Peter Bower Clockmaker of Redlynch, Wiltshire
1715 – 1795
Extract from the book – South Wiltshire Clock Makers
7th Grt Grandfather
Redlynch, as the modern spelling is – or Redlench or indeed Redlinch as the 18th century engravers spelt it – is about five miles south of Salisbury in Wiltshire and about one mile from Downton. It was a small rambling villiage in an agricultural area, with a pub near the crossroads at the foot of what is now called Bower’s Hill.
From here Peter Bower must have produced hundreds of simple thirty-hour longcase clocks. We know he lived to the age of 80 and had a long working life, but even so he probably had one of the largest outputs of any country clockmaker and must have employed other journeymen and apprentices. One local story has it that he used to hang clock faces from the trees all around his house to advertise his trade!
Peter Bower was born in 1715 and on 23 April 1739 he married Susannah Bayly at St Martin’s Church, Salisbury. He was listed in the marriage licence as a blacksmith, age 23, of Downton, Wiltshire, and she as a spinster, age 22, of Downton. They had six children.
Peter Bower, now listed in the records as a clockmaker, was buried on 5 July 1795, aged 80, at St Lawrence’s Church, Downton.
Most of the clocks that one sees by Peter Bower are thirty-hour birdcage types, either in simple oak cases or often as movements only, but there are at least two musical longcases by him in existence, and also an eight-day longcase. It is possible to categorise his clocks as follows:
Basically the simplest, the early ones have a single hand showing the hours on a square brass dial, 9″ to 10″ wide, nearly all with the same sprandels and a plain matted centre. The name is usually engraved on the chapter ring although one exception seen had the name engraved on a rectangle brass plaque. The movement will have four iron posts 3/8″ by 3/16″ with a going and a striking train set one behind the other. Over this will be a fairly massive bell on an iron bell stand with a nice chunky hammer. The top and bottom brass plates may well show casting faults.
Later these were made with two hands, with minute figures and divisions on the chapter ring. The next development was to engrave the dial centres. The early ones had floral swags and scrolls engraved and at least two of these also had calender apertures above the six o’clock. However there must have been problems as both were blocked off, probably at the time of making as the one seen showed no sign of datework to the movement and the blocking had been done with a piece of old file in the same way that Peter Bower made many of the retaining wedges for the movement pivot bars.
The last of these clocks had beautiful engraved scenes in the West Country style – men of war, village scenes with seagulls flying over and ships entering estuaries with castles and trees. Nearly all of these clocks had the same spandrels and the movements are similar. It is possible to list some typical Bower features: the hedgehog face filed on the bell spring stop; the nut on the bell and nuts on the movement all having a cross filed on them so that they seat better; a turned wood pulley, not brass, for the weight; an unusual pendulum construction, the brass bob on the slide hooked on to the pendulum rod and the top of the rod not screwed into the suspension block but turned round a pin within the blocks; the name usually engraved on the chapter ring on the earlier clocks either as ‘P Bower Redlench’ in a single line or if there are two hands on two lines. The engraved centre examples usually incorportate the name in the design and it is then written as ‘Peter Bower Redlinch’.
Do not dismiss Peter Bower as a mere maker of thirty-hour country clocks; he also made two musical clocks and one eight-day clock. And if you wanted a good-looking brass arched dial two-handed clock but could only afford a thirty-hour movement he could arrange that.
There exists an apparent brass arched-dial eight-day with two hands but which is obviously a thirty-hour birdcage movement. This clock is still in the same house as it was when first bought from the maker. Another thirty-hour clock is still within a quater of a mile of where Bower lived and has been in the same family for many years.
Also still in Redlynch is an eight-day clock with a 12″ wide brass dial 17″ high. The chapter ring has the hour and minute figures and the name ‘Peter Bower Redlinch’ engraved on it. The four spandrels are Bower eight-day type and the dial centre has an engraved scene with a house and cupola, two little wicket gates and fences. The calender aperture below the dial centre is of the large didc type as opposed to the ‘ring’ on the eight-day musical clock. The winding holes cut through part of the engraving (the movement is original) and suggest a lack of planning. There is a full engraved seconds dial above the dial centre. In the arch over are two dolphin sprandels surrounding an engraved, silver boss with an eagle type design and the words ‘Tempus Fugit’. It is in an oak case 6′ 8.5″ high which has replaced cheeks but it is original, particularly as it is similar in dsign to the case of another Bower clock nearby.
The eight-day musical clock unfortunately was discovered as a movement only has now been recased. The 12″ wide dial has fine ‘urn’ spandrels, different from the other eight-day clocks. The engraved silvered chapter ring shows the hour and minute figures, with no maker’s name as this appears on top of the arch as ‘Peter Bower Redlench’. The moon disc has two moon faces on a deep blue ground with stars. The two hemispheres are engraved with miniature scenes similar in style to the thirty-hour engraved dial centres and probably by the same engraver. The figures 1 to 25 + are engraved round the arch but there is no pointer. In the right hand corner of the dial is the tune selector lever, giving a choice of two tunes. The clock has two hands and the dial centre is engraved with floral swags with a date aperture above six o’clock.
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