Bernard Rudkin Hennessy, Swansea, Wales.

A fine and rare longcase regulator with a beautifully executed skeletonised dial and movement.

This remarkable eight-day regulator has a fully skeletonised movement and dial with the front plate being completely omitted; the arbors all being carried by a series of massive cocks.

The very thick backplate is circular, being some 12” in diameter, and a circular brass drum shaped case encloses the movement. The engraved and silvered brass dial consists, in effect, of three chapter rings. The narrow outer one for the minutes has Arabic numerals as also does the seconds ring below 12 o’clock. Roman numerals are employed for the hours. The dial is screwed to the four very heavy stepped dial pillars which in turn are fixed to the backplate by four heavy screws.

All the wheelwork is finely finished each having delicately tapered crossings; indeed even the barrel cover is skeletonised with six tapering crossings. The train, which is given below, is of very high count, employing beautifully finished 24 leaf pinions throughout.

WHEEL                                     TEETH              PINIONS

Great Wheel                                288                      24

Centre Wheel                               192                      24

Intermediate Wheel                    180                     24

Escape Wheel                                30                      24


The Minute is 68 : 68

The Hour is 12 to 144.

The dead-beat pallets are jewelled and are protected by ‘stop’ pins mounted on the backplate. An impressive feature is the long curving lever for the maintaining lever which snakes its way between a wheel and pinion.

To complete the display, a very fine mercury compensated pendulum with beat plate is provided on which all the gilded brass work has been decorated with floral engraving and it is mounted on the backplate. The large ornamental pulley has six crossings.

The well figured mahogany case is in the Regency style with a flat top, canted front corners to the hood (which slides off) and trunk, and a panelled base. The door is glazed and crossbanded.

This clock is illustrated in ‘English Precision Pendulum Clocks’ by Derek Roberts on pages 236 and 237.

Bernard Rudkin Hennessy, Swansea.

Bernard Rudkin Hennessy was born in Dublin the son of an Irishman, Martin Hennessy, who opened a small academy in Swansea about 1840. Bernard Hennessy was the apprentice of John Jenkins, Clockmaker of Swansea, and, in this respect, he was fortunate indeed, since Jenkins was a very skilled scientist, being a Master of Arts and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. He abandoned his clock-making business in 1847 on being called to the Bar and, for the rest of his life, was a journalist and politician. His pupil, B. R. Hennessy, opened up business on his own account at 8 Wind Street, Swansea, in 1848, the time when Jenkins retired. I should imagine that he took over the business of John Jenkins. Later he moved to number 20 Wind Street. Mr Hennessy continued in business until 1875, when he retired with a very comfortable fortune. He was buried in Danygraig Cemetery, Swansea, on the 26th January 1887, leaving two sons, Marten and Charles Hennessy.

At the date of Hennessy’s marriage on the 11th May 1845 to Elizabeth, the daughter of Richard Collier of Warminster, Wilts, he is described in the local Press as ‘watch-finisher and escapement maker’. At this time, of course, he was still an understudy of Jenkins.

Hennessy was one of Swansea’s most celebrated Victorian horological and scientific entrepreneurs and everything he produced or sold was of the highest standard. He is recorded as being a Clockmaker, Watchmaker, Jeweller, Gunsmith, Optician, Supplier of Scientific Instruments and Contractor to the Admiralty.

Further details can be found in: –

‘Clockmaking in Wales’ by Iorwerth  C. Peate.

‘Wales Clocks & Clockmakers’ by William Linnard.

‘Swansea Clocks’ by Johanna Greenlaw.


John Smith & Sons, Clerkenwell, London.

John Smith & Sons were first established in 1780. By 1830 they were located next to St John’s Church in St John’s Square, Clerkenwell, London. This had formerly been occupied by Colonel Francis Magniac (1770-94) and was pulled down circa 1812. Colonel Magniac is recorded as making complicated clocks and was made famous for producing automaton clocks for the Emperor of China.

John Smith & Sons employed a large number of workers in their factory and were able to produce every part of a clock in house. They had a brass foundry, clockmakers, case makers, engravers, dial makers and glass formers. All of the clocks they produced were of high quality, including small carriage clocks, skeleton clocks, regulators, right up to large turret clocks. A full and fascinating description of their works can be found in an article that appears in ‘The Illustrated London News’ of the the 20th September 1851.

In later years they continued just as suppliers of raw materials, especially non-ferrous metals. The business eventually closed in the last part of the 20th century.

Further details can be found in: –

‘Skeleton Clocks Britain 1800 – 1914’ by Derek Roberts pages 131 and 260.

‘Victorian Clocks’ by Richard Good pages 37-39.

‘J.Smith & Sons of Clerkenwell Facsimiles’ compiled by Chris McKay.

‘Visit to Clerkenwell Clock Factory’. The Illustrated London News 20th September 1851, (this was re-printed in Antiquarian Horology No.3 Volume 12 Autumn 1980 and in ‘Skeleton Clocks’ by Derek Roberts).

Serviced and guaranteed for 3 years.
Height: 77 ¼″ (6′ 5″) or 196cm
CIRCA. 1865
Provenance: Private collection U.K.

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