In 1656 a Dutchman named Christian Huygens was the first person to use a pendulum, as a driving device, in clocks.This was the birth of the Grandfather clock, or to use the correct terminology, Long Case clock. The first Long Case Clocks were produced in Britain, after the London clock maker Ahasuerus Fromenteel sent his son to Holland to learn about the use of a pendulum.
For the first 15 years Long Case clock makers struggled to develop a pendulum device capable of keep accurate time. By 1670 an anchor escapement had been developed that, when used in conjunction with a pendulum, allowed great accuracy to be achieved. This development ensured that history would remember Britain as the dominating producer in the world of clock making. Names such as Joseph Knibb, Thomas Tompian, George Graham, and Daniel Quare all come to mind when discussing the history of Long Case Clocks.
The earliest cases were made from oak and were architectural in appearance. Higher quality clocks would be finished with ebony or pearwood. Later cases were made from high quality African mahogany. Today, beautiful examples of what is called "flame mahogany" can also be seen. Early dials were square and made of brass.
In 1772 Osborn & Wilson, from Birmingham, introduced the white dial. These early dials had simple decorations, such as birds or strawberries. By 1830 small painted scenes, in the corners and arch, were depicted on dials. When talking about clock history, one can never forget the contribution made to British seafaring by John Harrison. Against all odds, Harrison produced the first sea clock. Which enabled accurate calculations of Longitude which helped Britain become the greatest sea-trading nation during the 19th century. British Long Case clocks were popular until less expensive, American made movements flooded the market at the end of the 1870s. During this time, production of British Long case clocks virtually ceased.