David Thompson, The British Museum Clocks, British Museum Press, 2005, pp.78-79; Dawson, Drover & Parkes, Early English Clocks, Antique Collectors' Club, 1982, pp.512-522; Tom Robinson, The Longcase Clock, Antique Collectors' Club, 1981, pp.152-156; Derek Roberts, British Longcase Clocks, Schiffer, 1990, pp.70-71; Ronald Lee, The Knibb Family, Clockmakers, Manor House Press, 1964, pp.150-154.
Night clocks appeared in Italy by about 1660 and probably arrived in England a few years later. Lee (p.150) quotes an entry from the diary of Samuel Pepys dated 24 June 1664: 'After dinner to Whitehall and there met with Mr.Pierce and he showed me the Queen's bed-chamber...with a clock by her bed-side wherein a lamp burns that tells her the time of the night at any time.'There are very few surviving examples, particularly of longcase clocks. Their scarcity is perhaps not surprising given the inherent danger of a naked flame being housed in a wooden clock case and the fact that the invention of repeating clocks in 1676 provided a more effective way of telling the time at night.
The present example is previously unrecorded and one of only four known English longcase night clocks. The other examples are still in their cases and are as follows:
(1) Thomas Tompion: 'The Boxwood Tompion', sold Christie's London, 5 July 1989, lot 72.
(2) Joseph Knibb (?): with Sotheby's London, 05 June, 1997, lot 334, also illustrated Roberts p.71 and Robinson p.155.
(3) Edward East: The British Museum, acquired 1980.
The present clock employs the ten-sided wheel system which is also used on the East clock in the British Museum. Its plates are triangular, like those of the East (interestingly the latter has a brass cover over the top of the plates, possibly missing on this clock). On his table clocks Knibb used a two disc system (see Lee p.153) and this is used on the Sotheby's clock also. The Sotheby's clock is recorded as having rectangular plates. It too is a striking clock, unlike the East.
Decoratively, there are features in common with the Sotheby's clock and with table clocks by Knibb. Of particular note is the moral verse, which is also seen on the former along with a central painted Italianate rotunda and flanking columns. However, the engraved chequer pattern has more in common with the Knibb table clocks and another example by Henry Jones (see Dawson, Drover, Parkes p.521).