Collecting as a Pastime
Collecting as a Pastime
Grandfather Clocks and Old Furniture
The First Plunge-The Clock and the Chest-Varsity Blue-The Statuette-A Weird Arrival-Faked Chairs- Foudroyant Oak-More Clocks-Study the Chart-Making Converts-Lacquer Clocks-Barometers-The Elusive Mercury-Welsh Dressers-Chinese Chippendale Chair-Spinning Wheel-Spindle-backed Chairs-More rushed Seats-Gate-legged Mahogany Table-Buying Worm-holes-Bureau and Bookcase-A Revelation-Oak Cupboard-Four Corner Cupboards-Dated Furniture-Mahogany Inlaid Tables-A Surprise-Chests of Drawers: Small, large, and a Combination-Just in Time-Bureau-How not to Auction-The Tea-caddy.
"The oak tree was an acorn once," and so was the case of my first grandfather clock. Quite by chance in 1902, I noticed in a shop window a brass dial bearing the inscription "John Burgess de Wigan," with well-engraved numerals, and fitted with quaintly cut brass hands. On enquiry I was told they had a case for it, and this was found propped up, for its feet were groggy. As 17s. was the price asked for the lot, I plunged. To my amazement an old clockmaker soon had the works going and he assured me they would see me out, but I have some anxiety about the original wrought iron hinges, which I compute will have swung, back and to, nearly 90,000 times.
The minstrel (Moore and Burgess) sang that "the grandfather clock was too tall for the shelf, so it stood ninety years on the floor." My old gentleman had evidently been in more confined space than this one they made such a song about, and as the owner could not bend its back he knocked off the feet. I fitted him out with new understandings made of very old timber, which suited him down to the ground. When the case was renovated the venerable timekeeper was placed in my hall, where he has ticked away regularly except on those days when his rope has not been wound up, or when a new rope was necessary. I found, by starting a correspondence in the Wigan Observer , that Burgess was one of the earliest clock-makers in Wigan, and that my clock was made about 1690.
The first long-case pendulum clock was made by Thomas Tompion in 1681 and the prefix "de" to names was dropped about 1700, so it would be interesting to know how many clocks are still in existence bearing the "de" in front of the surname. I have had clocks offered to me said to be 300 or 400 years old, while one man thought his would be at least 500; when I stated that I had read in my clock book that 240 years was the limit he disdainfully brushed that opinion aside with the remark, "Oh, books! Do you believe all you read?"
This was the antique seed that has spread from hall to room, and from room to room, until there is no room for more. Strange to say, within a week I had found a companion to "old Burgess" in the form of a very ancient oak Ecclesiastical chest, bearing four locks without wards, but with each key-hole a different shape; the keys to correspond would be in the hands of the parson, two wardens and sexton respectively ( See Plate VIII ). The clock and the chest have stood vis-à-vis since their introduction, and if the regularity of the former and the complacency of the latter had been emulated by the occupants of the house, what a model home they would adorn!
It is believed that on one occasion "old Burgess" forgot to strike, for which he may be forgiven. On the newel post there is fixed a fine old bronze female figure, bearing a light, and on the occasion of a young cleric spending the night with us this statuette was found draped in a Varsity blue wrap (the owner of which has since served as an Army Chaplain throughout the War)-truly a sight to set any decorous time-server off his balance! ( Plate I .)
This model of the female form divine deserves an artistic treatment, to which I do