Thomas Barry (1788 – 1838)

Thomas Barry who mainly worked in Ormskirk, making unusual clocks, including a very complex three- dial astronomical and musical table clock, now in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. Thomas Barry, was a Clockmaker who later worked in Leigh and Bolton. He has a son also called Thomas Barry, who became a clockmaker in his own right, also working in Bolton.

Thomas the famous Ormskirk Clock maker had fastidiously worked on a new type of mechanism that was built with such precision, it miraculously seemed to know where the moon was in the sky and when Easter Sunday would fall in any given year!

Thomas Barry worked with Ormskirk Master Carpenter James Moorcroft for the building of the ornate hood and case, made from flamed mahogany with elaborate carved detail. The two men created several masterpieces of both precision engineering and top rate joinery.

The astronomical clock was so unique and so sought after once it was announced to the clock buying population of Lancashire, that it was raffled at Mr Forshaw’s Hotel, Liverpool, for 1 guinea a ticket in 1787 with only 150 tickets available. This clock, deemed a supreme example of English Clock Making, is in the Walker Museum, Liverpool, having been bought by the museum with Heritage Lottery funding and donations from the National Arts Collections Fund for £250,000.

A particular feature of the Barry clocks are their ability to work out tidal times built into the mechanism. Barry also built long case clocks, at a time when larger houses for the business and merchant class were being built in the North of England, there was the need for a reliable efficient timepiece in a large house with several servants that could strike or chime the time to allow all in the house to hear it.

Thomas Barry later moved to Leigh in 1789 and then to Bolton with his Daughter around 1800 where he died in 1872.

His son also John Barry had a clock-making business in Bradshawgate, Bolton in the early 1820s.

This profile has been updated using research kindly provided by Linda Chalmers, a relative of Thomas Barry.

The National Museum of Liverpool has an astronomical clock by Thomas Barry and James Moorcroft considered to be the finest to survive.

A late 18th Century flame mahogany, 8 day,  Grandfather Clock bearing the makers name, Thomas Barry of Ormskirk. Chiming on the hour and quarter hours, with 2 weights, pendulum, winding key and having moonphase. The dial engraved “Thomas Barry of Ormskirk” with Tempus Fugit (time flies) below the moon phase. The 12ins arched brass dial with wide silvered chapter ring with Roman and Arabic numerals, the arch showing phases of the moon, and  the eight day two train movement striking on a bell, contained in a flame mahogany case inlaid with figured panels, crossbanding, garlands and shell motifs, the upper part with moulded scroll pediment and turned twin columns to the hood and with conforming  columns to the trunk.It stands on a plinth base with ogee bracket feet.

Astronomical clock by Barry of Leigh in a mahogany Liverpool case. The globe moon rotates on its axis and also moves across the arch once a day.

An imposing flame-mahogany case of about 1780-90, with similar blind fretwork, dentil moulding, shaped top to the trunk door and reverse-painted glass panels beneath the swan-necked pediments. The dial is very special, having a globe moon in the arch that not only rotates about its own axis to show the phase, but also moves across the arch once a day to give a very approximate indication of its position in the sky. There are hands for centre-seconds and a centre annual- calendar as well as smaller hands showing the times of sunrise and sunset and the age of the moon. The dial is signed ‘Barry Leigh’.