A timely gift for a shoe tycoon goes to auction

A gold watch may be the ‘go to’ retirement gift for long serving employees, but when staff at Victorian shoemaker, Clarks of Kilmarnock, decided to honour their founder in 1880, they decided to take things a step further.

As a mark of their respect for George Clark, the employees presented him with an impressive ‘skeleton’ clock in the shape of Westminster Abbey. The hugely complex timepiece, which stands 74.5cm high and is clad in an ornate lacquered brass case, was created by renowned clockmakers Swinden & Son of Birmingham.

To ensure that anyone admiring the horological masterpiece knew exactly why it was created, the shop staff inscribed the piece: ‘Presented to George Clark Esquire by his employees Home Department in recognition of his untiring energy and as a mark of their esteem and regard for him as their Employer.’ Mrs Clark was also presented with a gold Albert.

One hundred and forty years on, and several owners later, the clock is now set to take pride of place in the McTear’s auction Changing Times: Clocks & Instruments from the 18th Century to Present Day, with experts estimating it could fetch £3000 to £5000 when it goes under the hammer on 28 April.

James Bruce from McTear’s, said: ‘This is a quite magnificent timepiece which showcases the skill and attention to detail of one of the country’s leading clockmakers of the time. It is a hugely ornate piece and it must have been quite a surprise for Mr Clark when it was unveiled in 1880.’

The clock is powered by a three train, triple fusee driven movement with quarter-striking on eight bells and hour-striking on a coil. It has a repeater mechanism and silvered chapter ring with Roman numerals, lacquered brass case, and a time-compensating mercury bob.

In addition to the Westminster Abbey clock, the 87 lot auction will feature a selection of rare and unusual timepieces including carriage, grandfather, mantel and wall clocks from the Georgian era through the twentieth century.

George Clark took over the long established family shoe making business in the 1870s, with the company later merging with F&G Abbott in 1908 to form Saxone Shoes in Kilmarnock. The unusual name derives from a shock football result where Kilmarnock FC beat Rangers 6-1, much to the delight of George Clark.

The Changing Times: Clocks & Instruments from the 18th Century to Present Day auction will take place at McTear’s on Thursday 28 April at 9.30am.

For more information visit www.mctears.co.uk.