Grandfather clock history revealed

In order to understand grandfather clock history we have to first eliminate the very term that has endeared us to this weight driven clock.

The original name for this type of clock was actually the Longcase Clock.

The reason for the name was actually very utilitarian. Because the clock was weight driven it needed a cabinet to house the weights and pendulum. The resulting case was longer than wide so Longcase clock was an obvious although less creative choice.

William Clement, an English clockmaker has been most widely credited as the creator of this type of clock in 1670. Some of the original problems associated with the Longcase was that it was not the most accurate timepiece.

It was beautiful to be sure, but it often lost between ten minutes and one hour each day.

Incidentally all freestanding clocks owe their collective history to the development of the Longcase. This includes the grandfather, grandmother and granddaughter clocks.

Prior to the Longcase there were other pendulum driven clocks, but the pendulum was much shorter and required a significantly faster movement to provide accurate time. The Longcase ushered in an era that allowed for a slower tick and a longer life for the clock due to decreased wear on the clockworks.

Various European countries worked to develop their own twist on the Longcase. French, Danish and German clockmakers understood the regal beauty of the clock and crafted exquisite clocks for their country’s aristocracy.

The term ‘Grandfather Clock’ may be newer than you might imagine.

The Jenkins Brothers, their first names long past remembering, managed the George Hotel located in County Durham, England. These two owned a Longcase that began losing time. No matter who they asked to fix the clock the issue could never be resolved.

It is believed that the clock stopped working altogether when the second brother passed away at the age of 90.

A songwriter named Henry Work heard the story of the brothers and their clock and crafted a song in commemoration of what may have otherwise been considered an unremarkable event.
However, his song, “My Grandfather’s Clock” captured the attention of many and ultimately gave a new name to a clock with an already substantial history.

Ninety years without slumbering,
Tick, tock, tick, tock,
His life seconds numbering,
Tick, tock, tick, tock,
It stopped short
Never to go again,
When the old man died.

(a portion of My Grandfather’s Clock – Henry Work)

Grandfather clock history is scattered throughout Europe, but ultimately embraced and cherished throughout the world.

Grandfather clocks through the centuries

The Lyrics to the song "My Grandfather's Clock"

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Pendulum clocks have a history

What are grandmother clocks

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