No.271 was acquired by Sir Hugh Walter Kingwell Wontner G.B.E., C.V.O. (1908-1992) in the early 1970s. Former Chairman and Managing Director of the Savoy group, Sir Hugh participated actively in City life. He was an Alderman of the City of London in the 1960s, Sheriff in 1970 and in 1973-1974 served as the 646th Lord Mayor of London. He was knighted in 1972. Sir Hugh's interest in horology was reflected in his election to the position of Master of the Clockmakers' Company in 1975.
Prior to being owned by Sir Hugh No.271 was with Mrs Amy Oakes. In Horological Journal (October, 1965) there is a reference to Mrs Oakes flying to Glasgow in 1963 and paying £10,000 for the clock, using it as the 'most expensive footstool ever' on the flight back. The auction in which she purchased No.271 is described by De Carle (from his notes at the British Museum) as being of the property of the late Miss E.T. Brown of Grantown-on-Spey, Inverness-shire. The R.A. Lee advertisement in Connoisseur (1973) shows many of the fine clocks handled by his company to that date, not only those then in stock, and it is not clear when No.271 was with Lee, although as Sir Hugh Wontner acquired the clock at around this time it is reasonable to assume that he bought it from Lee.
No.271 has an extremely unusual case, which appears to be its second, although of the same period. Another case, in ebony and of typical Tompion 'Phase II' design and numbered 271 on the front door-sill, was sold Bonhams London, Fine Clocks, Scientific Instruments and Barometers, 28 May 2002, lot 202. That clock, which has a later handle and handle block, houses a replacement dial and movement. No.271 will fit into that case although in order to do so the date ring needs to be removed as the corresponding cut out in the case has been filled in.
The construction and decoration of the present clock case dates it to the late 17th/early 18th Century and makes it contemporary with the movement, for which it was clearly purpose made. Assuming the numbered case was the first one made for this clock, why would a second be made? The likeliest explanation is that the owner wished for more elaborate decoration, probably having seen the inlays on contemporary French furniture. Interestingly, the Tompion handle was retained. Nor would such a case necessarily have been made in France. The distinctive acanthus decorations of the upper corner mouldings do indeed reflect those found on French clocks of the late 17th Century (both as mounts and inlays, see Tardy, French Clocks, Part I, 1981, pp.138-144) but it should be noted that they are also seen in the silver mounts of the Mostyn Tompion (see Symonds, figs.135-136). Note also the remnants of a wooden fret -- typically English -- to the dial mask behind the front door top rail fret.
We are grateful to Mr Jeremy Evans for his assistance in compiling this footnote.