Clock making in Nantwich

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.”

Nantwich Artists

hsjones

Herbert St John Jones

DURING the first quarter of the 20th century, Herbert St John Jones, an artist in both water colour and oils, was an animal painter with a reputation for excellence throughout the United Kingdom.

He was born in 1872 in Shrewsbury and at the age of four or five moved to Nantwich where he lived until he died in May 1939. The Nantwich Museum Trust acquired a portfolio of his water colours. His output was prolific and there are very many of his paintings in private hands, locally.

In 1956, a local newspaper recorded: “As a boy, Herbert St John Jones would sketch on any scrap of paper he could find and spend hours watching the ‘hunting gentlemen’ who visited the Brine Baths Hotel. Nantwich was then the centre of the hunting world and the boy Jones learned to love horses and hounds. He studied them in every detail, their finer points and temperament. He grew to know them all by name and many of his later portraits were drawn from memory at his Hospital Street Studio”.

He lived with his sister at 13 Shrewbridge Road (now demolished and replaced by a house built in 1939) and had a studio – number 1b – on the second floor above the shops built in 1897 at the end of Hospital Street adjoining the Square approached by an entry next to the yard of G. F. & A. Brown and Sons, wine and spirit merchants (right).

He kept a book into which he copied appreciative letters from his distinguished and aristocratic clients each one embellished with the writer’s coat of arms fully achieved.

“The list of names is long,” said the newspaper, “and includes Lord Crighton, Lord Gough, Lady Holland of Poole Hall, Baron William von Schroeder of the Rookery, Worleston, and the Duke and Duchess of Westminster.”

“King Edward VII (see footnote) commissioned a painting of his Hereford bull, Earlsfield. The Duchess of Teck from Windsor Castle expressed her approval of the painting of her pony, Southern Cross. A portrait of the world champion jumper, All Fours, painted at the 1909 International Horse Show at Olympia, is also recorded.”

Herbert St John Jones was a well known character about the town. He wore a straw boater winter and summer and a very high stiff collar about his neck. Like many artists he was frequently short of cash and locals were often happy to take a painting in settlement. It was believed that Edward Brown arranged that he should be allowed to run his bill up to £40 when it would be discharged by a picture. These were hung in G. F. & A. Brown’s premises, and on its cessation the purchasing brewery transferred the paintings to its new public house in Runcorn.

Perhaps his most outstanding painting is an oil of the thoroughbred called Satan which belonged to Billy Brown who had stables in Marsh Lane. Satan was a most vicious animal and in one outburst killed its groom. In the horse’s expression and posture, the portrait perfectly expresses the acme of equine savagery. Although hunters were the most frequent subject he also painted cart horses, horses in harness, hounds, meets of hounds, cattle and dogs.

His strangest painting, which attracted considerable notice, was entitled “Angels of Mons” and depicted the legend of this spiritual phenomenon in which a troop of flying, white-robed angels turned back the charging German cavalry away from the British infantry during the 1914-18 war.

He also left paintings of old Nantwich created presumably from photographs and later in life he painted many attractive signs for Nantwich inns.

Townsend tosee

highst

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA StMarysN_

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA