Act of Parliament dial or Tavern clock. UK origin.

This impressive wall clock form is commonly called and Act of Parliament clock today. In 1797, this term or title came about as a result of a five shilling tax levied on clocks. This was introduced by the Prime Minister William Pitt in order to raise desperately needed money to help fund the war against the French. This tax proved to be extremely unpopular among clockmakers and clock owners and was repealed after only nine months. The result of the tax practically obliterated the clock trade over night. The marketplace for clocks shrunk dramatically and sales of clocks fell off considerably. Owners of clocks began to hide the clocks they owned and in some instances, they were throwing existing clocks away. As a result, tavern owners were happy to display large clocks like this in an attempt to attract patrons. The thought was that patrons would come into their establishments in order to check the time. These owners were hoping that once in the door, they would stay and patronized their establishment. Interestingly, these clocks existed before the tax was levied. They just became more popular after the tax.

Tavern clocks in the UK are generally accepted as the ‘Ultimate wall clocks’. They are now considered somewhat rare clocks and the vast majority of those that do survive are in either very poor condition or fully restored condition because of the nature of the fragile nature of the ‘japanning’ process. The application of building up gesso on a wooden surface is prone to shed or fall off over time. In addition, the conditions in which these clocks were situated was not favorable to the preservation of such applied decoration.

This dial clock is in fine condition. This case form is designed to hang on a wall. This fine example features a large wooden dial that measures approximately 29 inches in diameter. This dial is painted black. The time ring and the case decorations are decorated in gilt paint. The hour numerals are a Roman style and measure approximately 2.5 inches tall. The minute ring is closed and the five minute markers are presented in a an Arabic format. The time is indicated by nicely formed brass hands that retain and older gilt surface. This dial is trimmed with a molded edge around its perimeter. The high surface is also gilt forming a band. This dial is secured to the case with four pegs. Molded ears transition the dial to the drop section. This section is fitted with a large door. The top of the door is shaped to conform the the curvature of the dial. The door is also trimmed with a molded edge and opens to access the weight and the pendulum for adjustment. This waist area is decorated with fanciful gilt patterns around the door frame. The door is decorated with flora themes. An Oriental person is depicted in full stride. The bottom of the case is wonderfully shaped as it returns to the wall.

The movement is constructed in brass and is framed with tapered plates secured by five posts. This sits firmly on a seat board.The five wheel time only train features a recoil escapement and is powered by a cylindrical cast iron weight. It is excellent quality and designed to run eight-days on a full wind.

This clock was made circa 1800 and measures approximately 52 inches long, 29 inches wide and is 7 inches deep.


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