Thomas Cole was born in 1800 the son of James and Catherine Cole of Nether Stowey in Somerset. His father was thought to have been a clockmaker which may explain how Thomas and his elder brother, James Ferguson Cole were introduced to the trade. Both were imensely talented but their apprenticeship is a mystery with much speculation about the possibility of their having studied under the great French clockmaker Abraham Louis Breguet (d.1823).
The two brothers formed a partnership in 1821 and by the next year had begun to produce a small series of highly complicated silver hump-back travelling clocks. The hump-back carriage clock was originally designed and made fashionable by Breguet ten years earlier lending support to the Cole brothers' theoretical apprenticeship. These carriage clocks were amongst the most complicated pieces being made in England at the time and Thomas Cole was then just twenty two years old.
By 1835 the brothers had gone their seperate ways; Thomas's first wife had died and he married again in 1841 and later had two sons and a daughter. By 1845 he called himself A designer and maker of ornamental clocks and he began to make the now famous and popular series of exceptional quality clocks that appealed enormously to the nouveau riche Victorians and are now avidly sought-after and collected.
No. 974, the present clock's serial number, indicates that it was made about 1855 and the smaller number 16 indicates that it was the sixteenth tripod clock made. The tripod series consisted of approximately 75 pieces for which there perhaps seven or eight different types and styles. The most common had simple tripod frames with deadbeat escapement usually with month-going movements. The present version is the most important De Luxe version with beautifully styled and engraved tripod feet, a beautiful oval (rather than the common circular) dial and Cole's own rarely used gravity escapement. The principle of this escapement is described in great detail by Cole himself in J.B.Hawkins op.sit., p.102-3, in it he descibes a five-toothed 'scape wheel...but it may be made of any nymber suited to the respective train employed. The only other known example with a thirty-tooth 'scape wheel is Cole's masterpiece tripod clock used in conjunction with a long pendulum and enclosed in a glazed ebony floor-standing plinth (J.B. Hawkins, item .36). The present clock is obviously a close relation to this piece.