Archive for July 12th, 2018

Wood knight found in Lincoln Cathedral tower

Thursday, July 12th, 2018

A wooden knight has been discovered secreted away in one of Lincoln Cathedral’s towers. The three-foot statue, found during an audit of the cathedral’s historic artifacts, is a clock Jack, a figure that would strike the clock tower bell so it would chime at regular times. He once must have had a hammer to hit the bell, but that tool is long gone. There are no identifying marks on the carving. His features are worn and it’s not clear which clock he was attached to, one inside the cathedral or in the tower.

Initial research suggested the knight might have struck the hours in the north vestibule clock, parts of which date to around 1380, but further investigation pointed to it being part of a later clock across the south aisle. Fern Dawson, collections and engagement officer at Lincoln Cathedral who found the knight during the audit, discovered a reference in an old cathedral publication to an 18th century sketch of a “Clock Jack or striking man believed to be from a clock in Lincoln Cathedral.”

She pursued the lead and found the sketch by engraver Samuel Buck in the archives of Oxford University’s Bodleian Library. The sketch is a rough drawing of a mechanized clock but does not clearly depict the knight and indeed opens up more questions than it answers. There are three clock Jacks, on top of the clock face left and right and above a representation of the sorrowful Christ. The center panel bears the inscription: “The Glas doth run y’Globe doth goe. Awake from sin. Why sleep you so.” Nobody has of yet determined what that first sentence means exactly. There’s also an unidentified coat of arms in the sketch and a series of symbols along the top that are some kind of code of shorthand that hasn’t been deciphered.

Fern added: “This is an incredibly exciting find. While I originally thought it was possible the clock jack could have been a part of the earlier clock, it has been suggested by the Wallace Collection’s curator of arms and armour, Tobias Capwell that ‘stylistic particulars’ – including the clock jack’s beard, rounded skirt and basic shape of the solid, one-piece back plate – point to a mid-to-late sixteenth-century date.

“Further adding to the mystery are symbols which appear to be a form of short hand on the top right-hand corner of the sketch by Samuel Buck. These markings have yet to be identified.

“The clock jack is an amazing discovery, allowing us, the future generation, a glimpse into a different time.”

Jack the Knight will go on display with out treasures from the Lincoln Cathedral collection in a new visitor’s center scheduled to open in 2020.

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