Commerce was the reason. Fortunes were being made in iron, brewing and ship building and the comfortable Georgian houses which still line Lewes’ streets were being built in quantity.
Perhaps the best-regarded Lewes maker of this period of intense competition between local clockmakers is Richard Comber, the son of a barber in Cliffe whose learnt his trade as an apprentice to William Kemp, a clockmaker in Lewes for more than 40 years.
His signature appears twice to a 16in (45cm) high George III eight-day, hour-repeating mahogany bracket clock currently for sale at £22,500 with Lewes horology specialist WF Bruce.
Dealer Bill Bruce is a great admirer of Comber’s work: “It seems every time he made a clock, he built on what had gone before.”
Despite the drawback of the county’s famously bad 18th century communications, he describes this bracket clock as “the equal and in very many cases surpassing what was being made in London in this period”.
Its unusual scalloped dial with a concentric date register would have been at the cutting edge of fashion c.1780.
“The backplate engraving really is exceptional. I am starting to use just these enlarged images on my website to make people really look, consider and hopefully come in to the gallery.”