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Clocks, Watches, and Far More Besides: George Graham (c.1673-1751)

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“His temper was not less communicative than his genius was penetrating, and his principal view was not either the accumulation of wealth, or the diffusion of the same, but the advancement of science and the benefit of mankind. As he was perfectly sincere, he was without suspicion; as he was above envy he was candid, and as he had a relish for true pleasure he was generous. He frequently lent money, but never could be prevailed upon to take any interest; and for that reason he never placed out any money on government securities. He had bank-notes which were thirty years old by him when he died; and his whole property, except his stock-in-trade, was found in a strong-box, which, though it was less than would have been heaped up by avarice, was yet more than would have remained to prodigality.”

Extract from George Graham’s obituary (quoted in Evans, 2005 - Reference GM, 523)


George Graham is described as being “an English clockmaker, inventor, and geophysicist” in Wikipedia, while the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Evans, 2005) goes with “horologist and maker of scientific interests”; neither of these brief summaries does full justice to the interests and activities of George Graham, the subject of this article.




Oil painting of George Graham by Thomas Hudson - see text below (pic from the Science Museum at d3d00swyhr67nd.cloudfront.net):





George Graham was born on 7 July in either 1673 or 1675 - the exact year of his birth being unknown - and because his baptism has not been traced, we have two possible birth locations, Horsegills in Kirklinton or Fordlands in Irthington, both of them farms lying within barely a mile of each other and situated 6 miles north-east of Carlisle in Cumberland. George was the eldest of three children of George Graham (c.1615-1679), a husbander, and his second wife, Isobel. In addition to his brother John and sister Isobel, Graham was also half-brother to six offspring from his father’s first marriage. There is evidence of a religious rift in the family and we know that Graham’s father changed faiths, from Church of England to Quaker, at some time between 1675 and his death in 1679. On his father’s death, the younger George Graham, then aged about six, went to live with his half-brother William at nearby Sikeside.

At the age of about 15, on 2 July 1688, George Graham was apprenticed in London to Henry Aske of St Martin’s Ludgate, in the Clockmakers’ Company, for seven years. His other half-brother Richard and his half-sister Mary were also in London, in 1690, both of them Quakers living in the parish of St Andrew’s, Holborn. It is notable though that there is no evidence that George Graham himself was ever of the Quaker faith. Richard and his wife, Alice, had six children but only two survived infancy - William, later associated with his uncle George in the horological trade before emigrating to Philadelphia, and Anne, the residual legatee in Graham’s will written in 1747.

George Graham’s apprenticeship to Henry Aske is somewhat problematic especially given that Aske’s recorded work (lantern clocks) is not of the quality one might expect from a maker having an apprentice as celebrated as Graham. Indeed, it is not proven that Graham was ever at Aske’s premises in Naked Boy Alley, Ludgate Hill, and he may have been unofficially turned over to another master. Whatever the case may be, Graham was made free on 30 September 1695, and about a year later when he was about aged about twenty-two, he entered the household and workshop of Thomas Tompion where he would have received further tuition. Tompion trained his employees to a specific house style and Graham’s work cannot be identified in any Tompion timepiece; Tompion and/or Ambrose Gardner, Tompion’s principal clockmaker during the 1690s, probably ensured that Graham followed the styles required. In December 1697, after a two-year period as a journeyman, George Graham enrolled the first of at least fifteen apprentices, Joseph Ward, probably the son of the plate-worker in Water Lane, also named Joseph. Graham’s second pupil, bound in December 1700, was Obadiah Gardner, the son of Ambrose whose family were also members of Tompion’s household.




A mid 18th century oak longcase regulator by George Graham, no. 767, powsered by a massive five-wheel train movement with bolt and shutter maintaining power and high count pinions. with dead-beat escapement featuring long steel pallets to a 'scapewheel of six crossings and the long brass crutch, to a square-section mahogany pendulum rod terminating in a very substantial lenticular brass bob with a silvered rating nutbob. A silvered brass beat scale is fitted in the base of the regulator. The 10 inch square silvered dial with outer minute track enclosing the large subsidiary seconds dial, with upward curved aperture for the Arabic hour numerals, and chamfered date aperture with pin-hole adjustment, secured to the movement by four screws set into substantial dial feet triple-screwed to the frontplate. The full details and provenance of this regulator can be found at  Bonhams.com/auctions/21931/lot/65/  (pics from images2.bonhams.com)









On 25 September 1704 at St Mary-le-Bow church, George Graham married Elizabeth Tompion (b.1687) of Ickwell, Bedfordshire, a niece of Thomas Tompion. Elizabeth was nearly eighteen and Thomas Tompion witnessed the marriage allegation. Prior to this event and in consideration of the business, Tompion had taken Edward Banger into partnership in about 1701. Banger was a former apprentice who had married Tompion’s niece, Margaret Kent. The partnership lasted until about 1708 when, after Banger had apparently been dismissed from the premises, the firm traded under the sole name of Thomas Tompion. This continued until about 1711 when George Graham was taken into partnership. When Thomas Tompion died in November 1713, George and Elizabeth Graham inherited London’s leading clock and watchmaking concern, and Graham advertised his succession to Tompion in The Englishman on 28 November 1713 as follows:


“GEO. GRAHAM, Nephew of the late Mr. Tho. Tompion, Watch-maker, who lived with him upwards of 17 years, and managed his Trade for several years last past; whose Name was joined with Mr. Tompion’s for some Time before his Death, and to whom he hath left all his Stock and Work, finished and unfinished; continues to carry on the said Trade, at the late Dwelling-house of the said Mr. Tompion, at the sign of the Dial and Three Crowns, at the Corner of Water-lane in Fleetstreet, London; where all persons may be accomodated as formerly.”

 (Quoted in Evans, 2005)


Little is known about life within the Graham household although there are hints of some marital discord; Elizabeth is reputed to have had two sons whose legitimacy George refused to acknowledge. Subsequent to his taking over of the Tompion business, Graham continued Tompion’s own achievement of becoming probably London’s most skilled and influential maker. However, after Tompion’s death, the firm’s production rate (or at least, the rate of retail sales) of standard clocks and watches fell quite dramatically, consistently averaging about fifty timepiece watches per year compared to Tompion’s 140, and twelve repeating watches as opposed to Tompion’s seventeen. The number of standard clocks retailed fell from seventeen to just six a year. Graham continued the numbering system instituted by Tompion, featuring four principal series: clocks, timepiece watches, repeating watches, and clockwatches (the last of which series - including alarm watches - was abandoned in about 1720, being absorbed into the other two watch categories (perhaps on a move in premises).

Graham’s clock production was less varied than Tompion’s had been. No Graham clock is recorded of longer duration than two months and very few profusely decorated examples are known although he did occasionally supply replacement movements for French cases, such as the fine pedestal clock at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire. There is no record of any Graham item being supplied to the royal family, and he is not known to have supplied any turret clocks. Roughly half of Graham’s extant numbered clocks are of the weight-driven longcase variety; 35 per cent are bracket or table clocks, sometimes with an alarm; 10 per cent are longcase regulators, and 5 per cent are various items mainly with a power reserve of 30 hours. Leaving aside the regulators, most numbered items are standard retail models, although a number of unusual commissions are recorded, including the following: A ‘tavern timepiece’ (no. 575); a longcase clock with regulator in dial arch (no. 587); a monumental longcase 10 ft high at Dunham Massey in Cheshire (no. 629); two three-train grande-sonnerie clocks (nos. 488 - part of Tompion’s unfinished stock - and 721), and an extraordinary table-clock - his most highly decorated - in the National Palace, Madrid (no. 521). Graham also supplied bedroom clocks with a silent escapement devised in about 1715, incorporating an escape wheel in the form of a lantern pinion whose three rollers acted as ‘teeth’ impulsing gut pallets. Interestingly, the cases of the standard retail clocks changed very little in design, materials and decoration between the late Tompion period and the late Graham period, and more surprisingly, apart from the major advances in precision work, improvement in mechanisms in these clocks was limited to the refinement of existing models and techniques. Although Graham used his dead-beat escapement in his regulators from about 1720, it did not supersede the recoil escapement in domestic longcase clocks until about 1729. A number of causal factors may have been involved in the slowdown of production/sales after Graham took over Tompion’s business; more time was spent on finishing items, Graham was apparently indifferent to financial success, he had an overriding interest in scientific matters, and he probably did not compete so successfully in what was an increasingly competitive market.

At the time of Graham’s assumption of Tompion’s business, the leading clock and watchmakers were engaged in improving workmanship and movement design, focusing on temperature errors and the need for an improved escapement. Graham was also involved in devising solutions to these problems. In about 1715-20 , he introduced his dead-beat escapement for pendulum clocks which, though more efficient because it had no recoil, was more difficult to make due to the more precise nature of its action. Graham himself, quite rightly, did not claim to be the originator of his dead-beat escapement, perhaps because he knew that Tompion had used almost identical pallets back in about 1675 albeit with a pin-wheel escapement, but he improved the design by using an escape wheel with peripheral teeth and pallets working above the plane of the wheel rather than at its side. In fact, the dead-beat escapement was invented by the astronomer Richard Towneley, and first used by Thomas Tompion in a clock built for Sir Jonas Moore, and in the two precision regulators he made for the New Greenwich Observatory in 1676, mentioned in correspondence between Astronomer Royal John Flamsteed and Towneley. Reputation has it that the earliest use of Graham’s improved dead-beat escapement was in a clock he made for the Revd John Whiteside, keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.




The (Graham) dead-beat escapement (Youtube video, by the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, 18 September 2015, reference: youtu.be/RgaqRqlgq14):




In the initial phase of Graham’s dead-beat escapement, the accuracy gains effected by the escapement were, to an unfortunate extent, negated by a lack of temperature compensation mechanism. However, within two years, Graham contrived a temperature compensated pendulum to complement the escapement, and thus produce the true regulator. Graham had experimented some five years earlier with a view to producing such a pendulum but found no immediate solution. However, in December 1721, whilst using mercury for another purpose, he noticed the considerable expansion of the metal when a jar of mercury was placed near a fire. Recognizing its potential, he produced a pendulum with a mercury filled jar as its bob and by June 1722 he was testing its accuracy against transits of fixed stars. This type of pendulum is still used today. As for Graham’s dead-beat escapement, it was adopted for use in the majority of precision clocks by many other makers until the twentieth century, and although other escapements by such makers as Lepaute, Mudge, Vuillamy, and Grimthorpe could challenge Graham’s dead-beat for accuracy, it was not superseded until the advent of electrical timing.

Over two dozen regulators by Graham are known. The finest of these is number 634, made in about 1723 and showing both sidereal and mean solar time; it is now in the Time Museum, Rockford, Illinois, USA. Another interesting example - no. 631 - is also one of the earliest, dating to about 1721, its trunk door having two apertures to display a thermometer (now missing) and the mercury pendulum. This regulator is the first to have a square dial silvered all over to enhance clarity, also furthered by a large subsidiary seconds hand and a single central minute hand, with the hours shown in an aperture. This style of dial (apart from its up-and-down indication) was used by Graham for most of his subsequent regulators including numbers 728 and 767, on display at the Royal Scottish Museum in Edinburgh and the Time Museum in Rockford; the style was also used by many other regulator makers in the 18th and 19th centuries. According to James Short, John Shelton was “the principal person employed by Mr Graham in making astronomical clocks” and he was probably responsible for making not only a small group of unnumbered equation regulators signed by Graham (one of which is in the British Museum) but a number of nearly identical examples bearing the names of Thomas Mudge, Eardley Norton, and Shelton himself, one dated 1736. Graham himself published at least one “Table of the Equation of Days”, about 1750.

In addition to the introduction of the dead-beat escapement and the mercury pendulum, the years 1719-22 were an important time for George Graham in other respects. In September 1719, he was elected junior warden of the Clockmakers’ Company and subsequently rose through the ranks of renter and senior warden to become master for the year beginning 29 September 1722. On 16 March 1721, Graham was admitted a fellow of the Royal Society and a fortnight later advertised the move of his business in the “London Gazette” of 26 March. He kept the old name of Dial and Three Crowns for his new premises which were situated on the north side of Fleet Street on the eastern corner of Peterborough Court, 100 yards east of Water Lane, and he was to remain in business there until his death. Interestingly, Thomas Wright the instrument maker was listed as being “in shop” there for the first eight years, presumably paying rent to Graham.




An early 18th century 22 carat gold pair case pocket watch by George Graham, movement numbered 5074, case numbered 5045, London hallmark for 1724. Signed full plate gilt fusee verge movement; contemporary signed gold champlevé Graham dial with later steel hands; pair case now contemporary with the movement and marked WS for William Sherwood; this watch has a standard Graham verge movement made about two years before he started using the cylinder escapement; 50 mm wide. For the full history of this watch see bonhams.com/auctions/19810/lot/5/  (pics from images1.bonhams.com):







Leaving aside his clocks, as a practical watchmaker, Graham improved mechanisms inherited from the Tompion era and kept pace with innovations being made elsewhere. He continued to offer a wide range of watches of the finest quality, from plain silver-cased timepieces at £11 to gold-cased repeaters from about £60. From about 1728, Graham was one of the first to supply watches in single cases, perhaps to reduce cost, but he also employed leading chasers such as Moser and Parbury to provide the finest repoussé outer cases. Following Tompion’s death, Graham introduced a repeating mechanism said to have been invented by an employee, Matthew Stogden. In about 1714, Graham combined the dust-ring and cock-cap as used by Tompion to form a single dust-cap that enclosed the movement of a striking watch with pierced cases, and this became a standard component of English watches; Later, in about 1730, Graham was the first to use “dumb-repeat” whereby the hammers strike the inside of the dust-cap or against blocks instead of a bell, thus removing the need for a pierced case. Graham was probably the first English maker to produce a watch with a centre-seconds hand and stop mechanism to enable more accurate timings, and he was probably the first in Britain to use white enamel dials, which became standard on his watches from about 1725. Also with regard to technical changes instituted by Graham in the field of pocket watches, and highly important, was his sudden conversion from the verge escapement to the cylinder escapement, which he improved over Tompion’s version in about 1725, using it almost exclusively from about 1727 in pocket watches, at which time it was called the “horizontal escapement” because the escape wheel teeth lie in a horizontal plane. Contrary to some authors, Graham did not actually invent the cylinder escapement himself but worked on the type after the expiry of the Booth, Houghton and Tompion patent of 1695, revolutionizing its use for quality pocket watches. Graham’s improved cylinder escapement provided a greater degree of accuracy and consistency over the current verge frictional escapement watches, which were rather poor at timekeeping, and the Frenchman, Julien le Roy, recognised the superiority of Graham’s cylinder escapement on receiving an example in 1728 and adopted it himself. Nevertheless, the cylinder escapement did not immediately supplant the verge because Graham’s improvement in the performance of the cylinder escapement came at some cost; this type of high quality cylinder escapement was difficult to make and easy to damage, and its use was mainly confined to the best British (and a few Continental) makers in the 18th and early 19th centuries until the English lever escapement took over about 1830. Later, the cylinder escapement was adopted by Swiss and French mass producers in the 19th and 20th centuries, mainly because it enabled a thinner watch movement; the result was that the cylinder escapement “survived into the 1950s ... as a modified, low-cost escapement for low-priced watch movements” (Christianson, 2002). Interestingly, there is some justification for the point made by Britten (1911) that by the time of Graham’s work on improving the cylinder escapement, he was becoming so involved with his scientific and astronomical interests that he perhaps did not bring the cylinder escapement to a state of perfection himself, as he might have done had he remained focused entirely on horological matters - a point that may also at least be partially valid in relation to Graham as a horological innovator generally.




Explanation. how cylinder escapement works. Youtube video by Croix Rousse Watchmaker, 25 December 2017, reference: youtu.be/habEd6uCB8s 





Surprisingly perhaps, George Graham is not known to have considered competing in the race to invent a suitable marine chronometer timekeeper and so claim the Board of Longitude prize for such a timepiece, offered in 1714. Graham seems to have accepted that John Harrison’s ideas were more advanced than his own in this form of timekeeping and he became a lifelong admirer of Harrison’s work from the time of their meeting in about the late 1720s, in Graham’s shop. Harrison had been advised to go and see “honest George Graham” for advice on his marine chronometers and claiming the longitude prize, and during their first meeting, the two men spent many hours discussing clockwork, with Harrison obtaining an unsecured and interest-free loan of £200 from Graham to continue his work and start on the creation of his first marine chronometer or “sea watch”, later dubbed H1. Graham subsequently presented Harrison to the Board of Longitude, speaking on his behalf and securing additional funding from the board, and Harrison was later to pay tribute to Graham’s moral and financial support. As another element of Graham’s direct personal influence on future clock and watchmaking, at least ten of his fifteen or so apprentices gained their freedom including Thomas Mudge (1715-94) - apprenticed to Graham in 1730 and later to succeed him after his death in 1751 - who was to be associated with the invention of the lever escapement and who created a number of celebrated marine timepieces. Also among them were William Dutton, a business partner with Thomas Mudge, Samuel Barkley, John Priest, and Henry Hull the specialist cylinder escapement maker employed by other leading makers including Ellicot.




A 20 carat gold pair case fusee pocket watch with cylinder escapement by George Graham, c.1740, with enamel dial and blued steel beetle & poker hands. Heavy outer case with engraved floral decoration; the inner case with shutter over the winding hole. Fine large pierced and engraved balance cock, the foot and regulator plate asleo engraved. The movement with square pillars and dust cap (pics from Stephen Bogoff at bogoff.com):











So far in this topic, we have focused on George Graham the Clock and watchmaker, including the technical innovations he brought about. However, while his clocks and watches are renowned, Graham’s most important achievements are probably his contributions to the study of astronomy and geophysics. As early as 1710-1715, Graham was showing an active interest in astronomy, with his production of tellurions - instruments to display the relative motions of Sun, Moon and Earth by geared models. Two examples are recorded - one signed Tompion and Graham, in the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, and the other signed by Graham alone, now in the USA at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. While the first of these instruments was in the possession of John Rowley prior to its exportation to Prince Eugene of Savoy together with other instruments by Rowley himself, Rowley apparently noted the details of the piece and in about 1712, produced an improved model. Sir Richard Steele saw this instrument and, being ignorant of Graham’s tellurions, misguidedly named it an orrery, in honour of Charles Boyle, earl of Cork and Orrery. Tellurions and planetariums thus became known as orreries. In presumably speaking about the same instrument, Wikipedia merely states that Graham “constructed the most complete planetarium known at that time, in which the motions of the celestial bodies were demonstrated with great accuracy. This was made in cabinet form, at the desire of Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of Orrery.”

Graham probably carried out astronomical observations from the roofs of both Tompion’s old shop and his new premises, and his first-hand experience of deficiencies in instruments currently in use together with his wide knowledge of mechanics and production techniques resulted in the manufacture of several instruments of historical importance for astronomers such as Halley, Bradley and Molyneux. In pursuit of his interest in astronomy, Graham made a number of friends who no doubt were instrumental in bringing about Graham’s election to the Royal Society. Graham became a highly regarded member of that body, being elected no less than twelve times to their council between 1722 and 1747. He presented more than twenty papers to the Royal Society on a variety of subjects, mainly relating to the results of his astronomical and other observations including solar and lunar eclipses, transits of Mercury across the Sun, occultations of Jupiter and satellites, of Mars and of Aldebaran by the Moon, barometric levels, variations of the magnetic needle, pendulum experiments and weights and measures. During astronomical observations from his own premises, Graham was sometimes accompanied by friends such as Bevis, Bradley, and Short.




The tellurian ( now called an orrery) by Thomas Tompion and George Graham, c.1710, within its ocatogal case, now in the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford and mentioned in my text above (pics from mhs.ox.ac.uk):









In 1720, on succeeding Flamsteed as Astronomer Royal at Greenwich Observatory, Edmond Halley found himself without instruments after their claim to ownership was granted to Mrs Flamsteed. During 1721-25, Graham supplied three regulators which, curiously, had plain pendulums; this was apparently later corrected in two of these clocks when, in the 1740s, Graham supplied a couple of compensated pendulums. In 1721, Halley ordered a transit telescope from Graham which was in use until 1750 and is still displayed at the Greenwich Observatory although only the mounting survives of Graham’s work. In 1725, with assistance from Jonathan Sisson, Graham constructed an iron mural quadrant of 8 ft radius which was mounted facing north on the meridian wall erected by Halley in 1721. This celebrated quadrant was the first to incorporate Graham’s more accurate 90° arc of ninety-six divisions. Previously, accuracy had been compromised by the fact that a right angle (90°) cannot be divided geometrically into its 90 degrees; Graham overcame this by dividing the scale into 96 parts entirely by bisection. Each part was further subdivided into eight, and a vernier gave readings to one thirty-second of a subdivision, that is, to 0.0036°. Conversion tables were used to translate divisions into degrees, though an arc of 90° was engraved alongside that of ninety-six divisions. This instrument remained in use until 1812 and it can still be seen at the Observatory.

Hooke and Flamsteed had both tried to determine parallax in fixed stars but with no conclusive results. Later, Samuel Molyneux, a wealthy astronomer with an observatory at Kew, decided to investigate and employed George Graham to make a zenith sector with a focal length exceeding 24 feet. Observations began on 25 November 1725, with Molyneux being occasionally joined in these by Bradley, and by Graham who carried out checks and minor alterations. Although an apparent change in the position of stars was soon noticed, it could not be explained by parallax and its implication was not immediately understood. Out of curiosity, Bradley himself now ordered a sector from Graham of modified design, hoping to finally determine parallax. This instrument was set up at Wanstead in August 1727 and Bradley’s results were outlined in a paper delivered to the Royal Society entitled, “A new apparent motion of the fixed stars discovered”, published in 1734. Although he had failed to determine parallax in fixed stars, he was now able to explain one of the reasons for the apparent shifting of stars - the aberration of light. Bradley now shifted the focus of his researches to the annual change of declination of some of the fixed stars, and observations using Graham’s sector continued until 1747 when he published “A letter to the Rt. Hon. George earl of Macclesfield concerning an apparent motion observed in some of the fixed stars. Bradley had made his second important discovery - the nutation of the Earth’s axis. In 1749, Bradley had Graham’s sector moved from Wanstead to the Greenwich Observatory where it remained in use until 1812 and is still exhibited. Graham supplied other instruments to Bradley - a regulator with a gridiron pendulum and a 2-and-a-half ft equatorial sector which was in use in 1748-49, put into store in 1811 until about 1850 when it may have been mounted on a wall of the Observatory. It was last heard of in 1933 and its present whereabouts are not known.




George Grahams 2 ft 6 in equatorial sector designed to measure the positions of comets by comparison with nearby stars whose positions were known. The first mention of this instrument is in 1738 and it may have been owned by Bradley when he became Astronomer Royal in 1742. It was formally acquired for Breenwich Observatory as part of the 1749 grant of £1,000 by George II for the repair old instruments and acquisition of new ones. Bradley himself referred to the instrument as a Diurnal Sector with a telescope of 30 inches - see text immediately above (pic from the Royal Observatory, Greenwich):

The Royal Observatory Greenwich - where east meets west: Telescope: Graham's  2½-foot Equatorial Sector (c.1735)





The French Academy sent a team of scientists to Sweden in 1736 to measure an arc of meridian whose results helped to confirm Newton’s theory of the figure of the Earth. This team utilized “a Sector of about 9 foot Radius ... made at London under the Direction of that ingenious artist Mr Graham ... who had exerted himself to give it all the Advantages and all the Perfection that could be wished for. He had even taken the trouble to divide the Limb with his own hands. We had a clock of Mr Graham’s, and an instrument which we owed to the same gentleman, consisting of a Telescope perpendicular to, and moveable about a horizontal Axis”. In 1741, Graham supplied a regulator and a 12 foot zenith sector to Uppsala Observatory in Sweden, newly built under the direction of Andrew Celsius. The Uppsala regulator, one of the first to be used on the Continent with temperature compensation, was delivered in 1741 by the Stockholm clockmaker Daniel Eckström on his return from visiting Graham in London; Eckström was strongly influenced by Graham’s work. Graham was also involved in the question of the accuracy and standardization of weights and measures. In November 1742, the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris proposed that accurate standards of weights and measures should be examined and unified. In this matter, George Graham was chosen to represent the Royal Society, and although the comparison was carried out, no action was taken. In 1748, Graham was among contributors who supplied details to Dr Richard Davies for tables of specific gravities, having weighed gold and silver.

Graham’s contribution to the science of geophysics, touched on above, was also important; he was to discover the diurnal variation of the terrestrial magnetic field in 1722/23 and was one of the first to notice long-term secular changes in the direction of the compass needle. The compass needles he produced as an instrument-maker were used by many contemporary magneticians.

George Graham died on the evening of 16 November 1751, probably at his premises in Fleet Street; he was buried in Westminster Abbey in the same grave as Thomas Tompion. The tombstone reads:


“Here lies the body of Mr. Tho Tompion who departed this life the 20th of November 1713, in the 75th year of his age. Also the body of George Graham of London F.R.S. whose curious inventions do honour to ye British genius whose accurate performances and ye standard of mechanical skill. He died ye XVI of November MDCCLI in the LXVIII year of his age.”

(Quoted in Parker, 2004)


Graham had written his own will, dated 23 June 1747, appointing Samuel Barkley and Thomas Colley as executors and leaving half his estate to his wife, Elizabeth, who survived him. Ann Graham, a spinster aged fifty-five when Graham died, had already been named residual legatee, having perhaps lived with George and Elizabeth, caring for them in their old age. Mary Puckeridge (née Hall), whose connection with the Graham family is not known, and a maidservant each received 20 guineas; the Clockmakers’ Company was also a beneficiary, to the tune of £20.

After Graham’s death, Barkley and Colley continued his business at the same address, while Thomas Mudge, who was the successor to Graham, advertised that he “carries on Business in the same Manner Mr. Graham did” at his shop opposite the Bolt and Tun - nearly opposite the former Tompion-Graham premises. Less than two years after Graham’s death, Barkley died, but Colley continued with the business until the 1760s when he formed a partnership with John Priest; Colley died in 1771.

None of Graham’s business ledgers is known to have survived but there is some remaining correspondence - with the Revd John Whiteside and the Revd Professor Bradley, both of Oxford, and with Bernard Howard (Norfolk Archives, Arundel Castle). The Royal Society possesses the papers Graham delivered and at least one clock - longcase no. 681, supplied to Mr Robert Cay of Northumberland in 1828 - survives with its original bill. A portrait of George Graham, painted about 1735-40 by Thomas Hudson, possibly for George Parker, second earl of Macclesfield, is in the Science Museum, and this portrait was copied in mezzotint by Thomas Ryley in about 1750. George Parker owned the Hudson picture at the time of Ryley’s print, and he also had a sidereal regulator by Graham in his library at Shirburn Castle. In terms of dating and identifying clocks and watches by Graham, Parker (2004) provides a very useful list of Graham serial numbers - he carried on from where Tompion had left off, with pocket watch numbers that run from around 4,000 to 6,600 and, for repeaters, around 400 to 965. Parker also provides a useful list of publications containing illustrations of Graham pieces.




A preparatory drawing for his portrait of George Graham, by Thomas Hudson, now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York (pic from collectionapi.metmuseum.org):





References and Sources for the Text of this Topic


Britten, F. J., “The Antique Collectors’ Club edition of Old Clocks and Watches & Their Makers”: Third edition (1911) of Britten’s work reproduced with additional illustrations. Published by Antique Collectors’ Club, Woodbridge, Suffolk; introduction dated 1977.

Christianson, David, “Timepieces: Masterpieces of Chronometry”; David & Charles, Newton Abbot, Devon, 2002.

Cogs and Pieces, “George Graham”; Cogs and Pieces Antique Pocket Watches, online at cogsandpieces.co m/watchmakers-george-graham/

Cuss, T. P. Camerer, “The Country Life Book of Watches”; Country Life Limited, 1967. Cuss, T. P. Camerer, “The Camerer Cuss Book of Antique Watches”; Antique Collectors’ Club, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1976.

Evans, Jeremy Lancelotte, “Graham, George (c.1673-1751)”; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 26 May 2005.

Parker, Barry (4 June 2004), untitled posts on the thread, “George Graham fusee....sort of.”; NAWCC Forums, online at mb.nawcc.org/threads/george-graham-fusee-sort-of.27650/

Wikipedia article, “George Graham (clockmaker)”; last edited on 23 January 2021, online at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Graham_(clockmaker)

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