Make time to see historic clocks exhibition in Lewes

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How did a well-to-do family in 17th century England tell the time? A forthcoming exhibition in Lewes will reveal all.

With a growing and affluent middle class who desired accuracy, great craftsmanship and convenience, there was an increasing demand for clocks in private homes.

To provide for this, a new style of pre-pendulum lantern or ‘house clock’ was developed by highly-skilled English clockmakers, which evolved from the iron clock that had been made in Europe in the 16th century and which wealthy households had imported into this country.

Made of brass and keeping time to within a few minutes, these early English lantern clocks were the first available domestic clocks; ideal for the new merchant class.

To celebrate this highly innovative period in English clock-making history, Bill Bruce, one of the country’s foremost antique clock experts, has put together a fascinating new exhibition at his Lewes showroom which offers a rare opportunity to see some of the finest surviving examples of these elegant, early English clocks.

It runs from November 30 until December 14 at the North Street venue. Visit for further details and opening times.

Seventeen lantern clocks have been selected for this exhibition (eight of which are for sale), with examples by the leading makers of the time, including: William Bowyer, Thomas Harvie, the prolific and outstanding Peter Closon and Thomas Knifton, and Richard Ames. Prices range from £10,000-£100,000.

Exhibition highlights include a miniature English lantern clock dating from c1610 – the earliest clock in the exhibition – and a lantern clock by Thomas Harvie, c1616, one of the earliest-known lantern clocks that can be identified by a signature.

Also five clocks from the workshop of William Bowyer (active in London in the 1620s), one of the foremost English domestic clockmakers whose work set the standard for English clock-making for the next century.

They include the earliest known clock by Bowyer, c1620, with two finely engraved falcons and a falconer’s lure; and ‘The Memento Mori’ great chamber clock, 1623. This clock is both the earliest known ‘great’ (very large) clock made by Bowyer and a very early example of a clock of 24 hours duration – a major innovation, and one which Bowyer is widely credited with introducing.

One of the outstanding features of this clock is its engraving. The subject is man’s mortality; literally a timely reminder in an age when life expectancy was short.