Thomas Nelson, a clockmaker living relatively locally in the early 19th century is a slight enigma. Nothing much is known about him, which is strange considering the masterpiece bearing his name brought into the Grantham saleroom in early autumn.
The dial on this beast of a bracket clock give some clues as to whereabouts of the maker (Market Deeping) but very little else. Casual Internet searches give a little more detail, with a rather modest longcase clock bearing his name being offered but even more detailed checks give very little away about this maker of obvious repute when you evaluate the quality associated with this particular timepiece.
The only references are slight, with a local acknowledgement to his friends basically for being made welcome in Market Deeping, dated December 27th, 18111 and a further advertisement for an a journeyman apprentice clockmaker required on August 26th 18142. The clock presented at Grantham local house call was anything but ‘journeyman’.
Standing at 79cm high with a dial over 22cm everything about this bracket clock was to excess. It was a country house heavyweight piece, the case made from fine mahogany, with every skill of the craftsman on show with curved woods, beautiful carving (both open and blind fret) and fine metalwork all used to produce the best you will see.
It was the movement though which sets it apart .It plays seven different tunes on 13 airs and bells with a double fuse action and repeat cord feature, there is the ability to make it silent but why would you? The tunes are something to behold: 200 years have done little to dampen the most magnificent sound you will hear.
It begs the question that so little is known of the maker and any other items are small in number and on a different level in terms of quality. The clock holds more secrets which will probably never be answered: who was it made for? Why is so little known about the maker? The main thing this does show though when the hammer price of £3700 is taken into account is we still love quality and razzmatazz and big items create big interest providing they have that magic or quality about them. Buyers crave famous names to the extent they forget what is actually in front of them, but sometimes it is the mastery of the maker and the object itself which are the most important factors.
1& 2 Ellis (R) and Wilbourn (A S H) Lincolnshire Clock, Watch and Barometer Makers, 194 pp, Hansord, Ellis and Wilbourn publishing, p.69.