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11 Willard Street
North Grafton MA 01536


The Willard House & Clock Museum is a historic place with festive roots, right in the heart of Massachusetts. Come visit us for a guided tour of our museum.

 “The British are Coming! Simon Willard Meets Paul Revere”

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“The British are Coming! Simon Willard Meets Paul Revere”

  • Willard House Clock 11 Willard St N. Grafton, MA 01536 (map)

Presented by Robert C. Cheney

When Simon Willard moved to Roxbury about 1780, he developed business relationships with numerous craftsmen and merchants who were important to the production and sale of clocks for eager buyers in the emerging American market. Cabinetmakers, brass founders, dial and glass painters, carvers, gilders, journeymen, and merchants all joined forces to produce and market the most complicated accessory found in the 18th century home. Paul Revere was one of the leading group of craftsmen and merchants offering services and English goods to Simon Willard as early as 1780 as documented by Revere’s day book held at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

 In this lecture, Revere will be discussed for his role in securing Birmingham dials, brass hardware, and most importantly, engraving and printing services for Simon Willard’s new design. A shelf clock which also served as a manual almanac was unheard of in America and production was entirely experimental.  The Willard House and Clock Museum is fortunate to have one of only two of these important and rare timekeepers on loan from the Dedham Historical Society and Museum. This clock, which features Revere’s engraved and printed data will be examined and discussed during this talk.  

The English connection to American clock making will also be discussed with a Simon Willard Jr. astronomical regulator recently donated to the museum by Trustee David G. Newsom. This clock was used in Willard’s shop on 9 Congress Street, Boston and descended in his family until acquired by Mr. Newsom twenty years ago. It utilizes a state-of-the-art eight-day precision brass weight powered movement probably acquired by Willard from the Frodsham clockmaking firm in London about 1840.


 Robert C. Cheney of Brimfield, Massachusetts is a third-generation clockmaker and a nationally recognized authority on early American clocks. During his 35-year career of self-employment, he has served as a conservator and consultant for nearly fifty museums including Old Sturbridge Village, Worcester Art Museum, the American Antiquarian Society, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He was named ‘Scholar in Residence‘ at the Concord Museum where he wrote a controversial thesis on the Willard clockmaker’s shop methodology.  Now, twenty years later, it is cited in horological scholarship throughout the world.

Cheney has served on the boards of the major horological museums: The National Clock and Watch Museum, Columbia, PA, The American Clock and Watch Museum, Bristol, CT and the Willard House and Clock Museum, N. Grafton, MA. He founded, chaired and spent a decade at the “Clocks, Watches and Scientific Instruments” department at Skinner Inc., Boston holding two international sales each year. He is co-author of “ Clock Making in New England, 1725-1825”, has lectured extensively on antique clocks in the United States, Canada and the U.K. and has appeared regularly on PBS Antiques Roadshow. Today he is the Executive Director and Curator of the Willard House and Clock Museum, in North Grafton, Massachusetts.