Samuel Toulmin from the Strand in the city of London, England. A tall case clock. 221235.

This formal mahogany longcase clock is constructed on a grand scale. It measures an impressive 102 inches or 8 feet 6 inches tall. The double break-arch bonnet houses an unusual vitreous enamel dial signed, “Sam Toulmin Strand / London.”

Samuel Toulmin is listed in Brian Loomes’ “Watchmakers and Clockmakers of the World” as working before 1757 through 1783. The city of London had been the leading center of clockmaking for more than 100 years. As a result, clocks made there were of the latest style and often of the best quality. A watch paper in the collection of the British Museum records “Sam. Toulmin / Watch & Clock-Maker / at the Dial in / Burleigh Street / near Exeter Change / in the Strand, / LONDON.” Several clocks are known.

This case is a fully developed London form. All three sections, the base, waist, and hood, are nicely appointed with decorative details. This case is built to a larger scale and features masculine proportions. The quality of the mahogany selected is first-rate, and much of it is vibrantly grained. A double-stepped bracket base raises the cabinet off the floor in a grand fashion. The design incorporates an unusual foot pattern scrolled out of the lower board. This pattern includes two fancy-shaped drops. A crotch veneered mahogany panel is applied to the front of the base. The vibrantly figured veneer used to decorate this panel is positioned horizontally. This panel, having relieved corners, is framed with applied moldings. The forward-facing vertical edges of the base are fitted with brass stop fluted quarter columns. These terminate in brass quarter capitals. The waist section is long and narrow. It is also flanked with brass stop fluted quarter columns that terminate in brass quarter capitals. A modified tombstone-shaped waist door provides access to the two brass-covered lead drive weights and the brass-faced pendulum bob inside the case. An applied molding trims this door and frames the highly figured crotch mahogany veneer selected for this location. The bonnet or hood is designed with a complex arch molding. This high-style decorative London element incorporates several arch moldings, a blind frieze panel, and fluted moldings at the corners. Three fluted finial plinths are mounted at the top of the case. Each supports a brass ball and spike finial. Large rectangular-shaped sidelights are fitted with glass and positioned in the sides of the hood. Brass stopped fluted bonnet columns are mounted in brass Doric-shaped capitals, and they flank the arched formed bonnet door. This door is fitted with glass and opens to access the vitreous enamel dial.

Tall case clocks featuring vitreous enamel dials are difficult to find in the marketplace. Primarily because it requires a complex and time-consuming process to manufacture, this new dial form was experimented with as early as the mid-1750s. Along with the development of the painted iron dials, it was a substitute or replacement for the expensive composite brass dial. They also offered the advantages of being much easier to read and allowed the introduction of colors. The vitreous dial is constructed from glass powder that must be fused onto a copper base at high temperatures. This process requires at least two separate firings before the painted decoration can be applied. Once decorated, the dial was again re-fired at a low temperature. These enamel panels needed to be supported. As a result, they are affixed to a brass frame or substructure. The very nature of these dials being enamel would put them at significant risk due to their large size. Due to its smaller size requirements, a more widespread application for this dial form was the occasional use on bracket clocks. This enamel dial format was more commonly used on pocket watches of the period. A small number of tall clocks are known to us with this very unusual dial. They include five London signed tall clocks. The first three examples were made by Samuel Toulmin. Frans Dela Balle and James Upjohn signed the fourth and fifth clocks. A sixth example is signed by a Sheffield clockmaker, Thomas Andrews.

This dial is an arched form and measures 17 inches tall and 12 inches across. The vitreous enamel is a soft cream color. A brass frame forms the structure. The five enamel panels are secured to the frame with rivets. You may also notice that the enamel panels are not flat. Many of them have a slightly convex shape. The rococo scrolls and the birds are decorated with pink color and gilding. This color has faded since it was first applied. The bold Roman-style hours, dotted minute ring, Arabic-style five-minute markers, and ten-second increments on the seconds’ dial and the Silent / Strike are painted black. The Clockmaker’s signature and working location are displayed in a fluid script above the hour of VI. The lunette features a selector hand that turns the striking mechanism on or off. This can be achieved by rotating the pointer to the position desired.  

The two-train movement is brass, eight-day duration, and of good quality. As is the London tradition, five turned pillars or posts support the two large cast brass plates. Hardened steel shafts support the polished steel pinions and the brass gearing. The works incorporate a recoil escapement and a rack and snail striking arrangement. This clock strikes each hour on a bell mounted above the works. The winding drums are grooved to accept the weight cords in an orderly fashion. All of this is powered by two brass-sleeved weights. The movement is secured to a wooden seatboard that sits on the rails of the case. The pendulum hangs behind the mechanism from a bridge. A brass-faced lead bob is at the bottom of a metal rod.

This clock was made circa 1775 and is approximately 102 inches or 8 feet 6 inches tall to the top of the center finial. English clocks of this quality are a treat to see.

This fine clock is inventory number 221235.

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