The Antique Longcase Clocks

The Antique Longcase Clocks – The longcase clock is the classic English clock, and is generally considered the finest achievement of English clock-making. Longcases are prized by collectors for the high quality of their cases and movements, and enjoy a wide popularity today.

There are large numbers in circulation, as they were possibly the most widely produced type of antique English clock. They were also produced in the United States – where they are known as tallcases – and on the Continent of Europe, but generally in lesser quantities than in England.


The earliest English longcase clocks were produced by London makers. By 1700, longcases were being made by provincial clockmakers in centers such as Bristol and Oxford. By the early 18th century, clockmaking had become established throughout United Kingdom, and even small villages could boast of having their own maker.

The long wooden case was an attractive but also practical solution to the problem of providing a stable, dust-frec environment for the pendulum and the weights hanging below the clock movement. The basic frame, or carcass, is almost invariably oak.


Antique chiming 8 day longcase clock –  The Victorian 3 train chiming movement with a choice of chiming on 8 bells or Westminster chime on 4 gongs. There is also provision on the dial for silent/chime. Signed Rob Hampson of Warrington. The late 18th century case has reeded columns and blind frets. Price: £12,000

The earliest cases were veneered with ebony or ebonized wood. Later cases feature marquetry, walnut or mahogany veneers, lacquerwork and solid oak. As larger and more elaborate cases were produced, makers often made use of decorative touches such as top finials, pierced frets and brass stringing or mounts.

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The longcase movement consists of an anchor escapement with a long, seconds-beating pendulum. The anchor escapement was considerably more accurate than its predecessor, the verge escapement, used in some very early longcases. The longcase mechanism gradually incorporated complex mechanical refinements such as moon dials or astronomical or musical work. All examples are weight-driven, with the weights descending inside the case.


Federal cherry tallcase clock, Eight-day Weight Powered, Time and Strike Brass Movement Massachusetts, Circa, 1800. The elaborately inlaid cherry case features cyma curve line inlay on the frieze above the arched and glazed hood door flanked by brass stop fluted, free-standing columns, barber pole inlay frames a rectangular waist door with cut corners, book-end, banded, fan, and line inlays with central paterae flanked by brass stop fluted quarter columns, and the base with banding, alternating dark and light, fans and central paterae inlays on an ogee bracket foot base.

Longcase clocks generally run for eight days before needing to be wound. Dials were originally square in shape, but from c.1720 the arched dial became the most common style. The round dial came into fashion in the late 18th and early 19th century. The dial may be brass – either one-piece, or with an applied chapter ring – or else painted metal.

Experts consider the very early examples, especially those with ebony, walnut or marquetry cases, to be the most important English longcases. The superb workmanship and fine proportions of these clocks, particularly those by Thomas Tompion, Joseph and John Knibb and Edward East, make them the most highly sought-after – and expensive – antique longcase clocks.

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Thomas tompion

Thomas Tompion antique clocks



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