Explore Collections Explore The Collections
You are here: CollectionsOnline  /  Eight-day quarter-chiming table clock, London, c.1835, for an existing case c.1812-35, probably designed by Soane, the dial and movement by Benjamin Vulliamy, (1780-1854), London, No. 1245
  • image XF146
Eight-day quarter-chiming table clock, XF146, London, c.1835, for an existing case c .1812-35, probably designed by Soane, the dial and movement by Benjamin Vulliamy, (1780-1854), London, No. 1245, walnut, gilt bronze, brass, enamel, steel, silk and glass. ©Sir John Soane's Museum, London. Photograph: Hugh Kelly.

Eight-day quarter-chiming table clock, London, c.1835, for an existing case c.1812-35, probably designed by Soane, the dial and movement by Benjamin Vulliamy, (1780-1854), London, No. 1245

Walnut, gilt bronze, brass, enamel, steel, silk and glass

Height: 48cm
Width: 29.5cm
Depth: 29.5cm

Museum number: XF146

Curatorial note

The case has a distinctive shallow dome, with yellow glass lunettes in all four sides (modern bevelled replacements), surmounted by a raised circular plinth; each angle of the case with outset ormolu Corinthian columns and each side and door with ormolu mouldings, the sides with silk-backed pierced ormolu double frets cast with C-scrolls and flower heads and the front and rear doors ormolu-framed (both backed with substantial brass plates); all raised on a rectangular plinth base with moulded edges, on adjustable flattened ormolu bun feet formed as column bases; the 8½ in. (20.5 cm.) square brass dial plate with foliate spandrels, with white enamel Roman and Arabic dial signed VULLIAMY / LONDON, with blued steel hands, flanked above by enamel subsidiary discs for pendulum regulation and strike/silent and below by plain white enamel discs, the substantial eight day movement with triple chain and fusees, dead beat escapement, hour strike on single bell and quarter chimes on a nest of eight bells, the plain backplate with concave-cut upper corners and secured with brass brackets to the base of the case, signed Vulliamy London / 1245, now lacking the holdfast for ebony wood rod with massive circular brass bob numbered 1245 to its reverse (formerly with securing brackets to upper backplate); the clock stands on a square mahogany base, tailored to its dimensions.

The celebrated Swiss firm of Vulliamy were the most famous royal suppliers of clocks and ormolu and worked with Soane to supply clocks for the Bank of England. The firm was known for high-quality case design and for mechanical reliability rather than innovation. Soane must have provided the design for the case, which is unlike any other produced by Vulliamy. Although the case must have been custom-made the ormolu grilles on the side are a pair of standard fretted rococo plates. The design reflects the dome of the Breakfast Room in which it stands and originally incorporated lunettes of yellow stained glass, echoing the coloured glass in the skylights above and etched with a delicate floral motif.1 The gilt bronze frets on the sides are of a standard pattern also found on clocks by other makers of the period (including XF236); they were not intended for a case of this depth and have had to be applied in pairs. The recess in the south wall of the Breakfast Parlour in which it stands must have been designed for a clock and has a piece of looking glass at the back. The recess contained the Thwaites and Reed clock cat.189, which has a similar Soanean domed case but with large handles on the sides, prior to 1835 (shown in the 1835 Description, plate XXIX). An invoice from Benjamin Vulliamy dated September 1835 shows that he supplied a clock movement and dial for a pre-existing case for 36 guineas, charging £5-18-0 to fit it.2

There are two intriguing items in a bill from Thomas and George Martyr for work carried out in 1834 which may relate to the clock case: 3 May ‘making dome for clock 5.0 Supl. 2 In. Mahogy .. 2.3 Supl.¾ [inch] deal …. 1 turn’g to Dome, 1 turn’d Circle £2.4.2’ and 2 August ‘Preparing clock case’.3 It is possible that these references could relate to the model for the clock case for the Bank, X1098.

At the bottom of the recess in which the clock stands is a built-in drawer with a diamond shaped keyhole escutcheon and two small turned brass knobs matching those on the loose drawers XF153, XF154.

1 One of these original lunettes survives, broken, in store.
2 SM Archive Ledger E, f.205, 1835, records ‘Clock. Septr. 15th. Vulliamy £43.14.0.’. The bill SM Archive XVI.A.4.5 Sept 7 1835 reads ‘To one of the best eight day three part Spring quarter clocks name Vulliamy London No. 1245 to chime the quarters upon 10 Bells; with chains and a going fuzee to keep the clock going while being wound; to regulate in the diary by a hand traversing upon a small dial and a strike silent to correspond with an Ebony pendulum rod and very heavy brass bob; a square dial with a very fine 8 Inch enamel plate and 4 Small corner enamel circles; with chased brass corner ornaments and pierced steel hands the fair circles are held in their places by turned brass rings the flies with adjusting fans and revolving behind the back plate; jointed fastening to secure the Pendulum when the clock is moved and the whole of the work executed in the best manner at 36 Guineas. £37.16s.
Making a new Mahogany seat Board to carry the clock, cutting thro’ the bottom of the case and putting a false bottom to allow the greatest length possible for the pendulum; thickening the rabbit [sic = rebate] the clock fits up against to keep the hands free of the glass; fitted the new clock into the case, and fixed it in its place by means of four strong brass cocks and screws and made four large brass feet with a broad bearing and screw necks fitted into brass sockets tapped to receive the screws of the feet and fixed by strong brass plates to the bottom of the case (by means of the feet the clock can be adjusted to the greatest nicety similar to a mathematical instrument) at £5.18s’.
3 SM Archive XV.K.3. Some items are endorsed ‘at Greenwich’ to show they were being made off-site at the Martyr workshop.


exh. cat. John Soane: Master of Space and Light, Royal Academy of Arts, London 1999, p.171, cat.78

Exhibition history

John Soane Architect: Master of Space and Light, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 11 September - 3 December 1999; Centro Palladio, Vicenza, April - August 2000; Hôtel de Rohan, Paris, January - April 2001; Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal, 16 May - 3 September 2001; Real Academia des Bellas Artes, Madrid, October - December 2001

If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk