Act of Parliament Clock

The 'Tavern Clock' appeared in the early decades of the 18th century. They became more common and known as 'Act of Parliament' clocks when King George III introduced a government tax on all clocks and watches in 1779. This made timepieces very expensive, so people relied more and more on clocks in public places. There were large clocks on churches and public buildings, but a smaller design of clock was needed for smaller buildings such as taverns.

The earliest designs had a square face, with an arched top, later with curved cut-outs at the bottom corners. Other variations were hexagonal, octagonal and round faces.

Act of Parliament clock
Courtesy of the Victoria and
Albert Museum, London

The mechanism was boxed in behind the face, later extending below the face. This extended area adopted a teardrop shape in the last quarter of the 18th century.

Originally, the faces of these clocks were in a dark wood or painted. This evolved by the early 19th century into the English Dial Clock, with a round white dial and brass bezel.