All about Grandfather Clocks

Have you ever wondered how grandfather clocks got this name? Yes, at first, the answer seems obvious. But did you know that the grandfather clock picked up this grandfatherly nickname for no reason related with the grandparents per se?

Here’s how…


Timekeeping is just as old as time itself. It was the hourglasses and later sundials where the idea of clock making first began. In 1572, the famous Galileo Galilei discovered that a pendulum clock was actually the perfect instrument to record time. Later on, with Galileo’s discovery, a Dutch scientist named Christiaan Huygens invented the first pendulum clock.

Where it all began

Pendelum clocks were found to be more precise when it comes to timekeeping that the first floor clock was created encasing in a tall wooden case and usually stands upright on the floor.

During these early years, owning a pendulum clock was a sign of wealth and nobility. It only became available to others until the 19th century. As the pendulum clock became more and more affordable, many people began to purchase them and now passed on from generations to generations.

So, what’s with the name?

In North Yorkshire, England, a hotel called George Hotel was managed by 2 brothers by the name of Jenkins. At the lobby of their hotel stood the famous pendulum clock which had been there for many years. According to stories, one of the clock’s more remarkable traits was that it always kept perfect time.

Later on, one of the Jenkins brothers died. Shortly after, the clock began losing time. At first, the clock seemed to only lose a few minutes daily. However, as days gone by, it began to lose about an hour each day. The remaining Jenkins brother made several attempts to repair the clock but the clocksmith have finally given up.

When the remaining Jenkins brother died at age 90, the clock finally stopped altogether. When the new manager stepped in, he never had the clock worked on again but made the clock stood stately in the hotel lobby with the time reading the exact time of the second brother’s death.

In 1875, Henry Clay, an American songwriter visited England and checked in at George Hotel. He heard the famous story about the clock and the Jenkins brother. He became inspired to write entitled “My Grandfather’s Clock, thus the name grandfather clock began.

The song was released in 1876 and sold over a million copies.


Other interesting facts about grandfather clock

  • The other technical names for grandfather clock include pendulum clock, longcase clock, hall clock and tall case clock.
  • The melody of the grandfather clock which was used for their chimes is Westminster Quarters which is thought to have been inspired by Handel Messiah during the 5ht and 6th measures of the song called “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth”.
  • The first creations of grandfather clock were not mass produced but rather custom-built. The first mass production of grandfather clocks were smaller models.
  • In 1962, grandfather clocks were being made using quartz technology which was invented in the same year.
  • Most consumers choose to display keepsake items in the grandfather clock.
  • Some of the most common unique styles generally seen on top of a grandfather clock are a bonnet, flat top or federal/arched crowns.
  • The first brass dial grandfather clocks had only one clock hand. This is because clock owners believe that the hours of the day were more important the minutes.
  • The first grandfather clocks were made from an oak tree. It was only during the 1750s when clockmakers started using mahogany in clock making.


Do you know other interesting facts about the famous grandfather clock? We would love to hear it from you. Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

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