It would be wonderful to have this unique piece of horological history, an English lantern clock. I am trying to negotiate a price, the trouble is I do not want to pay much for it but I am afraid once the seller discovers that it is worth a lot of money it will be too rich for me.

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Lantern clock converted to a fusee movement

Lantern clocks have a very interesting history going as far back as the 16th century. They are the first type of clock widely used in homes in England as the middle class began to prosper. There are many theories as to why it is called a lantern clock but because it was hung on a wall like a lantern usually on an ornate shelf the name stuck. Although some were made of steel almost all were made of brass. It is a wall clock with square bottom and top plates surmounted by a large bell, four corner pillars, a series of vertical plates positioned behind each other, an hour hand, and proportionately large clock dial, and a 30-hour movement with one or more weights.

Originally lantern clocks are weight driven and not barrel driven like this one. Seventeenth century and eighteenth century lantern clocks almost always have a single hand. This clock is a later date of manufacture or perhaps a conversion. Brian Loomes, a specialist clock dealer, in his book on lantern clocks traces their evolution from the early 1600 through the mid 1700 when they went out of style. 

Early ones had a balance wheel escapement. Around 1660 the pendulum was created and these clocks used a verge escapement and then transitioned to a long pendulum around 1680. The dial plate engravings were particularity intriguing and often had the maker’s name.

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Side view of fusee clock

The one you see here is either a fusee conversion made sometime in the 19th century or a 19th century copy of a lantern clock using a fusee movement. If it was a conversion additions such as the winding arbor hole and the minute hand were made when the “newer” movement was installed. There are two reasons why a clock would be converted, to stave off obsolescence (changing a clock from 30 hours to an 8-days) and to increase the accuracy of the clock. If converted the bell becomes ornamental. As the 8-day tall-case clock became popular in England the lantern clock began to disappear but continued to be made in the rural areas until the middle of the 18th century. Although many were discarded some, such as this one, were converted.

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Usually there is a maker’s name on the clock face

POSTSCRIPT

Despite emails going back and forth, and active discussion on a fair price, the deal fell through. It is unfortunate since it would be been nice to have a interesting piece of horological history.