William Bowyer clock in Berkshire sale

One of the earliest examples of an English domestic clock by the maker William Bowyer features in an upcoming sale at Dreweatts’ Fine Clocks, Barometers and Scientific Instruments on March 7.

A lantern clock by William Bowyer

The clock, which was made when James I was on the throne and William Shakespeare was writing his first folio, was produced by the celebrated clockmaker William Bowyer (circa 1590-1653), described as: “Probably the finest maker of lantern clocks in London up to the Civil War” by Brian Loomes’ in his title: The Early Clockmakers of Great Britain.

The ‘lantern’ clock, which is a type of antique, weight-driven clock shaped like a typical lantern of the period, was first produced in England around 1600 and continued to be popular until the late 18th century.

The earliest examples from the early 1600s, such as this, are highly sought-after and admired as being from the ‘first period’, which was the term given to any that were made prior to the civil war. The clock is one of a group of only six surviving examples from Bowyer’s earliest phase of clockmaking, making it extremely rare.

Leighton Gillibrand, Head of Dreweatts Clocks, Barometers and Scientific Instruments department, said: “We are delighted to have the privilege of offering a clock dating back to the very genesis of English clockmaking. Early ‘first period’ lantern clocks are the earliest form of timepiece which can be described as being exclusively English and are truly perfect in the purity of their design and form. The success of their design led to strong demand which was ultimately the catalyst for the establishment of the clockmaking trade in London, marked by the founding of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers in 1631.

“To handle a clock from this time, especially one by a leading maker such as William Bowyer, really is a privilege. We anticipate strong interest from specialist collectors as no doubt this clock would be a rare and worthy addition to the finest of collections of English Horology.”

The interior of a lantern clock by William Bowyer

Highly decorative and well-finished, the clock’s dial is finely engraved with a large chrysanthemum bloom over twin entwined stalks, set with a flowering foliage to the centre. It is signed by Bowyer and carries an estimate of £15,000-£20,000.

About William Bowyer

William Boyer was born in circa 1590 and is recorded as being a member of the Pewterers’ Company by 1616. Having established himself as a clockmaker he took in many apprentices prior to the formation of the Clockmakers’ Company in 1631. Although he subscribed £5 towards its charter and was made free of the city in 1630, William Bowyer did not apparently join the Worshipful Company on its establishment the following year.

Bowyer is thought to have been first married to Margery Barlow of Litchfield, Staffordshire, however, by 1631 he was married to Prudence with whom he had five children (three of which sadly died in infancy). By 1638 Bowyer was living in the parish of St. Andrew Undershaft, he took-in Joseph Jackson as an apprentice and during the following decade took-on at least four more, through the Clockmakers’ Company. One of these apprentices was Nathanial Allen (probably around 1641/2). Allen subsequently married a Phillipa Bowyer in 1646 hence became related to William through marriage.

In 1640, William Bowyer was invited to become an Assistant of the Clockmakers’ Company, however it appears that he was reluctant to serve the Company, as in July 1642 he gave ‘a great chamber clock’ in return for excusal from any further duties. Nevertheless he became an Assistant in 1651 and a Warden in 1653 the year of his death. He is known to have traded from Leadenhall Street, London.