by Andrew Lamberton
ALTHOUGH Nantwich is noted for its salt, leather and clothing trades, it is not generally appreciated that the town was an important centre for clock making.
The museum has catalogued as many Nantwich-made clocks as possible. Photographs have been taken of each clock and a description has been included. The catalogue consists of a number of easy-to-use folders, with clocks listed under makers in chronological order.
The longcase clocks start with Thomas Talbot who was producing high quality eight-day movements around 1700, progressing through the well-known Gabriel Smith soon after, to John Naylor with his famous astronomical clock. Gabriel Smith started clock making at Barthomley, near Nantwich.
Other makers of note include James Green, Thomas Birchall and John Stanyer – who appears to have been the most prolific of all, judging by the number of clocks located (22).
All these makers produced brass dial clocks with fine engraving. Around 1773, painted dials started to appear and eventually replace the brass dial and there are several examples of brass and painted dial clocks by the same maker.
Later makers of some note include Joseph Walker, William Massey, William Palin and James Topham (one of whose clocks is pictured).
It is very pleasing to record that the industry is still alive in and around Nantwich. About 1975, John Craven made five clocks including one regulator, and more recently Peter Matravers produced three, and Geoff Gray 14. At present there are three local makers and their clocks are recorded and catalogued in the modern section.
Altogether more than 140 clocks have been located and catalogued.
Nantwich clocks were covered in some detail in a catalogue for a previous exhibition at the museum, “Nantwich Clockmakers” by A.A.Treherne, published in 1985. More than 100 names were listed together with biographies where appropriate. Unfortunately, copies of the booklet are no longer on sale.
The Nantwich Clockmakers and their clocks
HERE, in chronological order, are the number of clocks known to exist.
Thomas Talbot 6, Gabriel Smith 8, John Naylor 3, Samuel Young 5, Cartwright 1, James Green 13, John Green 1, Thomas Moyle 1, Thomas Birchall 11, Abraham Butler 1, John Kitchen 1, John Lloyd 1, John Stanyer 22, Kitchen and Lloyd 5, Joseph Walker 8, Enoch Hawksey 3, John Salmon 4, Joseph Symcock 2, Thomas Clowes 2, Thomas Cross 3, William Massey 8, George Walker 1, James Topham 6, William Palin 5, Joseph Tomkinson 3, John Palin 3, A.Palin, 1, J.Wilkinson 1.
Modern makers: John Craven 5, P.Matravers 3, Ron Maddocks 2, Jack Boffey 2, Ron Porteous 2, Geoff Gray 5.
The Millennium Clock
ALTHOUGH not one of the museum exhibits, the Millennium Clock will be of interest to clock enthusiasts. It stands in the Cocoa Yard next to the museum.
It was made to celebrate the Millennium in Nantwich by clockmaker Paul Beckett of Caernarfon, and is now on show in a glass case in front of a 19th century burner – all that remains of a coach manufactory.
Local schoolchildren took part in design workshops in the run-up to the production of the clock.
Its up-to-the-minute design includes three dials – one each for the hours, minutes and seconds. Artwork on the case helps in telling the time.
Other engraved symbols on the case mark various aspects of the town – a design to be found on Tudor buildings in Nantwich, the phoenix rising from the flames of the Fire of Nantwich (1583), the Civil War, a cocoa plant representing the Cocoa Yard, dairy farming, the general music of the area, salt deposits, cheese making, clothing and shoes.
Paul Beckett’s website said: “The Nantwich Millennium clock is a mechanical clock which is electronically rewound. It is housed in a plannar glass case. It is constructed from stainless steel, titanium, lead crystal and ceramic. It is a free-standing clock which is intended to invite the viewer to explore how time is created mechanically.”