Australian Historical Art Fund & Heritage Government Residences

Skeleton Clock, c.1835

Francis Abbott (1799-1883)
Brass, steel, wood and glass
Height: 29cm

Skeleton clock manufacture, devised to display the clockmaker's skill, began in England around 1820 in imitation of earlier French clocks. This skeleton clock has a single train, an eight day movement, a modified recoil anchor escapement within a scrolled frame and is mounted on a rosewood base. It was made by Francis Abbott, a clockmaker who was transported to Hobart in 1844 for "obtaining two watches under false pretences". The clock is signed "Francis Abbott, Manchester" where it was made prior to Abbott's conviction.

Francis Abbott was born in Derby, England and had an apprenticeship to the celebrated clockmaker, John Whitehurst. Abbott moved to Manchester in 1831 where he established his own business. He published a number of articles on the management of public clocks as well as catalogues of horological and astronomical machinery. After transportation to Australia in 1844, he received his ticket-of-leave in 1849 and he started a watch and clock making business in Hobart. His business flourished and he erected a number of public clocks, including one at Government House, Hobart in 1859.

Abbott's work as a meteorologist and an astronomer won him greater repute. He made many significant observations which were published in the journals of learned societies including the Royal Society of Tasmania and the Royal Astronomical Society of London. Abbott's publications included discussions on the transits of Mercury and Venus, and the disappearance of Jupiter's moons. Abbott died in 1883 and is now remembered as one of the leading 19th century astronomers in Australia.

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Another example in the Fund's collection of Abbott's skill is this brass mounted mahogany bracket clock c.1835-40 on display in Government House, Canberra. 


This selection represents a small sample of our collection. Our book detailing the collection is currently out of print.
An updated edition has been published in 2017.
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