Benjamin Lewis Vulliamy (1780-1854)

Benjamin Lewis Vulliamy was son of Benjamin and grandson of Francois Justin Vulliamy. He is said to be one of the last of the old school of watch and clockmakers and his passing marked the end of an age. It is appropriate that on his death the house of Vulliamy ceased to exist as clockmakers and watchmakers.

Born on 25th January, 1780, he entered into his father’s business at an early age, and like his predecessors received the Royal Warrant. On his death the family had the distinction of having held the Royal Patronage for 112 years continuously, during which time they served five monarchs.

Renowned for excellent quality workmanship on the movements of his watches, he also had a sound knowledge of the fine arts and his classical learning is often reflected in his watch cases. He also made a study of turret clocks, introducing the two second pendulum which gave a high degree of accuracy. Vulliamy was consulted by George IV, not only on clocks but on furnishings when he was making alterations to Carlton House. He was also consulted when Buckingham House was being converted into the Palace. Sir Charles Barry consulted him regarding the construction and arrangements for the building of the clock tower for Big Ben. He later submitted a design for a clock to go into that tower but when a competition for that clock was suggested, Vulliamy withdrew. It is not generally known that he did construct a clock on this design and erected it at Somerleyton Hall in Suffolk.

The clocks and watches of Benjamin Lewis are numbered , except for a few very special movements. His watches, like those of his predecessors are lettered according to a key, the solution of which is still a bit of a mystery.

Vulliamy received the Freedom of the Clockmakers Company in 1809, was appointed Liveryman followed by his admittance as a member of the Court in 1810. He served in every office in the Court, and was five times Master. Recognition of his services was acknowledged by a presentation plate in 1850.

Benjamin Lewis Vulliamy died on 8th January, 1854.

References :


Brian Loomes. Watchmakers and Clockmakers of the World (NAG Press, 2006).

S. Benson Beevers. Antiquarian Horology Journal, Vol 1, p15.