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JACOB LOVELACE

 

From "Devonshire Celebrities"

By Thomas Lawrence Lovelace - published 1869

"Jacob Lovelace, a native of the City of Exeter, was born 15 March 1656 and died at the age of sixty. He succeeded his father, a clockmaker in an obscure part of the city, and his habits inclining him to live a very retired life, he was seldom seen. He, however, was thought to be a man of great ability, and his clocks were much sought after as specimens of superior workmanship. Some time after his death,  the wonderful clock was found in a garret in his house; it remained there neglected and covered with dust for many years, after which it fell into the possession of Mr. Dickenson of Tiverton, from whom it was purchased by Mr. Burt, a well-known dealer in art curiosities; from mr. Burt's hands it passed into the possession of various persons, and at last was purchased by Mr. John Stone of Exeter.

Before this, however, an ingenious clockmaker of Exeter named Frost *, undertook to clean and refix the machinery and to set it going in all its various departments, which occupied him and his son two years and half; the latter still lives, from whom these particulars have been gathered.

Soon after the clock got into the possession of Mr. John Stone, it passed into other hands and found its way to London and was exhibited at the great exhibition of 1851; afterwards, it was exhibited in Regent Street, London by Mr. Frost senior, at which time it was owned by Mr. Rookes who refused one thousand guineas for it. It is now said that it stands in a horse bazaar in Liverpool in a very neglected state; it is to be  hoped that it will one day find its way back to Exeter, there to perpetuate the name of Jacob Lovelace**.

 

Jacob Lovelace's clock

From a lithograph by William Hackett of Exeter

Courtesy: the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter

The clock was eventually  bought by Sir Joseph Meyer, a famed Victorian collector, who donated it to Liverpool Museum. During the bombing of that city in World War 2,  it was damaged beyond all repair or restoration.

 

The details of this wonderful piece of mechanism are thus described:

 

"It gives the moments of time, the hours of the day, the days of the week, the day of the month, the rise and setting of the sun, the growth and decline of the moon; and by a curious mechanical calculation, a hand indicates once in four years that the month of February has twenty-nine days. There are also graceful figures which move their hands and point to the hours and quarter hours when the clock strikes, at which time chimes are heard playing. Also a beautifully painted revolving panorama, representing day and night, by means of emblematic figures, that of Apollo in his chariot drawn by spritied horses and attended by figures making their appearance by day, whilst the goddess Diana appears by night seated in her car drawn by four stags, with twelve figures representing night.

 

Underneath the clock are figures represented, which ring a beautiful peal of bells as occasion may require; the belfry is enclosed by folding doors, exhibiting on the inside, when thrown open, two paintings, the one on the right being a view of the old city gaol at Exeter and on the left, the venerable ruins of the Castle of Rougemont at Exeter."

 

When it is considered the age in which this wonderful piece of machinery was constructed and the limited resources of Jacob Lovelace, it must be admitted that he was a remarkable man, possessed of high powers of mechanical construction and mathematical construction. The work occupied him thirty-four years and it is to be lamented that he died in the workhouse at Exeter. Just two centuries after his death, his name is considered deserving of a place amongst the "Celebrities of Devon" as having  completed one of the most remarkable pieces of mechanism on record."

 

* William Frost of Paris Street and his son Samuel. William's Obituary Notice from The Gentleman's Magazine of November 1851 reads:

"Died 28th September 1851 at Exeter, aged 62, Mr. William Frost. A self-taught watchmaker who was originally a stable boy on the mail coach establishment. He had recently repaired a complicated clock made by Jacob Lovelace at Exeter and had attended its exhibition at the Crystal Palace."

**Jacob Lovelace was the father of the Rev. John Lovelace of Aylesbeare.

 

 
 
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