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Walnut Longcase Clock by William Webster

This classic example of a walnut longcase dates from around 1725 and was made by William Webster, who served his apprenticeship with possibly the most celebrated English clockmaker, Thomas Tompion.

When Tompion died in 1723, the only published notices of the great man’s death were inserted in the newspapers by Webster and his fellow apprentice, George Graham. Webster’s announcement in The London Gazette reads:

“On the 20th Instant Mr Thomas Tompion, noted for the making of all sorts of the best clocks and watches, departed this life. This is to certify all Persons whatever
Quality or Distinction, that WILLIAM WEBSTER, at the Dyal and Three Crowns
In Exchange Alley, London, served his Apprenticeship and lived as a Journey-Man
A considerable time with the said Mr Tompion, and by his Industry and Care is fully acquainted with the Secrets of Said Art”.

Our example of Webster’s work demonstrates that Tompion had not wasted his ‘industry and care’ in vain. It is a classic of its type, with an amazing hood moulding that looks deceptively simple but is, in fact, a piece of sculpture in wood. The dial itself is fairly standard in layout, with strike-silent in the arch, subsidiary seconds and calendar, and the maker’s name on an elegant cartouche, but perhaps the nicest thing about it is the quality of the matting on the dial centre, which forms the backdrop for the silvering of the chapter rings and the blueing of the hands.

(NB: Exchange Alley no long goes by that name. The street still exists, wedged between Lombard Street and Cornhill, but the name has been corrupted o Change Alley)

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