Rare 17th century clock found in cottage loft near Wirksworth

A rare clock found in the loft of a Derbyshire cottage is so old and important that it’s worthy of a place in a museum.

Thursday, 23rd June 2022, 10:54 am
Updated Thursday, 23rd June 2022, 10:54 am

The centuries-old John Frearson of Derby verge lantern clock was discovered near Wirksworth and is anticipated to raise at least £6,000 when it goes up for auction this month.

Clocks valuer Mike Wetton of Hansons Auctioneers said: “This is an extremely important find for Derby and Derbyshire. Only one other lantern clock is known to have been made in the county. That was by William Blore of Derby, dated about 1730. No others have come to light until now – and this is an even earlier example. It was made between 1690 and 1700 making it around 330 years old.

“I made the find when I was called to a cottage near Wirksworth to value some items. The owner, Neil Gilbert, showed me a collection of clocks including this one. As soon as I saw it, I became excited and curious. I carried out more research and consulted Derby historian Maxwell Craven’s excellent book on Derbyshire clockmakers. It soon became apparent this find was special.”

The John Frearson of Derby verge lantern clock is estimated to raise £6,000 to £7,000 at auction on JUne 30, 2022.

Neil Gilbert, 48, who runs an electrical services business, said: “I started collecting clocks about 20 years ago after my grandfather gave me his retirement clock. I actually acquired some through my job as an electrician. When I was visiting high-end homes, people would sometimes mention they did not want a particular clock.

“I have owned several clocks over the years but always went for quality over quantity. They are well-made investment pieces with a lot of engineering. I realised the Frearson clock was important. He was a very clever man who would have trained around the same time as Thomas Tompion, who is regarded as the father of English clockmaking."

Mike added: “Lantern clocks are thought to be the earliest type of domestic clocks in England. They are weight-driven wall clocks in brass cases with a single bell.”

The John Frearson of Derby verge lantern clock will be offered in Hansons Auctioneers’ fine art auction on June 30.

Mike said: “The movement has not been tested and it will require some restoration but any passionate clock collector would relish that challenge.”