Time Flies When You Keep Good Time (Don Ward)

By: Don Ward
By: Don Ward

Your grandfathers, grandfather's grandfather clock.


In the late 1960's my father was a U.S. Air Force Officer stationed in Suffolk, in the eastern part of England.  He and my mother often went to antique shops and bought what they could afford. This was back when there were apparently bargains to be had.  My sister and I would often go along. I don't remember much about it ( I was 3 or 4) but there are constant reminders around all of our homes now, since various pieces have been passed around the family.  This is one of my favorites.

It's a grandfather clock or a longcase clock.  It was made by a man named William Mayhew in the village of Woodbridge (which is in Suffolk). If you look closely you can see that information on the brass face of the clock.

My dad bought it from an antique dealer in Woodbridge...the same place where it was made.  That was more than 40 years ago. Here's the incredible part...when my father bought it...it was already more than two centuries old.  It had probably been in that same little village for all of those 200+ years!  Now it's in my house.

Dad has an even nicer one at his house so this one was in the home of relatives.  They couldn't keep it any more so I asked my dad to send it my way.  He did, and on a recent visit from out of state he set it up.  Here's the most incredible part....it works!  I've had it for about month and as long as I wind it every few days, it keeps time.  Below left: the lead weights inside the longcase that keep it running. We're not sure but these may be the originals.  Below right: a look at the works. These apparently are the originals.


William Mayhew of Woodbridge probably spent several days, maybe even several weeks of his life making this amazing timepiece...and making it very well!  At a time when appliance.com says we can expect 9 years of life from a dishwasher or a microwave, or 10 years from a clothes washer..this clock keeps on ticking for maybe 250 or more!

The note below came with the clock when my dad bought in in about 1968.  It states that William Mayhew was active as a clockmaker in Woodbridge from 1780 to 1800.  A web search now shows that he actually died in 1791 and I found other Mayhew/Woodbridge pieces dated to about 1760.  With all that in mind I'm going with maybe 1770 to 1780 for this one...or about the same age as the United States Of America!  (That dealer in 1968 didn't have the advantage of the Internet to make research so much easier.)

In the grand scheme of things it's not particularly rare or overly valuable...but I'm amazed at how beautiful a piece of furniture it is... 7+ feet of golden-hued English oak.  I'm amazed at how well it still performs it intended function after a quarter of a millennium!  I'm amazed that it's in my house after all those years...thanks Dad! 

My dad is a pretty big collector of clocks.  He knows his stuff.  I'm no expert on any of it, but here's what I appreciate about it. When I walk past this clock I can't help but think of a master craftsman who dedicated his early life to learning how to make these, and the rest his life to making them.  I can no more imagine what that life was like than he could have imagined where his work would end up centuries later, thousands of miles from Woodbridge, in Colorado Springs.  Time flies.

We'll talk again soon.

Don Ward







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