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"Duns Clockmakers"


A general History


The earliest surviving clock in the country and indeed in Europe is that on Salisbury Cathedral dating back to 1386 while the earliest in Scotland is St. Bride’s, Douglas dating back to the 15th. century although there are also surviving 15th century clocks at Peebles and Kirkcudbright.

The early clockmakers sought to obtain recognition as a Trade without which, in the Burghs at least, they were unable carry on business and in 1721 Edinburgh was the first to admit clockmakers to membership of the Hammermen’s Guild.

It was in Edinburgh that some of the finest early Bracket Clock were produced, initially under Royal Patronage and in the early stages affordable only by a few very wealthy individuals indeed it was not unknown for such clocks to be acquired by means of lottery.

By the late 18th. century however production costs were falling and these became affordable by the better off working classes principally the weavers, the clocks selling at anything between £6 and £10. As a consequence business boomed and clockmakers sprung up in all market towns; and no fewer than fifteen are recorded as trading in Duns between the years 1798 and 1820.

However the blast of competition was to blow in from about 1820 when the market was undercut by the mass arrival of clocks from the Black Forest area of Germany characterised by extreme simplicity and the sparing use of metal. These clocks, often sold by itinerant pedlars, were erroneously known as ‘Dutch’ a corruption of 'Deutsche' and would sell for as little as 5/-.

There was a further blow to local manufacture in 1843 when John C Jerome, an American started shipping in weight drawn clocks running for 30 hours and selling so cheaply that his initial shipments were confiscated by customs and excise as they were persuaded the price was so cheap it could not be correct and that by his pricing he was attempting to evade duty.

This joint assault more or less meant the death knell for local craftsmen by about 1860.

Duns might appear to have been something of a centre for clockmaking and below are some of the clockmakers recorded. The late Donald Whyte produced a booklet for sale via the Scottish Genealogy Society entitled "Clock and Watch Makers of The Scottish Borders" for which we are much indebted. Below some of the clockmakers we have been able to track;

John Anderson - 1761-1802 (no personal details known)

Anderson Anderson Anderson
1775  Eight day clock oak and mahogany case. height 82 inches brass arch dial. This clock was exposed for sale 2008 at £3950.
Another Anderson Clock of the same vintage. Silver face. Privately owned. Owner resides in Nottinghamshire.

The clock was exposed for sale by auction in Spring 2011 with a reserve of £1500. It is not known whether ii sold.