Agecroft Hall: Discover 17th Century England in Richmond
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Simon Willard Talll Case Clock, c. 1800 (AH1967.0033)

Simon Willard, MA

Included in Agecroft Hall's collection is an eight foot tall case clock constructed around 1800 by clock maker (or horologist) Simon Willard. The mahogany clock (pictured above), stands in the Williams Library, steadily keeping time. 

Simon Willard, born in Massachusetts in 1753, was one of twelve children. At the age of twelve, he was apprenticed to a clock maker, Mr. Morris. His brother, Benjamin, was also a horologist with whom he worked.

Willard worked in two different locations in Massachusetts: Grafton and Roxbury. He signed his early clocks "Simon Willard, Grafton." When his wife and first child passed away, Willard moved about 45 miles away to Roxbury, sometime between 1770-1780. The clock at Agecroft was made in Roxbury, where Willard focused on hall clocks (what we think of as grandfather clocks), church clocks, gallery clocks (wall mounted clocks), and on clock repair.

The cabinetry and decorative clock faces (pictured below) were usually artisan-commissioned by the horologist and cabinet makers were contracted to manufacture the clock cases. Two painters--John Ritto Penniman and John Bullard, both of Boston, were commissioned by Willard to paint clock faces. 

In 1801, Willard received a US Patent for his invention of he improved timepiece, later called a banjo clock, which is a wall clock in a banjo shaped case with no chimes. Willard made 4,000 of these clocks, and many other horologists have since copied the design. Willard retired in 1839. 

 

References:

Daidson, Marshall B. "On Time in America." From The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. Vol. 39, no. 4. 1944.

Downs, Joseph. "Three American Clocks." From The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. Vol. 32, no. 5. 1937

Felker, Tracie. "Charles Codman: Early Nineteenth-Century Artisan and Artist." From American Art Journal. Vol. 22, no. 2. 1990.

Little, Nina Fletcher. "Painted Scenes on Country Furnishings." From American Art Journal. Vol. 9, no. 2. 1977.

Willard, John Ware. Simon Willard and his Clocks. New York: Dover Publication, Inc. 1968.

 

Prepared by Josh Kline, Assistant Curator