J. B. Hawkins, "Thomas Cole and Victorian Clockmaking", 1975, pp, 104-105, no. 35, illustrating and describing this clock, noted as being in an Australian private collection.
A very rare Victorian gilt brass tripod clock of one month duration made by Thomas Cole and retailed by Hunt and Roskell of London, secretly signed Thos. Cole, London underneath the front right hand pillar and signed on the engraved silvered dial Hunt & Roskell London. The beautifully silvered dial engraved with arabesques, foliage and strapwork at centre, with Roman numerals for the hours and outer minute indications and a pair of blued steel hands, the hour hand with a spade-shaped pointer, with a subsidiary dial below 12 o'clock with Arabic numerals for the seconds with a sweep centre blued steel pointer. The movement employing a variation of Cole's typical escapement which instead of two steel springs acting on the pendulum, has only one operated via an extension rod, acting against the pendulum, this being counter balanced on the inside plate of the clock so as to keep pressure on the rod at all times, the escape wheel with six teeth acting on the pallet of one steel spring and a roller instead of a pallet on the bar opposite, the steel spring is tripped by a roller in the 6 o'clock position below the escape wheel, the pendulum independently suspended and the suspension spring is screwed through the suspension point for ease of repair rather than being pinned. The tripod-shaped frame with the dial surmounted by a foliate engraved domed lid with berried finial resting on three shaped supports that wrap around the dial and then curve inward below and terminate in splayed feet resting on an engraved circular stepped base on concealed feet
London, date circa 1852
Height 45 cm, width 24 cm.
Thomas Cole (1800-64), who was one of the most creative Victorian clockmakers, produced a wide variety of unusually shaped clocks, of which the tripod clock was probably his most popular. This clock is an early type, for unlike the majority of his tripod clocks the supports are curvaceous rather than angular. The three supports are beautifully engraved and are most probably by the same artist who engraved a writing table compendium by Cole that was retailed by R. & S. Garrard and was once owned by the Duke of Rutland.
Cole was born in Nether Stowey in Somerset, the son of a local clock maker, James Cole. Little is known of his early training but like his brother, James Ferguson Cole (1798-1880) he probably learnt the rudiments of his trade from his father. In about 1823 he joined his brother in partnership at 3 New Bond Street, London advertising themselves as 'chronometer, watch and clockmakers'; a portable astronomical clock of 1825, signed by both brothers is now in the British Museum, London. The partnership was dissolved in circa 1829 when Thomas went to work independently; by 1838 he was based in Bloomsbury but later moved to Clarkenwell. By 1845 he was describing himself as a 'designer and maker of ornamental clocks' - as J. B. Hawkins wrote, "They are completely original in their design and format and owe their inspiration to Cole alone. The metalwork of their cases, engraving and attention to detail set a standard rarely exceeded."
Some of Cole's pieces reflected the taste for the Antique, of which one clock of circa 1850 was set in an urn standing upon a plinth, while a mantle clock (exhibited London 1862) displayed a sphinx and winged caryatids at each corner. In keeping with the vogue for naturalism, Cole constructed a tripod clock, circa 1856 with supports cast as logs, while the pendulum was shaped as a cauldron over a camp-fire. He also produced clocks in the form of a cake basket and others as a candlestick. In addition he produced a variety of very thin portable desk top clocks, one of which from 1862-4 included in its design the aces of hearts, clubs and spades. Cole also constructed some equally fine but nevertheless unusual strut clocks as well as carriage clocks. He was elected to the Royal Society of Arts, 1861 and also became a member of the Royal Horological Institute.
The international exhibitions enabled Cole to promote his novel constructions. His first showing at the Great Exhibition, London, 1851 was a resounding success. In addition to his own display, he had products on stands of at least four different retail firms, each of unique design to prevent a conflict of interests. Cole also exhibited at the Paris Universelle, 1855 where, as his obituary writer noted he was given "a distinguished position for true artistic excellence and superior workmanship." He was awarded a medal for his display at the London International, 1862 when Charles Frodsham, in the official exhibition report, described Cole's work in glowing terms, noting "nothing could exceed the beauty of design and good taste of the varied models and general excellence of workmanship." Cole's work made such an impact that other London makers, notably E. White and W. Vasel tried to copy him but never surpassed the quality of his craftsmanship.
Apart from the international exhibitions, most of Coles clocks were retailed by London's leading jewellery, silver and other clockmaking firms including Dent, H. & E. Tessier, Asprey, Phillips Brothers and W. Payne and Co. However the most important retailers of his work were R. & S. Garrard, C. F. Hancock and Hunt & Roskell. It was the latter who sold this present piece. The gold and silversmithing concern of Hunt & Roskell was the continuation of the renowned firm Storr & Mortimer, formed by Paul Storr and John Mortimer in 1822 after Paul Storr had severed his connection with Rundell, Bridge & Rundell. In 1826, Storr & Mortimer were joined in partnership by Paul Storr's nephew, John Samuel Hunt, who had worked for Storr for many years as a chaser. Following Paul Storr's retirement in December 1838, the business was restyled Mortimer & Hunt, the partners being recorded as John Mortimer, John Samuel Hunt, and his son, John Hunt. When John Mortimer retired in December 1843, John Samuel Hunt and John Hunt entered into partnership with Robert Roskell and Charles Frederick Hancock, styling themselves as Hunt & Roskell. Charles Frederick Hancock then left the partnership to start his own business in January 1849. Hunt & Roskell was later sold to J. W. Benson in 1899 and after the Second World War it became part of Mappin & Webb, who in turn were acquired by Asprey & Co. in 1990.