The Origin of Grandfather Clocks

The Origin of Grandfather Clocks

The origin of grandfather clocks (Long Case Clocks) came about in the late 17th century.

The pendulum clock was invented and patented by Christiaan Huygens in 1656.

The invention of the anchor escapement in 1670, lowered the swing from 100 degrees to 4-6 degrees with greater accuracy allowing for the introduction of grandfather clocks.

Verge escapement before this, only wall clocks with open swing pendulums were possible.

The English clockmaker William Clement is credited with its development in 1670. Most people started calling the early grandfather clocks, coffin clocks instead of long case clocks.

Grandfather clocks are 6-8 feet tall featuring elaborately carved ornamentation on the hood, or bonnet, which surrounds and frames the dial, or clock face. They stike the hour and half hour with a wonderful chime.

Before the industral revolution in the 1800s, grandfather clocks were made by individual craftsmen and were very expensive. Mass production made clocks less expensive and more accurate with a greater selectiom of styles. Today the most widely used grandfather clocks are keywind or quartz.

The keywind grandfather clocks are spring loaded and wound with a key. Two holes in the face are used for winding clock wise to power the clock. The pendulum of the grandfather clock, is used to regulate the speed of the escapement to keep accurate time. Display of weights are only for decoration.

The tick tock heard from the grandfather clock is the constant stop and releasing of the escapement. Quartz grandfather clocks are operated using batteries. A pendulum isn’t needed, allowing space to display decorations. Quartz grandfather clocks require no maintenance. Both are extremly accuate and will give many years of dependable service.

In 1876 Henry Clay Work stayed at the George Hotel in Piercebridge, County Durham, England.

The George Hotel had an old grandfather clock (made by James Thompson) that no longer worked. When Henry asked about the clock he was told that it had always kept perfect time until the Jenkins brothers (who used to own the hotel) died.

At the moment the last brother died the grandfather clock stopped and it was never repaired. Henry decided to write a song about the clock which became very popular.

In the song he referred to the long case clock as “my grandfather’s clock.” After that most people started calling all long case clocks, grandfather clocks.