Woollan the local clockmaker
I have looked after 30-hour and 8-day longcase clocks by Robert Woollan, and changes in style support either a long working life, or Robert senior and junior. I worked on one signed “Robert Woolland Jnr., Glastonbury” — spellings in those days were more casual.
The clocks are well made, quite robustly built, and two dials were stylistically very similar to those by William Townly (1729–51) of Flax Bourton and Temple Cloud. Townley — another spelling — also looked after church clocks, so both men were clearly practical makers, not just buying in (unless, of course, Woollan bought from Townley or vice-versa).
I am pretty sure that some of the dials are from the same source. Several of Woollan’s clocks have not survived in their original cases, but one that has is in an oak case. Another reported to me in 1970, owned by a couple in Canada, is in a walnut case. Maybe others were in walnut and eaten by woodworm — or the walnut one could have been recased.
|1674||Lancelot Woodland, for keeping chimes||3/–||£15|
|1676||George Willen, for keeping the clock||10/–||£61|
|1708||paid Woollan for righting clock||4/6||£24|
|1739||Robt. Woollan for mending the clock wheel||5/–||£30|
|1748||Robt Woollan for righting the clock||6/–||£38|
|1736||new church clock, signed Robert Woolan of Glastonbury, for the Clock and Dyall||£10||£1,284|
|Licquor [sic] and attendance at several times, about setting up the same||10/–||£64|
|1739||Robert Wooland [sic] for righting and cleaning the church clock||10/–||£60|
|Glastonbury St John’s|
|1758||Mr Woolan’s bill||£3||£356|
|1759, 1760, 1762||to Mr Woolan for drawing up the clock and chimes as per agreement||£3||£372|
Here are some entries from 17th- and 18th-century churchwardens’ accounts for maintenance of church clocks. The Butleigh church clock is still in use. Fixed to it is a longcase “chapter ring” (as the roman-numeral part of the dial is called, from monastic times), signed Robt Woollan, Glastonbury: in other words, the face from a domestic clock is attached to the mechanism inside the tower so that the man winding it knows what time is showing outside.
I recall seeing old clockwork from St John’s tower in Glastonbury — made by John Cuff in 1718, the precursor of the present electric mechanism donated by our namesake town in Connecticut in 1967 — left outside the church for scrap. This was just at the beginning of my interest in clocks. It seems a shame to me now, for it would have been repairable. I heard that someone rescued it, and would love to know who.