Scottish Clockmaking: A Brief History

From the 15th century onwards public clocks had been erected in the squares and local spaces of larger towns around Scotland, from Peebles to Dundee. The mechanisms of these early clocks were produced overseas, and it wasn’t until the late 15th century to early 16th century that British clockmakers became competent in making and repairing clocks. As the practice developed, an area in Edinburgh was dedicated to their trade, Clock Maker’s Land in the West Bow, which most notably housed the workshop and residence of the watchmaker and horologist Paul Roumieu, 1677-94. His craftsmanship has been recorded in documents of the time, praising the quality of his movements and pieces.

This example of a timepiece by Roumieu resides in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York collection.

Scotland has produced some prolific clock makers since then, and here we will see how their clocks have developed over time.

John Gibson

John Gibson was active in Edinburgh from 1758-80 and was the bound apprentice to the watch and clockmaker located in Nether Bow, Edinburgh, Daniel Binnie (recorded as active from 1747-79). The Edinburgh Evening Courant mentions Gibson’s work on 1st October 1808:

‘Valuable Musical Clock For Sale… Made by John Gibson, an eminent maker in this city, and is mounted in an elegant mahogany case…  This clock would be a great acquisition to the hall of a mansion house’

We have an example of a Gibson longcase clock at our warehouse (as seen above), and it is a brilliant example of his skill at his trade. It is a typical example of an Edinburgh longcase clock, with a horn top, flame mahogany door, and mahogany case. Dated circa 1775, the silver face has been engraved and blackened, with John Gibson, Edin. below the hands, and features a calendar and Roman numerals.

Engraved to the face are sea horses or hippocampus, with the upper body of a horse and the lower body of fish and webbed paws. These mythical creatures have been seen in similar designs on heraldry since the Renaissance.

The raised pediment to the top of the clock would have been surmounted by a sphere or gilded eagle, and at each side of the door are tapering columns. It all stands on squat bracket feet. There are often variations across Edinburgh longcase clocks, including the inclusion of fretwork, or capitals to the top of the columns. Outside of London, Edinburgh longcase clocks were desirable because of their sleek, elegant look and thin, long door. We have several other examples, including:


George IV Grandfather Clock by J. Melrose, Edinburgh – operated from the Canongate or Nicolson Street in Edinburgh, circa 1826.


In the late 19th century, appreciation of clocks grew, and resulted in a demand for the best examples of the trade. Jumping forwards to recent times, there have been efforts to emphasise the value of UK-made clocks, especially in a market flooded with internationally made examples. We have a longcase clock by Alan Hamshere, completed in 1984, which featured in the exhibition Clock and Watchmaking Today at the Prescot Museum of Clock and Watchmaking in 1985.

Clockmaking Today

With a case veneered in birds-eye maple wood, and a weight driven movement, the clock has a dial divided into two parts: the lower part has a ring with 12 months of the year, the upper part is similar. The sophisticated dial has several functions and to fully comprehend its movements you would need to talk to Alan himself. This clock shows the complexity of modern Scottish clocks, and how they have developed from Georgian tastes to this timepiece.

Wanting to see more examples of Scottish clockmaking? We have several examples from 1775 to the 1900s, from the east to the west coast, with all sorts of distinctive features: horn tops, bow doors, flat tops and drum heads.

The variety is amazing and the quality is second to none, so if you have some time to spare, feel free to come and see our selection in the warehouse.

Wood and Metal

We have a large and interesting collection of mahogany and brass furniture in stock at the moment. This type of furniture possibly derived from cabinetmakers fitting out carriages, ships and trains in the last century. Wood and brass was used for various fittings, such as door handles, luggage racks, and coat stands. Some of this furniture is quite unique, and all beautifully made with a combination of engineering and cabinet making. Continue Reading →

Brown is the New Green

Did you know that the carbon footprint of an antique piece of furniture is 16 times less than its modern counterpart? Buying antique furniture rather than new is the ultimate form of recycling; reducing landfill and unnecessary waste of natural resources, as well as preserving history.

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Black Forest Carvings

Black Forest Group (2)

Black Forest carvings usually depict forest animals, particularly bears, and also trees and foliage. A common misconception is that they originate from the Bavarian Black Forest of southwestern Germany, but it has in fact been established that they are the creation of Swiss carvers, originating in the town of Brienz. From humble beginnings of a cottage industry in the early 1800s it grew by the turn of the 20th century to become the major employer of an entire skilled community.
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Curator’s Choice Tours


John Dixon, owner of Georgian Antiques for over 30 years, will offer his expert views on antiques ‘Made in Scotland’ as part of the Curator’s Choice Tours at Dumfries House. Thursday 28th January 14.00-16.00.

Festive Opening Times 2015

  • Christmas Eve: 8.30am-5.30pm
  • Fri 25th – Mon 28th Dec: CLOSED
  • Tues 29th Dec: 10am-2pm
  • Wed 30th Dec: CLOSED
  • Thurs 31st Dec: 10am-2pm
  • Fri 1st Jan: CLOSED
  • Sat 2nd Jan: CLOSED

Usual opening hours from Monday January 4th 2016
Best wishes for 2016 from all at Georgian Antiques!

Antique Bookcases

Bookcase E (1)


Antique bookcases come in a wide variety of sizes, styles and woods and remain a functional as well as an attractive piece of furniture to grace any home or office. Continue Reading →

The Orkney Chair

The Orkney chair is probably one of the most iconic pieces of Scottish vernacular furniture.

The chair style that we know today was standardised in around the 1850s by David Kirkness of Kirkwall. It is assumed that the straw back was used in the Orkney, Shetland and Fair Isles as no trees are able to grow due to the extreme weather conditions, and on the older chairs the frames are usually constructed from driftwood gathered from around the coastlines.

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The Furniture of Sir Robert Lorimer

(Robert Lorimer at work in the office of Sir Robert Rowand Anderson. Painted by his elder brother John Henry Lorimer, 1886)

Sir Robert Lorimer is to Edinburgh what Charles Rennie Mackintosh is to Glasgow. Lorimer’s impressively vast body of work covered the length and breadth of Great Britain, as well as venturing into Europe. Here at Georgian Antiques, we love the furniture he designed.

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Charm and Character

The chest of the drawers is one of the most iconic pieces of Georgian furniture. It superseded the previous custom of storage in trunks, colloquially called ‘kists’ in Scotland. Most early Georgian chests were made of oak or oak veneered with native woods such as walnut, and rarely more exotic examples were veneered with laburnum.  With the introduction of mahogany in the early 1700s, it became the most desirable wood for making these chests, which only the upper classes could then afford to have made by specialised cabinetmakers. Relatively few Scottish Georgian chests were made and they are recognised as being of the highest quality.

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