Show me:
and
Clear all filters

  • 35 items
  • 25 items Explore
  • 89 items
  • 1 items
  • 3,443 items Explore
  • 97 items Explore
  • 871 items
  • 4 items
  • 220 items
  • 12,278 items Explore
  • 209 items Explore
  • 1,232 items Explore
  • 8,487 items Explore
  • 5,045 items Explore
  • 167 items Explore
  • 12,992 items Explore
  • 13,621 items Explore
  • 4,806 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 5 items
  • 153 items Explore
  • 2,082 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 4,748 items Explore
  • 13 items Explore
  • 437 items Explore
  • 267 items
  • 19,827 items Explore
  • 34 items Explore
  • 1,911 items Explore
  • 1,083 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 2,048 items Explore
  • 449 items Explore
  • 920 items Explore
  • 1 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 7 items
  • 20,119 items
  • 800 items Explore
  • 19 items
  • 73 items Explore
  • 33 items
  • 797 items
  • 20 items
  • 4 items
  • 26 items
  • 61 items
  • 28 items
  • 319 items Explore
  • 6 items
  • 44 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 2 items
  • 2 items
  • 7 items
  • 121 items Explore
  • 119 items
  • 1 items
  • 1,020 items Explore
  • 803 items
  • 95 items
  • 27 items
  • 108 items
  • 36,606 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 3,863 items Explore
  • 1,534 items Explore
  • 403 items
  • 158 items Explore
  • 11,001 items Explore
  • 9,686 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 1 items
  • 38 items
  • 3 items
  • 4 items
  • 7,090 items Explore
  • 7,459 items Explore
  • 4,511 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 1,857 items Explore
  • 1,191 items Explore
  • 22,342 items Explore
  • 3,603 items Explore
  • 17 items
  • 5 items
  • 334 items
  • 1 items
  • 1 items
  • 3,373 items Explore
  • 23 items Explore
  • 352 items Explore
  • 796 items Explore
  • 1,090 items Explore
  • 510 items Explore
  • 1,143 items Explore
  • 89 items
  • 125 items Explore
  • 6,950 items Explore
  • 170 items
  • 4 items
  • 310 items
  • 4 items
  • 2 items
  • 63 items
  • 2 items
  • 2,935 items Explore
  • 1,580 items Explore
  • 203 items
  • 91 items
  • 20,245 items Explore
  • 1,166 items Explore
  • 138 items
  • 847 items Explore
  • 32 items
  • 132 items Explore
  • 40 items
  • 20 items
  • 281 items
  • 313 items
  • 682 items Explore
  • 347 items Explore
  • 2,427 items
  • 2,525 items
  • 3 items
  • 1 items
  • 4,391 items Explore
  • 41,270 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 3,287 items Explore
  • 275 items Explore
  • 8,559 items Explore
  • 31 items
  • 25 items
  • 304 items Explore
  • 776 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 65 items
  • 161 items
  • 58 items
  • 52 items
  • 22,441 items Explore
  • 917 items
  • 18 items
  • 22,557 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 2,337 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 1,028 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 759 items
  • 499 items
  • 3,304 items Explore
  • 175 items
  • 59 items
  • 455 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 21 items
  • 90 items Explore
  • 76 items
  • 281 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 6 items
  • 128 items
  • 295 items
  • 447 items
  • 286 items
  • 1 items
  • 790 items Explore
  • 271 items Explore
  • 11,293 items Explore
  • 760 items Explore
  • 6,046 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 8,000 items Explore
  • 27 items
  • 1 items
  • 5,870 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 3,722 items Explore
  • 9,190 items Explore
  • 7,751 items Explore
  • 185 items
  • 19 items
  • 142 items
  • 7 items
  • 853 items Explore
  • 19 items
  • 2,329 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 1,095 items Explore
  • 269 items
  • 1 items
  • 3,540 items Explore
  • 695 items Explore
  • 18 items
  • 134 items
  • 6,716 items Explore
  • 93 items
  • 18,701 items Explore
  • 3,140 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 7 items
  • 10,981 items Explore
  • 37 items
  • 4 items
  • 2 items
  • 21,526 items Explore
  • 38 items
  • 13,200 items Explore
  • 3,457 items Explore
  • 5,623 items Explore
  • 33 items
  • 46,023 items Explore
  • 641 items Explore
  • 415 items
  • 25,994 items Explore
  • 217 items
  • 3 items
  • 1 items
  • 35 items
  • 27 items
  • 356 items Explore
  • 636 items
  • 217 items Explore
  • 13 items
  • 12,754 items Explore
  • 1,350 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 10,260 items
  • 9 items
  • 10 items
  • 14 items
  • 25 items
  • 1 items
  • 4,533 items Explore
  • 913 items Explore
  • 44 items
  • 1 items
  • 1 items
  • 319 items
  • 703 items Explore
  • 42 items
  • 2,285 items Explore
  • 1,662 items Explore
  • 15 items
  • 1,873 items Explore
  • 150 items
  • 81 items
  • 680 items Explore
  • 3,062 items Explore
  • 43 items
  • 17 items
  • 12 items
  • 10,675 items Explore
  • 23,138 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 3 items
  • 1 items
  • 41 items
  • 1,372 items
  • 180 items Explore
  • 8 items
  • 92 items
  • 13,437 items Explore
  • 3,571 items Explore
  • 2,896 items Explore
  • 4,782 items Explore
  • 22 items
  • 42 items
  • 6,898 items Explore
  • 4,782 items Explore
  • 256 items Explore
  • 2,300 items Explore
  • 2,976 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 1,902 items Explore
  • 193 items
  • 223 items Explore
  • 466 items Explore
  • 6,116 items Explore
  • 8,738 items Explore
  • 1,861 items Explore
  • 7 items
  • 5,800 items Explore
  • 3,339 items Explore
  • 11,064 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 86 items
  • 11 items
  • 1,793 items Explore
  • 7 items
  • 24 items
  • 51 items
  • 6 items
  • 1 items
  • 4,156 items Explore
  • 611 items Explore
  • 72 items
  • 17 items
  • 153 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 87 items Explore
  • 460 items
  • 7 items
  • 996 items Explore
  • 3,610 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 5 items
  • 9,478 items Explore
  • 48 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 7 items
  • 42 items
  • 3 items
  • 13,745 items Explore
  • 1,164 items Explore
  • 92 items
  • 10,562 items Explore
  • 1,920 items
  • 24 items
  • 7,831 items Explore
  • 21 items
  • 12,938 items Explore
  • 1,417 items Explore
  • 8 items
  • 9,675 items Explore
  • 15,111 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 1,667 items Explore
  • 181 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 5,684 items Explore
  • 12,134 items Explore
  • 48 items
  • 25 items
  • 2 items
  • 3 items
  • 7,246 items Explore
  • 369 items Explore
  • 13 items
  • 4 items
  • 6 items
  • 103 items Explore
  • 7 items
  • 5 items
  • 491 items
  • 664 items Explore
  • 8,374 items Explore
  • 55 items
  • 7,344 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 26 items
  • 4,479 items Explore
  • 420 items
  • 6 items
  • 205 items Explore
  • 12,702 items Explore
  • 55 items
  • 20 items
  • 7 items
  • 4 items
  • 325 items Explore
  • 434 items
  • 535 items
  • 3,703 items Explore
  • 27 items
  • 1,232 items Explore
  • 2,502 items Explore
  • 734 items Explore
  • 36 items
  • 1,139 items Explore
  • 97 items Explore
  • 24 items
  • 226 items Explore
  • 78,653 items Explore
  • 3,065 items Explore
  • 2,843 items Explore
  • 63 items
  • 5,239 items Explore
  • 1,831 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 17,442 items Explore
  • 4,996 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 7 items
  • 632 items Explore
  • 85 items
  • 1 items
  • 31 items
  • 1 items
  • 76 items
  • 29 items
  • 86 items
  • 3 items
  • 1,177 items Explore
  • 109 items
  • 805 items
  • 12,214 items Explore
  • 27 items
  • 13 items
  • 1,560 items Explore
  • 214 items
  • 17,028 items Explore
  • 85 items
  • 17 items
  • 1 items
  • 8 items
  • 324 items
  • 2 items
  • 627 items Explore
  • 1,584 items Explore
  • 8 items
  • 1,041 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 261 items

Select a time period

Or choose a specific year

Clear all filters

Turret clock

Category

Horology

Date

c. 1490

Materials

wrought iron mounted on oak

Measurements

115 cm (Height)

Place of origin

England

Order this image

Collection

Cotehele, Cornwall

NT 347888

Caption

Few houses in Britain can claim to measure time by a 15th-century clock, but Cotehele House in Cornwall enjoys that distinction. This rare timepiece, found in the medieval chapel, began ticking at the start of the Tudor period (1485). It has no face, dial or hands and simply strikes the hour on a connected bell in the roof. Remarkably, it has survived unaltered for more than 500 years because, unlike most early clocks, it has not been converted to use a pendulum. The design is a type of turret clock, so called because it was usually mounted high in a clock tower and consists of a wrought-iron frame and two trains of wheels. The clock has movable 40kg weights, one made of stone and the other iron, which help to adjust the timekeeping. The clock can run for 24 hours, but winding it requires considerable strength and agility. Until its restoration in the mid-20th century it had probably been left unwound – and silent – for centuries.

Summary

A wrought iron turret clock mounted on an oak beam, c. 1490. It is the oldest running, unaltered clock in Britain. It tells the time by striking the hours on a bell which hangs in the bell-cote over the clock mechanism. The wooden upright to which the clock is attached is relatively modern, suggesting that the clock has at some point been re-positioned. It is similar in style to a number of medieval church or monastic clocks, but no domestic examples are known, casting doubt on the assertion that it originated as a domestic clock. Instead of a pendulum it has a foliot-and-verge mechanism, which takes the form of a horizontal bar with weights at each end that swings from side-to-side. The hour wheel is turned by a rope and falling weight. It makes one turn in an hour and drives the escapement or ‘crown’ wheel. The escapement wheel is turned by the hour wheel and also gives impulse to the foliot-and-verge, which controls the ‘going train’ to keep time. Given a steady impulse the freely suspended foliot will oscillate at a constant frequency as long as the size and disposition of the weights is constant. The cam turns with the hour wheel to raise the lifting piece and therefore also the locking lever on the hour, to unlock the ‘striking train’. The flail (driven by the great wheel) is released. The great wheel turns when the striking train is unlocked, and it has eight ‘pins’ to actuate the bell lever. The count wheel is driven by the great wheel, and it determines the number of strikes. The flyvane steadies the speed of the striking train. The stop on the lifting piece arrests the striking train. To prevent the clock from striking, the flail is lifted and rested in the hanging hook.

Full description

A wrought iron turret clock mounted on an oak beam, c. 1490. It is the oldest running, unaltered clock in the country. The wooden upright to which the clock is attached is relatively modern, suggesting that the clock has at some point been re-positioned. It is similar in style to a number of medieval church or monastic clocks, but no domestic examples are known, casting doubt on the assertion that it originated as a domestic clock. Instead of a pendulum it has a foliot-and-verge mechanism, which takes the form of a horizontal bar with weights at each end that swings from side-to-side. The hour wheel is turned by a rope and falling weight. It makes one turn in an hour and drives the escapement or ‘crown’ wheel. The escapement wheel is turned by the hour wheel and also gives impulse to the foliot-and-verge, which controls the ‘going train’ to keep time. Given a steady impulse the freely suspended foliot will oscillate at a constant frequency as long as the size and disposition of the weights is constant. The cam turns with the hour wheel to raise the lifting piece and therefore also the locking lever on the hour, to unlock the ‘striking train’. The flail (driven by the great wheel) is released. The great wheel turns when the striking train is unlocked, and it has eight ‘pins’ to actuate the bell lever. The count wheel is driven by the great wheel, and it determines the number of strikes. The flyvane steadies the speed of the striking train. The stop on the lifting piece arrests the striking train. To prevent the clock from striking, the flail is lifted and rested in the hanging hook. Cecil Clutton described the clock as follows: “It can almost certainly claim to be the world’s oldest larger-than-domestic clock with its original verge and foliot escapement. It is also the oldest survivor of a type of English clock that continued into the early eighteenth century (that is, the type with the trains laid out in a single vertical line, between two pillars). The clock can be dated with considerable accuracy to the last decade of the fifteenth century, which is the date of the chapel. The clock stands in a niche resembling a contemporary fireplace, from which runs a shaft in the thickness of the wall to accommodate the ropes and weights, and connecting with a bellcote on the apex of the roof, where the bell is rung by the clock. There is no dial, nor ever was. The metal frame of the clock is fixed to a stout wooden post, which is fixed in turn to the wall at the back of the niche. The preservation of the clock, like so much else at Cotehele, must be attributed primarily to the care and conservatism of successive Mount Edgcumbes, for without the latter it would certainly have been scrapped or converted to pendulum long ago. Possibly this might still have happened, had it not been for the upside-down layout of the clock, with its escapement only a foot or so above the ground, which would make a pendulum conversion extremely difficult to effect” (Antiquarian Horology, September 1962). The traditional description of the clock as 'the oldest known pre-pendulum domestic clock, still in its original position' has often been called into question. The Reverend Byrth noted that 'over the west-end of the chapel, is a small turret, surmounted with battlements and pinnacles, and containing two apartments for bells' (‘The Plymouth Literary Magazine’, 19 November 1814). The Reverend Arundell wrote that 'the curious works of an ancient clock are under the bell tower' (Cothele on the Banks of the Tamar, ca 1840). He does not specify if the workings were assembled, nor does Venning, who refers to 'a clock said to be the oldest in Cornwall' (1887). It is also been described by Geoffrey Wills: 'Behind a door at the west end is the movement of a turret clock, which retains its original foliot balance, a device in use prior to the invention of the pendulum, and is the only such clock so far recorded in this original condition. It has suffered surprisingly little wear or damage during its lifetime of about five centuries. This may be accounted for, perhaps, by the fact that it has been in use only occasionally. It was not working in 1833, when seen by the correspondent of Gentleman's Magazine. It was never provided with a dial or hands, but struck hourly on a bell which is still in the bell-cote above it' (The Connoisseur Year Book, 1956).

Provenance

Until recently, it was thought that the clock was installed by Sir Richard Edgcumbe (d.1489) although there is no firm evidence to support this theory. More research is needed.

References

Clutton 1962: Cecil Clutton,’The 15th Century Clock at Cotehele House’ Antiquarian Horology (September 1962) pp. 362-364 Wills 1956, Geoffrey Wills, The Connoisseur Year Book ed. L. G. G. Ramsey (London 1956) Robinson 1953: T. R. Robinson, Horological Journal (Dec. 1953. Vol. 95) page 818

View more details