Edwards, Stourbridge, England, c. 1840. Movement net 16"h x 10.5"w x
6.5"d, overall with base 21"h x 14.5"w x 11.25"d. Anchor escapement.
Eight day duration.
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This is an example of an original James Edwards flint glass skeleton clock also known
at the time as a 'transparent clock'. Like many early skeleton clock makers, James Edwards
standardized on one basic frame design and used it with minor modifications on all of his
clocks. His clocks predate the major English makers of Evans and Smith by some fifteen
years. The majority of his clocks were simple timepieces with the occasional two train
with the hour strike on a bell mounted above the frame.
He is best known for his glass wheeled clocks, several of which were entered in the
Great London Exhibition of 1851. In many ways Edwards' clocks, like those of
James Condliff who was working around the same time in
Liverpool, epitomized the Victorian era in being not only beautifully made but also
showing great originality and ingenuity and being spectacular to look at. The principal
feature of Edwards' clocks was the cut flint glass centers of the wheelworks; the
largest being 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter. The term flint derives from the flint
nodules found in the chalk deposits of southeast England, near Stourbridge, that were used
as a source of high purity silica to produce a potash lead glass that was the precursor to
English lead crystal. Other interesting features unique to this clock were:
a) So as not to mar the overall appearance and possibly to add a little air of mystery,
the mainspring was concealed in the wooden box on which the clock rested. It is peculiar
that the dome simply rested on the box's flat surface; with no engraved groove or raised
lip to locate the dome's edge. Interestingly there is another glass wheeled clock thought
be be of a later date, and of a slightly different design by Edwards that does have such a
wooden locating lip on the top of the wooden box.
b) Because it would have been difficult to drill through the cut glass bob, and this
would certainly have marred its appearance, the pendulum is adjusted by a mechanism from
above the suspension spring.
c) On his earlier clocks, as in this example, the fusee was held in position by
independent plates screwed to the front and rear frames allowing removal of the fusee
without dismantling the clock.
d) The motion work was concealed in a drum situated behind the dial, presumably so that
no conventional wheelwork could be seen.
e) Edwards positioned the wheels one behind the other so as to display them as
attractively as possible and not, as on most clocks, by placing the third wheel just
behind the front plate. 1.
It is interesting to note the only other two known examples of this type of clock
appear on the front cover of Skeleton Clocks, F.B. Royer-Collard and on pg. 41-44
as well as in British Skeleton Clocks, Derek Roberts, pg. 175-178. At first blush
it would appear that these are two separate examples. The obvious difference is the small
decal insignia on the front of the wood base in Roberts' book and attributed to Major
Anthony Heathcote's collection. However a careful review of the grain on the wood base as
well as various casting flaws on the front main frame plate reveal that these are both the
same clock. My example has a different base because the clock had taken a fall. The base
and dial were replaced (which I cannot understand why one would not have repaired the
base) as well as some parts of the frame needed to be mended. But if one again looks
closely at the frame its casting flaws match exactly those of both examples
described above. Could this be the same clock? Are there two or only one known example
left? If anyone who knows of an original clock of this model, I'd like to know.
Gene Chrestensen had made and sold close copies of this clock in the 1980's. But the
differences in the feet, style and attachment of the fusee stop and other subtle
differences in the frame style make those identifiable from the original.
Provenance: Cottone Auctions, June 25, 201 , lot#23.
1. British Skeleton Clocks, Derek Roberts,