Compared to the silver collections of many City Livery Companies, that of the Clockmakers is very modest comprising some 40 items. Having no Hall of its own to provide a permanent home, with the attendant difficulties of storing securely valuable items, may to some extent account for the lack of quantity. However what it lacks in quantity it certainly makes up in quality with some of the pieces. If it has a common theme it is connected with good living, most of the pieces being intended for display or use at the dining table during Livery dinners.
The earliest piece is a sixteenth century standing cup and cover probably of Southern German origin. There is a later inscription showing it to be a gift to the Company by William Petit in 1655, hence it is known as the Petit Cup. The cover had a later addition of a finial in the form of an armillary sphere representing the Company’s crest. There is evidence from the Court minutes that this was added in the 1670’s at the time of our grant of arms. The present lid and finial is a modern replacement (1996), the original having been lost. Petit was an early member of the Company being admitted in 1632 and serving as Steward in the same year.
The Court Minutes of 7th March 1686, regarding the silver items, state that ‘all of them except the said Cup and Cover (Petit Cup) and Tankard shall be weighed and disposed of …… and that therewith they cause Two Tankards of the same or a fitting value to be made’. These are probably the finest items in the Collection, a magnificent pair of silver, lidded tankards with lion thumb pieces. They bear the makers mark IM and a London hallmark for 1685. Both pieces are engraved with the full achievement of the Company’s Arms.
Another fine and interesting piece is an eighteenth century snuff box by Hester Bateman made in 1789. It is engraved with the Company’s Arms and belonged to Benjamin Sidey, Master of the Company in 1789. This piece was located and presented to the Company by Mr Assistant Gerald Sanders in 1978. It used to appear regularly, full of snuff, at Court Meetings.
Other items in the Collection include a set of four candlesticks, a set of five dessert stands, silver salvers and cups including the Adams Cup. This was specially designed for the Company as the retiring gift of George William Adams who was Master in 1863. The stem is in the form of an hour glass, the two handles are the figures of Father Time and the finial on the lid is an armillary sphere.
The largest and most remarkable piece is a Victorian silver and parcel-gilt table centre in the form of a fountain. It was made by Stephen Smith in London in 1870 for the United Kingdom Electric Telegraphic Company. It is known as the ‘Croll Testimonial’. It was presented to the Clockmakers’ Company in 1883 by Col. Alexander Angus Croll who was Master in 1877 and 1885. Croll was Chairman of the United Kingdom Telegraph Co. and in 1870 negotiated its sale to the Government to the great benefit of the shareholders. In gratitude they presented him with the Testimonial then worth 1,000 guineas. It is a complicated piece based on four seated female figures representing mathematics, chemistry, power and time. The Croll Testimonial is currently on loan to the Science Museum and can be viewed in the Information Age gallery at the Science Museum.
Another gift to the Collection is the Charter Cup given to the Company by the Clarke family and in particular Past Master Christopher Clarke at the end of his year of office as Master (1992). The gift was to commemorate three things in particular: the granting of our Charter in 1631, to mark four generations of the Clarke family who have been members of the Livery and to mark the institution of the Tompion Gold Medal in 1953, recording the names of the six winners to date.
More recent additions, the gifts of Past Masters, include a silver coffee pot, a silver salt cellar, a gold loving cup and an hour-glass for keeping check on the length of Masters’ after-dinner speeches.
With additions such as this the Company’s Collection will continue to grow both in quantity and in quality and be a worthy component of the Company’ assets representing, as it does, the Company’s continuing history.