Bracket Clock by James Tregent
We know precious little of most 18th Century clockmakers but the details of James Tregent’s life have always seemed a bit more exotic than most, given that he arrived from France with his enameller brother and became involved in the theatrical world with the likes of Garrick and Sheridan.
More flesh has recently been added to the bones by a recent project to make selected 18th Century proceedings of the Old Bailey available online. In 1782, James Tregent appeared as a witness in the trial of one William Bradbury, who had been accused of stealing banknotes from Baring’s bank and attempting to pass them off in Tregent’s shop.
Tregent testified that “the prisoner came to my shop in Leicester fields (Leicester Square now) on 8th January, in the evening, to buy a gold watch; he asked for a low price, he said that he had some prize money…a £40 note, which he would go home and fetch. The watch came to 15 guineas; I took the note and gave him change. He said his name was Barnett; I never saw him before...” Bradbury was convicted and sentenced to death, but that was commuted to transportation.
Tregent’s first shop was at 35 The Strand, where he made the
bracket clock we are currently offering, probably around 1775. By that
time he was a watchmaker to the Prince of Wales, a fact reflected in
the glorious depiction of the three feather emblem at the centre of
the engraved bookplate. The silvered dial is more sparingly engraved
with single floral spandrels. The arch-top mahogany case has a single
pad beneath the handle.
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