R.W. Symonds, Thomas Tompion, His Life and Work, London, 1951, p. 144
The Antiquarian Horological Society, Horological Masterworks, English Seventeenth-Century Clocks from Private Collections, Ticehurst, 2003, P.G. Dawson, The Iden Clock Collection, Woodbridge, 1987, pp. 84-85 P.G. Dawson, C.B. Drover, D.W. Parkes, Early English Clocks, Woodbridge, 1982, pp. 345, 428-429, 431-433, 438, 444-445
J. Evans, Thomas Tompion at the Dial and Three Crowns, Ticehurst, 2006, pp. 33, 37 and 69
The present table clock is one of a small number of early pre-numbered examples by Tompion with gilt-metal basket tops, but also has the apparently unique feature of a false plate mounted on the movement back plate. Related examples with gilt-metal basket tops include the two train grande sonnerie clocks known as the 'Tulip' Tompion (Early English Clocks, p. 438) and the 'Sussex' Tompion (Masterworks, pp. 156-161); see also a silver version (Early English Clocks, pp. 444-445). The foliate designs on the baskets of the latter three clocks show a strong family resemblance. The design on the present clock, with its twin birds to front and rear, is apparently identical to the basket on a Tompion table clock with tic-tac escapement illustrated by Symonds (p. 144). As might be expected, the majority of Tompion clocks with gilt-metal tops also have gilt-metal side frets (and it seems probable that those which do not have them now did so originally). Those of the 'Tulip' and 'Sussex' clocks share a common design; those of this clock very closely resemble those of 'Lady Castlemaine's Clock', a two train grande sonnerie clock in gilt-brass case with silver mounts in the collection of the Duke of Grafton (see Early English Clocks, p. 433). The clock's rather delicate handle perhaps most resembles those on clocks by Joseph Knibb (see the many examples in R.A. Lee, The Knibb Family Clockmakers, Byfleet, 1964). This design was used by a number of early makers, however. See, for example, a silver example on a Henry Jones clock (Masterworks, p. 154) and others by Tompion shown by Symonds (see p. 155, fig. 132A, also Lady Castlemaine's clock on p. 142; and the walnut clock in Early English Clocks, p. 469).
The most distinctive feature of this table clock is, of course, the falseplate on its back plate, an apparently unique occurrence in Tompion's oeuvre. The top and bottom of the back plate are gilded and well engraved with Dutch tulip designs; an area between is left ungilded and plain. The repeat and bolt and shutter levers are to be found here, concealed by a false plate. The purpose of this appears to have been to hide technological innovation from prying eyes. This includes the repeat lever but also (currently) a lever for releasing the bolt and shutter work. The latter seems likely to be a later amendment, as on Tompion No. 16 (sold these rooms 4 July 2007, lot 164, £150,000, also illustrated in Symonds figs. 113 and 173). Twelve filed off pins to the periphery of the hour wheel suggest that the bolt and shutter work has replaced an earlier pre-select system for the repeat work; probably a misinterpretation on the part of a restorer at some stage. The pre-select system would have allowed the clock to repeat correctly immediately before the hour, eliminating the problem of it repeating as if the impending hour had passed.
Daniel Quare used false plates (or 'key' plates as they are known on his clocks because of the way they are secured to back plates) but his covered the entire back plate. In an article in 'Horological Dialogues' George C. Kenney mentions three examples, all by Daniel Quare and dated by him to the period 1703-1710 (Vol.I, 1979, pp. 39-48). Interestingly, Kenney writes 'the clocks were also fitted with special and unusual...features such as maintaining power, seconds dials, quarter striking, and/or tortoiseshell cases'. An example by Henry Massy but with a movement suggesting an origin in Quare's workshop, in a silver-mounted tortoiseshell case and with a dial showing seconds, was sold in these rooms on 5 July 2002, lot 89 (£94,650).
The greatest clockmaker of England's 'golden age' of horology, Thomas Tompion (1639-1713) was born at Northill, Bedfordshire, and had moved to London by 1671. In 1674 he moved to Water Lane and met Dr. Robert Hooke, through whom he came to the notice of Charles II. From this time he held an unrivalled position in English horology. In 1703 he was Master of the Clockmakers' Company. He died aged 74 and is buried in Westminster Abbey.