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Society Visit to the Netherlands

A group of thirteen members and partners (seen below in front of the Royal Palace in Dan Square) of the Wales and Marches Horological Society went to the Netherlands to visit some of the major clock museums and dealers. The trip was organised by Mike Grange with the help of Bill Linnard. They had both been on an exploratory visit some months before. Mike's excellent knowledge of the country made travelling easy, and he introduced us to many excellent restaurants. We stayed in The A-Train Hotel, which is family-run and very friendly and comfortable, and a must if you like railways! It is very conveniently located close to the central railway station (an imposing building), from which you can travel anywhere in the country or on the continent. The hotel is also near the bus, tram and ferry terminus. The places we visited were The Museum of the Dutch Clock in Zaandam, the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem, clock dealers Mentink and Roest of Vught and Cor Van Der Heijden of s'Hertogenbosch, the National Museum from Musical Clock to Street Organ in Utrecht and the Netherlands Gold, Silver and Clock Museum in Schoonhoven.

The first day, Mike booked us in for a meal in a private oak-panelled room (above) at the Haesje Claes Restaurant in Amsterdam. In his modest way he said, "I think you'll enjoy it" - and boy did we! On the way to the restaurant he took us through some of the picturesque streets of old Amsterdam, including the Red Light District and Dan Square (above). The atmosphere in the restaurant was extremely pleasant, as was the food and wine, and we had a charming waitress. In fact we hired the room again for our last night meal. After the meal, Mike set out his plans for the next few days and we eventually left the restaurant in high spirits. Some even went for a nightcap at an inn or two on the way home, with a few glasses of "Half om Half" to finally settle the stomach!

The Museum of the Dutch Clock, Zaandam
Zaanse Schans Museum is a reconstructed Zaanse village as it would have have looked in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The characteristic green wooden houses with their charming stylised gardens, are set amongst tradesmen's workshops, historic windmills and engaging little shops. The site is linked by small hump-backed bridges. Apart from the cluster of windmills and houses there are also several restaurants and museums including the famous Clock Museum.

We had an excellent tour of the Museum of the Dutch Clock by the curator, Dr. Pier Van Leeuwen, who guided us expertly through the development of Dutch clockmaking, putting it in an historic and commercial context. The Museum exhibits the most complete survey of the history of the Dutch clock. We were rather surprised to see an ' English dial' signed Ivor Jones, Pontypool for sale there, for 300 euros!

The wrought iron turret clock (c. 1520) shown below, has a foliot balance which Pier told us could be speeded up or slowed down to account for changes in the daylight hours throughout the year, by moving the weights on the foliot arms. He said these clocks were used to call people to prayer or were often used to indicate the opening of the city gate or start of the market. They later became public clocks on town halls and in taverns, etc. Note the canon ball weights. Pier told us that in time of war, clock weights were melted down to make cannon balls and afterwards these canon balls were reused as weights!

Pendulum clocks appear to have developed from the needs of astronomers for accurate timekeeping and there was collaboration between several great astronomers including Galileo, Huygens, and Johann Hevelius. Little was known of the latter as he seems to have been a quiet and modest man but a description appears later in this article.

Galileo (1564-1642) noted that a pendulum swings at a constant rate, irrespective of amplitude. He designed a weight driven pin wheel escapement (image above taken from 'British Longcase Clocks' by Derek Roberts) but it had no impulse so had to be swung manually at intervals to keep it running. It is thought that it was used by Galileo to time astronomical events, such as transits. He was able to count the number of ticks as he was observing. Presumably he kept the pendulum swinging himself, or used an assistant. The weight and gear train were there merely to keep the escape wheel turning.

Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695)
It was an invention of Huygens that eventually kept the pendulum swinging by giving it impulse from the power train. He performed his first successful experiments with a pendulum clock on Christmas day 1656 and published the prototype in his publication Horologium in 1658. He also invented cycloidal cheeks to remove circular error of the pendulum. It was discovered that if the pendulum swung in a circular arc, as the swing varied, so did the rate. By correcting the pendulum to swing in a cycloidal arc, it would vibrate at a constant frequency regardless of the amount of swing. The cycloidal cheeks lift the bob slightly at the end of each stroke (effectively shortening the pendulum slightly) which maintains a constant rate. This soon became obsolete as it was found that if the swing was kept to less that 2 degrees each side of vertical, circular error was negligible. Huygens also designed the endless chain winding mechanism (Huygens loop) which is a form of maintaining power, still present on 30-hour clocks.

Johann Hevelius (1611-1687) - his portrait appears above (taken from Johann Hevelius (1611-1687): Forgotten Pioneer of the Pendulum Clock - Museum Publication) .
Hevelius was the son of a successful merchant and beer brewer. He married twice and his second wife, Catherina Koopman, helped in his observatory and published some of his works after his death; she is regarded as the first female astronomer. He set up his own observatory in Danzig in 1640 and designed several instruments including a clock described in his publication Machinae Coelestis (1673). He was assisted by clockmaker Wolfgang Gunther and an un-named Swedish instrument-maker to construct his two prototype pendulum clocks between 1657 and 1659. Hevelius presented the king with a small prototype in 1659. How much Hevelius' and Hugens' work overlapped has not been established, but it seems likely that he and Huygens were developing the pendulum independently and at about the same time. However, the modest Hevelius praises Huygens for what he calls Huygens' invention.


Salomon Coster (1620-1659)
Salomon Coster worked closely with Huygens and made his prototypes. Huygens permitted Coster to train other clockmakers in the use of the pendulum including John Fromanteel , (son of Ahasaurus Fromenteel ) who worked for Coster for about 6 months. He took the design back to London where his father advertised and sold clocks to this design. It is probable that the link between the Costers and Fromanteel was because Ahasaurus was bilingual and they were both Baptists. Ahasaurus probably travelled to Amsterdam on business, and eventually took up residence there and set up a workshop. The movement and the dial of a clock by Coster are shown above. The clock is signed Salomon Coster The Hague 1657. The dial is covered with black velvet with silver chapter ring and hands. The cycloidal cheeks can be clearly seen on the movement. Clock of similar style were sold in London by the Fromanteels.


Robert Hooke (1635-1703)
Hooke was an odd character, by all accounts. He is descibed thus:
'As to his person he was but despicable, being very crooked, tho' I have heard from himself, and others, that he was strait till about 16 Years of Age when he first grew awry....... He was always very pale and lean, and laterly nothing but Skin and Bone, with a meagre aspect, his eyes grey and full, with a sharp ingenious Look whilst younger; his nose but thin, of a moderate height and length; his mouth meanly wise, and upper lip thin; his chin sharp, and Forehead large; his Head of a middle size. He wore his own hair of a dark Brown colour, very long and hanging neglected over his Face uncut and lank....'
He was an accomplished scientist, rather overshadowed by Isaac Newton, but developed some fine instruments. He invented the balance spring used in table clocks and watches; it has a similar effect as the pendulum in that it controls the period of oscillation of the balance and consequently results in accurate timekeeping. He also invented the compound microscope, a wheel barometer; and the universal joint, as now found in all motor vehicles. He built the first reflecting telescope.

The oldest known Dutch longcase clock (see above) is signed Anthonius Hoevenaer, c.1680. He was an instrument-maker at Leiden University. The clock has a short pendulum, with only the weight passing down the slim, black trunk. It has five dials, with elaborately ajour-sawn and gilded foliage decoration. It is one of the earliest examples in a European museum showing hours, minutes, seconds, date and lunar phases. (Details and images of this clock were taken from the Museum website).


Hexagonal Table Clock by Zacharias Moller, Dantzig ( c. 1685)
This clock has a spring driven barrel with fusee and balance which makes it portable. Coster, Oosterwijch and Boeketts were also making these clocks in Haarlem, Amsterdam and The Hague.

The first pair of longcases are signed (left) Steven Hoogendijk Rotterdam (1730) with alarm and case of elm wood veneer and (right) Isaac Hasius, Haerlem (1710) with alarm, 4 season spandrels and walnut case with marquetry.


The second pair of longcases are (left) a tidal dial signed Paulus Bramer Amsterdam (1750) and (right) an.astronomical clock signed Gerrit Knip Amsterdam.


The former has alarm and repeat work and shows seconds, date, days, months, moon phases and high tide at Pampas, a port near Amsterdam. The latter shows world time in 17 cities in all continents, 24 hours cycle year calendar, signs of the zodiac, position of sun in the constellations, time of sunrise/sunset, age and phases of moon and is one of the most complete astronomical longcases of the 18 th century still in existence.

Visit to the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem
In the Church of Saint Bavo in Haarlem is one of the world's great organs (top of page). It was built by Christian Müller and Jan van Logteren, from Amsterdam, between 1735 and 1738. Upon completion it was the largest organ in the world with 60 voices and 32-feet pedal-towers. Many famous people have played the organ, including Mendelssohn , Händel and the 10-year old Mozart who played it in 1766. In the roof, beneath the tower is a clock dial (see right). This was once connected to the clock mechanism which still drives the external dials. The round hole alongside the dial is where workmen haul up equipment and materials to maintain the roof and tower using the mediaeval winch.

A Visit to the Showrooms of some Eminent Clock Dealers
Members of the Society travelled by train to Vught and visited the showrooms and workshop of Theo Mentink and Bert Roest. Theo Mentink was not present, but Bert Roest and Menno Hoencamp (who incidently studied horology at West Dean College) made us most welcome and guided us around their fine collection of clocks. Their workshop facilities are superb as is their specialist collection of Renaissance clocks. Some examples are shown below. (Unsigned lantern clock; diamond wall clocks signed J:o:n Tolson London c.1720 and John Wise Londini fecit c.1670; spring table clock signed Sm. De Charmes London c.1710; German astronomical renaissance clock signed Johan Vallentin Lutz in Augspurg 1675. This image was taken from the Mentink & Roest web site).

In the afternoon we boarded the train to s'Hertogenbosch. Incidentally, the trains were fast, smooth, clean, comfortable and cheap - and they were on-time. We were greeted at the station entrance by a large gilded dragon (below), which made us think of home. There, we visited the showrooms of Cor Van Der Heijden who made us very welcome with tea and cakes and allowed us to wonder freely to inspect his collection (see below). The early comtoise were particularly appreciated by Rees Pryce. The day ended with a splendid meal in an Indonesian restaurant in the centre of Amsterdam.

National Museum from Musical Clock to Street Organ in Utrecht
Trevor and Di went to the musical clock museum at Utrecht. The museum is housed in a former church and is a working collection of mechanical music, This unique museum tells the story of automated musical instruments through the ages. The collection includes carillon clocks, musical boxes, pianolas, belly organs, orchestrions, as well as full-size street-, fairground- and dance hall organs. (Images and information was taken from the National Museum from Musical Clock to Street Organ brochure and web site).

Netherlands Gold, Silver and Clock Museum in Schoonhoven
Some of the party visited the clock museum in Schoonhoven, and the images below were kindly provided by Rees Pryce. The first shows Bill Linnard standing next to some of the very large longcases and the second next to a complicated clock to control a bank vault mechanism. Lastly a pocket watch is fitted to an alarm attachment. The Museum covers representative examples from the whole range of European clock and watch making (including tools and electronic clocks and watches); not just the classical Dutch tradition. A special feature is the Museum's vast collection of alarm clocks of which a mere 10 per cent were on display in a special large illuminated panel. Thus, this Museum is very different to the Dutch Clock Museum at Zaandam. Also, linked to this Museum is the Dutch Silver Museum which was fascinating.

Others went sight-seeing in and around Amsterdam. There was plenty to see including Rembrandt's house, The Ann Frank Museum, The Van Gogh Museum and the The Rijksmuseum.

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