The Cole/Anstice Clock

Letter to the Bridgwater Mercury, February 2014

A rare late 18th century clock made by James Cole of Nether Stowey is the subject of a major appeal for funds in order to bring this rare clock back to Somerset.  The Head of Museums at Taunton, Steve Minnitt is preparing an application for a purchase grant from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.  The application will be enhanced by pledges of monies, however small, from local people.  The Anstice family have offered the clock to the Somerset County Museum for £30,000.

The clockmaker James Cole was born in Nether Stowey in 1762 and made this rare, year going, perpetual calendar longcase clock in the 1790s.  James Cole was regarded by his contemporaries as a genius and philosopher.  This clock, of amazing complexity, is one of only three known examples of its kind.

In about 1795 the clock was commissioned by the well known Bridgwater merchant Robert Anstice, Somerset’s first County Surveyor.    He lived in a house near Town Bridge and later in Dampiet House, Bridgwater.  Coincidentally, of current local interest, he was a member of the Commission for Sewers, the body responsible for drainage questions on The Levels.  As a civil engineer and merchant he was Comptroller of Customs by 1794, was elected Town Councillor from1799 -1834 and became Mayor of Bridgwater in 1804, 1817 and 1825.  He was a keen amateur geologist and ornithologist and was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society in 1818.  Robert Anstice is reputed to have been an active anti-slavery reformer.  Family tradition has it that this clock stood for generations in the family shipping office in Bridgwater – it’s perpetual calendar mechanism and long duration being invaluable in tracking the family’s ships on their extended voyages.  For the past 220 years the clock has remained in the care and ownership of the Anstice family.

N. & D. Woodford

The Clock was successfully purchased and can now be seen in the Museum of Somerset. More on Anstice can be read here. Dampiet House still stands, its gardens being the Dampiet Street car park.

22 November 2020