Ezekiel Bullock

Vol. 5 No. 2 - 1986

Ezekiel Bullock
Lurgan Clockmaker

by Charles Gardiner

As one thinks of seventeenth century Lurgan, one's mind goes immediately to a small town of probably five hundred people. The meaning of the word Lurgan is "shin bone" because of its long street with houses on both sides and a part known as the middle row which has long since disappeared. One always associates Lurgan with weaving and linen, and rightly so, but there were some very skilled craftsmen in this little town and, not least, those who were skilled to make clocks. Amongst these was one named "Ezekiel Bullock". There are only a few known seventeenth century clocks and I feel proud and privileged to be the owner of a very fine long case clock made by Ezekiel Bullock.

Ezekiel Bullock
Ezekiel Bullock clock

Ezekiel Bullock was a Quaker, one of the five sons of George Bullock, who presumably came from England to reside in "Tabligally" (Tullygally) in the Parish of Shankill, County Armagh. Tullygally was about a mile out of Lurgan on the Portadown Road, where I lived myself for thirty years. When I bought this clock in 1968 in Tobermore, County Tyrone I was, literally, bringing it home. He [Ezekiel Bullock] was born on the 26th October, 1650 (Lisburn Society of Friends Register). By trade, Ezekiel was a master Millwright, an excellent specimen of his handiwork being still preserved. He married Ruth, daughter of Laurence Allison of Crawford, Belfast on the 12th August, 1684, and was resident in Lurgan during 1689 (Armagh Health Tax Rolls).

In his will, dated 8th December 1714 (Dromore Diocesan Court), probate of which is not recorded, Ezekiel orders "his body to be interred in the burial ground of the people called Quakers adjoining their meeting house in the town of Lurgan". He bequeathed to his daughter, Hannah, wife of Michael Cherry, the house she then dwelt in and to his son Isaac, "my shoppe and all my tools including the large vices". His wife Ruth was his sole executrix and came into possession of "all other tenements, goods and effects also the Orchard Farm".

The clock mentioned above has an eight day movement with the usual going and striking trains. The brass work was almost certainly cut in his own workshop. The square dial is the same as most other long case clocks made in Ireland during the late Stuart and Hanoverian period, being slightly in excess of 12 inches. No trace of silvering now shows on the chapter ring and it is likely not to have been treated, but elaborate engraving of the dial surface is very marked in spite of Quaker abhorrence of pretentiousness.

The matted centre is enriched with leaf and flower sprays while both seconds dial and chapter ring are encircled with a repeating formalised leaf motif. The same goes for the edging of the square dial plate. The winding holes have turned margins and the aperture for the date calendar is in the form of a square star with fleur-de-lys at the points. The steel cut hands are of early form and the spandrels are twin cherubs holding a crown.

On the chapter ring itself is an inner ring divided at the quarters, scrolled fleur ornaments occur between the Roman numerals, and the usual divided minute ring with four star decorations. Similar smaller stars occur below each Roman hour Figure. Noticeable too is the signature, engraved in fine upright script with controlled flourishes with "Ezekiel" on one side of VI and "Bullock" on the other and "Lurgan" on either side of 30 i.e. (Lur 30 gan).

Since "Isaac Bullock" in equally fine script with flourishes occurs on the back plate of the movement it could mean that it was his son Isaac who was an apprentice engraver during Queen Anne's reign when he was probably in his early teens.

As to the fine casing, it is almost certainly original, although the square opening in the hood is slightly small for the dial thus partly hiding the marginal ornamentation. Principal features of this "home made" case included the double leaf scroll blind fret under the moulding of the flat top, the "barley sugar" pilasters, the somewhat short square headed door with its oval bulls-eye window and its very tall plinth.

Pasted inside the trunk door are two labels. The uppermost is printed and reads:


To be sold by auction on Thursday the 31st March
at the house of Mrs Brown of Holden Valley,
all her household furniture etc.
with a good eight day clock.
The auction to begin at 10 o'clock
Holdens Valley 4th March 1803.

Lurgan, printed by R Crawford.

The lower label is hand-written:

This clock was given to J Brown September 14th 1893 by Robert Bladstock of Waringstown whose Grandfather had bought it at the above named auction from Mrs James Brown of Holdens Valley (nee Turner) in 1803.

Holdens Valley is a mile south-west of Waringstown so old grandfather had not far to go to purchase the clock. But although the two labels taken together push the history of this clock well back into the 18th Century it has not been possible to trace its origin. There is one other clock known to me by the same maker so it is only fair to remark that this clock may not necessarily have been a family possession of the Bullock family as might be supposed.

It has been ticking and striking for over three hundred years, now what of the future? I see no reason why it should not be doing the same for another three hundred!