IT’S the sort of find that every dealer dreams of – a unique and valuable antique lying unrecognised and just waiting to be snapped up.
But in the case of this late 17th century, 12-hour lantern
clock, it was no specialist who made the discovery, but a
And it took Rita Inch, now 79, around 40 years to realise what
she had picked up in a charity shop for about £70.
Her story came to light when she and her husband John decided to
donate the clock to a museum. With no children to leave their
possessions to, they wanted to make sure it went to a good home
where it would be appreciated.
But it was only when Mr and Mrs Inch researched the maker of the
signed clock that its significance emerged. It is believed to be
the only clock existing in public collections to have been made by
renowned Edinburgh-based clockmaker Richard Mills.
Mrs Inch, of Lesmahagow, said: "I found the clock in the late
1960s so we have had it for a long time. We are happy to give it to
the museum. It was made in Edinburgh, so it should go back home and
be looked after there."
In his book The Early Clockmakers of Great Britain,
Brian Loomes notes that the Mills family also styled themselves
Milne or Mylne. Richard, whom he lists as the son of Thomas Mylne
of Staffordshire, was apprenticed in July 1661 to his uncle,
Scotland's first domestic clockmaker, Humphrey Mills or Milne,
receiving his freedom in September 1678 after presenting a
clock-watch as his test piece. He became Boxmaster of the Guild of
Hammermen in 1703 and is thought to have died around 1710.
Mr Loomes believes that Richard Mills' clock dates after the
1670s and, accordingly, has many features that would have made it
quite old fashioned. Indeed, the clock appears to use the same
castings employed by his uncle Humphrey 30 years earlier.
There are only seven clocks by Humphrey Mills recorded, one of
which is currently on display at the National Museums of Scotland.
The NMS is now the recipient of Mrs Inch's clock as well.
Dr Alison Morrison-Low, Principal Curator of History of
Scientific Instruments and Photography at the NMS, said: "The
museum is delighted to be presented with such an important piece of
Scotland's horological history. Lantern clocks signed by Scottish
makers are extremely rare in any case but there are no other
examples of clocks signed by Richard - as opposed to Humphrey -
Mills so it's a fantastic find."
It is expected that the clock will go on display in Edinburgh
By Ivan Macquisten