July 31, 2010
The Gretton Project
As always, we do want to thank the many supporters for your continued efforts and contributions to this project, we also want to assure you that the Gretton Project is indeed continuing and we are making steady positive progress. We must remind that the authors are based in the Netherlands and on the West Coast of Canada. Distance, time difference and the fact that we are not in the UK to pick up the phone, easily visit owners or others knowledgeable with Gretton or horology during Gretton’s working period, or for that matter just to take a trip over to the local archives. This “not being local” does make our task more difficult and slower. However, the following provides an update from our last letter dated November 2009.
We have just returned from our latest visit to the UK, this time a month long stay. As in the past, our focus was to visit owners of Gretton clocks and watches and to photograph and record their timepieces. This was our fourth annual visit to the UK for this project. This time we also visited all museums that own timepieces made by Gretton. We were very fortunate in that without exception, all of the museums let us photograph their Gretton timepieces and also gave us permission to use these photographs in our book – we consider this to be a great benefit, thank you. We also visited several London auction houses and copied pages from their catalogues where a Gretton clock was illustrated. In total we took slightly more than 3000 images during this visit. All photographs were taken using our mobile “impromptu” studio.
Starting in May 2010, my wife Laila became a research associate and the (amateur) genealogist for this project; she has undertaken to track down documents related to Gretton’s life. For this purpose we visited archives in London and several north of London and in the midlands. An image of Charles Gretton and his family has started to emerge. It is truly fascinating reading through the Gretton family wills, these provide an interesting dimension into Gretton’s life. Unfortunately you will need to wait for the book before we divulge our findings. We have however decided to make the basic Gretton family tree available on-line. This will allow those interested to view the tree and possibly provide comments and advice. The Gretton family tree can be accessed through www.ancestry.co.uk. Of course, you would need to be a member to view the tree, although you may just access it by using the 14 day free trial that is available. Log on and enter the search parameters in the appropriate boxes: Charles – Gretton – Claypole - 1648 – 1731 – London. If you need additional help, just drop me an email.
From the information collected, it is quite clear that Gretton made just about every type of clock and watch that was being produced at the time by his contemporaries. We have uncovered some truly remarkable examples of the finest workmanship and also some quite simple clocks that were likely intended for those of more modest means. Just for interest we are providing images of a silver octagonal cased watch, courtesy of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. This watch has a rock crystal case and balance spring, it dates to about 1680. A more detailed description will be available in the book.
In our January 2009 letter, published in the March 2009 edition of Antiquarian Horology we published a listing of all known (at that time) Gretton clocks and watches still surviving. At that time we listed 107 pieces including 36 table/spring clocks, 48 longcase clocks, 20 watches and three lantern clocks. As of this writing, the known pieces have increased to 124 made up of 41 table/spring clocks, 57 longcase clocks, 23 watches and 3 lantern clocks. We still have not traced the location of any of the clocks that were in the Wetherfield Collection. We are convinced that these clocks still exist and are likely held in private collections.
We do know that Gretton was still making clocks in the 1720’s, but it is quite clear from our research that his output had declined substantially by that time. We have found very few clocks from this later period.
While we would love to find additional clocks and watches made by Gretton, our focus must unavoidably turn from this search to that of analyzing what we have, sorting through the more than 13,000 images that we have amassed, selecting those for our book and documenting the specifications of the selected clocks. Laila will continue with her genealogy research and try to create a meaningful portrait of this most renowned clockmaker.
Our goal remains to have a first, unedited, draft of the book by the end of 2011.
Should you identify or hear of Gretton clocks in private collections, or own one but have not yet contacted us, or if you uncover information related to Gretton, we do hope that you will contact us. As always, confidentiality will be maintained. Thank you again to all of the individuals and organizations that have provided assistance, we could not have reached this stage without your help. It is most gratefully appreciated.
Note new contact details:
Laila & Dennis Radage: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel: +31 (0593) 332860
Warner Meinen: email@example.com