William Clement (circa 1638/39-circa 1709) was one of the most innovative clockmakers of his time and widely credited (along with Robert Hooke) for inventing the anchor escapement. He is also thought to have been the first person to use a spring-suspended pendulum. His origins are obscure but he was apprenticed in the Blacksmiths' Company in 1657 and a Freeman of the Clockmakers' Company from 1677. He was rapidly made an Assistant in the Company 'by unanimous consent and approbation and for good reason and especial esteem' in 1678. In 1694 he became Master.
This is an intriguing longcase clock and displays several unusual features, some of which appear to challenge conventional views on the dating of longcase clocks.
The movement has been finely made to the high standard one would expect from such an important maker. However, there are a number of vacant holes which may relate to a development in clockwork by Clement.
The pattern of holes around the edge of the front plate indicates that extensive movement covers were originally in place. These may have taken the form of a box, similar to the one seen on the Tompion longcase clock illustrated by Derek Roberts in British Longcase Clocks, Atglen, 1990, p. 20, fig. 24. The cover to the present clock was further secured by four bolts into the dial feet and would thus have concealed both underdial and wheel work. The purpose of this cover may have been to protect the clock from general dust, although this would have been an unusual precaution for the period. Alternatively, Clement may have wanted to conceal a new development from his competitors. The presence of the additional securing bolts may point to this.
If concealment was the intention, it is feasible Clement wanted to conceal an early use of rack striking with repeat work. Invented in 1676 by the Reverend Edward Barlow, rack striking was not generally adopted even on London clocks until the early 18th Century (see Tom Robinson, The Longcase Clock, Woodbridge, 1981, p. 129). There are also sufficient holes in the plates to support the presence of early trip repeat work, a highly desirable and advanced function at this period.
Further holes in the plates suggest the clock may have been fitted with rack and pinion pendulum regulation, part of which could have been secured to the movement covers, similar to that seen on the aforementioned Tompion movement illustrated by Roberts. Such conjecture is supported by a longcase clock by Clement with rise and fall regulation dating from circa 1680 illustrated by Eric Bruton in The Wetherfield Collection of Clocks, London, 1981, p. 138, fig. 88. There, rack and pinion rise and fall regulation is secured to one side, between the plates.
There are several features to the movement which indicate it may be earlier than the dial and case at first suggest. The latches are very similar to those found on work by Ahasuerus Fromanteel, as are the finely turned pillars (see P.G. Dawson, C.B. Drover & D.W. Parkes, Early English Clocks, Woodbridge, 1982, pp. 101-103 and p. 119 for examples). The steel underdial work is also made in an early style, being quite flat with rounded end to the strike release lever. The large domed bell and large hammer head on long shaft are also features more usually associated with early clocks. All of these are characteristic of a clock from circa 1680. If the clock does date from the 1680s then the use of rack striking would have ahead of its time and indeed this would have been one of the first clocks to use the system. It would also be a very early use of an 11 inch dial, as 10 or 10¼ inch dials are more usual on earlier clocks. Again, it is possible that Clement was ahead of the fashion.
Clement appears to have signed his clocks both 'William Clement' and 'Gulielmus Clement'. The latter signature, as found on the present clock, can also be seen on an architectural longcase clock dating from circa 1668 and illustrated in J. Darken (ed.), Horological Masterworks: English Seventeenth Century Clocks from Private Collections, Ticehurst, 2003, pp. 84-89. However, the signature style does not assist with dating as an architectural hooded wall clock dating from circa 1670 is signed 'William Clement' (see P.G. Dawson, C.B. Drover & D.W. Parkes, Early English Clocks, Woodbridge, 1982, p. 176, pl. 238).
Dawson, Drover & Parkes illustrate a Clement longcase dial dating from circa 1680, with almost identical hands to those on the present clock (p. 232, pl. 311). Interestingly, a centrally-positioned movement securing bracket also appears to have been used on the Wetherfield Clement illustrated in Bruton (P. 138).