The John Shone collection
A tradition of excellence
Specialist in buying, selling and renovation of fine antique grandfather clocks for over 30 years
Specialist in buying, selling and renovation of fine antique grandfather clocks for over 30 years
I hope you enjoy reading my blog and find my clocks interesting. I hope you also enjoy my original monthly clock cartoons and poems. My grandfather clock cartoons have won awards within the clock industry and have been displayed in one of the leading trade magazines, ‘Clocks’. My poems have been broadcast on national radio.
On the day I have started writing this brief history (11/10/04) I am 62 years old and have been involved with clocks for 33 years.
I have been fascinated by clocks all my life, and yet the way I came to be associated with them in a professional way, owes more to good luck than good judgement.
In 1971 at the age of 29, I had not long been married and in addition to a young wife and even younger baby son, I had a large mortgage around my neck and was struggling to make ends meet. I was searching through various columns in a national newspaper trying to find another job, when I came across an advertisement offering to pay a minimum of £30.00 for a Grandfather Clock. This was entirely coincidental as earlier that day, I had been wandering around one of the local antique shops and there had been one for sale at £12.00.I rang the number , which was in London and described the clock to the person who had placed the advert. He said that If I bought the clock and took it to him in London, he would definitely give me £30.00 for it. Petrol was very cheap in those days and I worked out that for £3.00, I could get to London and back, giving me a profit of £15.00, half a week’s wages! I took the clock to London strapped on the top of my Austin 1100, and true to his word, the advertiser, a Mr. Ronnie Moore, who resided in Fulham, gave me the £30.00 for it. He also paid my expenses. Although I knew little or nothing about grandfather clocks at that time, Ronnie , who owned a clock shop, asked me to be his agent in the North of England, stating that he would advise me where to go for clocks, and what to pay for them. I readily agreed.
Over the next few years, I worked for Ronnie and his partner, Ken Green, on a part time basis. Both these men were very knowledgeable about clocks and were always forthcoming when I asked them for any information. They were good people Ronnie and Ken and I owe them a lot for giving me such a sound initial schooling. I took a number of clocks, movements and cases down to London for them.
After a while, Ken suggested that he lend me a few clocks and that I should now try to sell some on my own in Widnes. I was a bit nervous about this at first. Taking clocks to London was one thing, selling them by myself was another. I was convinced thateveryone would know more about clocks than me, and that I would be made to look a fool. As it turned out, it was not as bad as I had anticipated, and so began the career of John Shone and his clocks.
Gradually, time and family commitments, meant that I could no longer go down to London very often, and my relationship with Ronnie and Ken, melted away. I could not afford to go into clocks on a regular basis, and for a long while it was nothing more than a hobby for me. I certainly did not have the means to buy my own stock of grandfather clocks, and pottered about with two and three hole Napolean hats or camel backs. The two holers (strikers) could be bought for two pounds each and the three holers (mainly Westminster chimes), could be bought for three pounds each. After a while, promotion at work meant that I was now in a position to buy better clocks and I started to concentrate on Vienna springers, two or double weighters, and American wall clocks.
I was not selling many clocks, but I was slowly amassing quite a nice little collection.
Things would probably have proceeded this way ad infinitum, but then fate played another hand and my whole situation changed, virtually overnight. The company I was working for, closed down. It was like a here today and gone tomorrow scenario, and it all happened very quickly and without any warning. So there I was, now with two small children, a mortgage and no job. Despite many valiant efforts and painstaking applications and letters, I was having great difficulty in finding suitable new employment and the bills were mounting up.
It was then that I took the decision to give up trying to find another job working for someone else, and to set up on my own full time in the antique clock business. It was not a decision I took lightly and I discussed it in great depth with my wife, Pat. She said if that was really what I wanted to do, she was right behind me, but then, she always was. I don’t think she knows to this day what confidence and strength she gave me and I never told her as often as I should have.
I outlined my plans to my bank manager Mr Dawson, and obtained a loan with which to buy stock. Mr. Dawson was around the same age as myself and had a young family of his own. That man backed me to the hilt at all times. It is a pity his like does not seem to be around any more.
My first mode of attack involved ringing Ronnie Moore and Ken Green and asking them for their advice and what great advice they gave me. They suggested that I should forget about the home market and concentrate on trying to sell wholesale to buyers in America, where the antique market was booming. They advised me to buy American clock magazines and journals and to write to all and sundry who advertised in them. This I did to great effect , and before long I had a hardcore of customers to whom I was supplying clocks. These were some of the happiest years of my life in the clock business. Although I never actually went to America, a large number of American people came to visit my house in Widnes and many of my customers became my firm friends.
I was starting to make money now, so much so that once more with my wife’s encouragement, I decided to buy a bigger house with enough room in it to store my now fairly ample stock of wall clocks. Once we had moved , I finally went up market again and rather belatedly started to sell the very things I had always wanted to sell, grandfather clocks. The year was 1982 and I was 39 years old.
I am now entrenched at No.7 Sandringham Road and things are going really well for me.
I have customers all over the world – America, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Bermuda, South Africa, Guadalcanal, Europe, etc., and am selling my grandfather clocks with flair and gusto. I have a good wife, great kids and am as happy as the proverbial little pig in muck. I am working 16 hours a day, 7 days a week but I love it, and it is not a problem for me. Then, inexplicably, for some reason, grandfather clocks suddenly went out of favour and my sales began to fall. I carried on manfully for a couple of years, but with a wife and two children to support there was no longer enough money coming in to keep the wolf from the door. Pat, went out to work to help supplement our dwindling finances. I decided to go back to selling wall clocks and concentrated all of my time on those from America,.e.g.Ansonia, Seth Thomas, Waterbury, E.N.Welch, Gilbert, etc. This gave me a new lease of life and I became a bit of an expert on the subject. I even ventured into the market of large French brass clocks and exchanged a few of my grandfather clocks so I could get a stock of them. However, although I have always thought that French clocks of this type are great to look at, I found it almost impossible to sell them. For a while, Georgian furniture also came onto the agenda, but this did not last too long as a lot of the pieces were impossible for me to handle on my own. Although grandfather clocks are large, they come to pieces and are quite easy to manage.
As well as I was doing with my wall clocks, grandfather clocks were still my hearts desire and I longed to be selling them again.
Regrettably, my marriage came to an end at this time. It was nobody’s fault and I only ever think of Pat, fondly.
So here I am, no wife and no grandfather clocks, and not really knowing what avenue to pursue next.
With nothing special to do one day, I went to a local auction in Liverpool and quite fortuitously, bumped into an old friend, the world famous Mike Melody. Mike had a huge antique shop in Chester. When I told him of my situation, Mike suggested that I go back into grandfather clocks and place them in his shop in Chester, where I could go about selling them from my own room, free of charge. Some people are talkers and some are doers, Mike is a doer. Within a few days I was in Melody’s Antiques, plying my wares. Grandfather clocks were soon fashionable again and I was back in business! I spent many happy years at Melody’s and I was up and running. Mike and his lovely wife, Margaret, never charged me a penny and always refused any offerings I made to them. I will not attempt to praise them, I could never do it highly enough.
I eventually moved out of Melody’s in the year 2000.I had re- established myself with a lot of dealers in America and was selling most of my clocks by sending large numbers of photographs and following that up with a phone call. I was not selling very many clocks privately anymore and though I never told them, I felt guilty about still taking up a room with Mike and Margaret. As I had enough room at home, I moved my clocks back there.
It was at this time that I discovered the internet and the wonders of modern technology, and it was not long before I had my own website. I do quite well from this now, but I often revert to the old tried and tested method and send out my photographs and make my phone calls.
The dreadful terrorist attack on America, had a profound affect on all types of trade throughout the world and grandfather clocks were no exception. My business suffered and as a direct result, people lost confidence in buying and who could blame them? Only now, am I starting to get back on my feet.
Two years ago, against all the odds, I did what I thought I would never do and re-married. I now have a new wife, Tanya and two teenage stepdaughters to provide for .
Once again I have dug deep, stoked up the fires and am giving it my best shot, hoping for a break in life and a bit of good fortune, but then, aren’t we all?John