dial displays…

Top Center. This is a painted view of London Bridge. Interestingly an automated shutter that is painted to look like water raises and lowers from the bottom of the scene to indicate the level of the tide at London Bridge. This painted scene was copied from a 1751 engraving by Thomas Bowles.

Top left. This window displays the sign of the current constellation or zodiac. The numerical value is the length of the constellation in days. Top right. This displays a pictorial representation of the ruling deity of the day of the week and the day of the week. Bottom left. This is the calendar date. Bottom right. This displays the calendar month and number of days in that month.

Chapter ring. This is shown in a 24 Roman numeral hour format. The hour hand is in the shape of the sun. The rotates once around the time ring in 24 hours. The minute hand is a serpentine form. It also makes a full revolution in 24 hours. With in the time time is a compass rose and the degree markings.

Inside the compass ring is a display that includes: The globe which is displayed in a slightly convex form. The night sky painted blue and displaying multiple gold stars. A visual representation of the moon phase A numerical representation of the age of the moon. The moon’s meridia is numerically displayed. The time of high water at London Bridge. The lunar calendar month is commonly depicted as 29.5 days in length. The true length of the lunar month is a period that equals 24 hours 50.5 minutes.

To the left of the time ring is a scale that depicts the “Sun’s meridian altitude” and the time the “Sun Sets.” To the right of the time ring is a scale that depicts the the “Length of Twilight” and the time the “Sun Sets.”

This clock is inventory number VV-31.

About William Dutton of London, England.

William Dutton is thought to have been born in 1720 and served his apprenticeship under the famous George Graham of London in 1738. He completed his apprenticeship in 1746 when he became a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers. In circa 1750, he became a partner to the famous Thomas Mudge, another apprentice of George Graham. Their business was located at No. 148 Fleet Street, London. T his address was used by the Dutton family for several generations. William and Thomas Mudge were two of the developers of the Lever Escapement for use in watches. In 1771, William took over Mudge’s company when Thomas moved to Plymouth. William entered the Livery of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers in 1766. About 1775, William took his sons into partnership and they traded under the firm name of W. Dutton & Sons, London, as well as still trading as Dutton & Mudge. The partnership with Thomas Mudge was not dissolved until 1790, and the Dutton & Mudge name still appeared on items until Mudge’s death. William and Thomas Mudge both died in 1794. William had two sons, Matthew and Thomas.


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