/ The London Traveler
London — By Andrea Kirkby on June 15, 2010 at 4:42 pm
Filed under: clocks, featuredarticle, museum

The Clockmakers’ Museum

I make a practice of collecting small, quirky museums. For instance there’s the Bank of England museum, and the Hunterian collection of surgical paraphernalia, and the Soane museum with its eccentric accumulation of art and curios. I’ve just found another one – the Clockmakers’ Museum.

Not in the museum: you'll have to go to Hampton Court to see this one

It was news to me that there’s a whole City livery company dedicated to Clockmakers. It goes back to 1631 and has a fine coat of arms featuring (obviously) a clock, with an emperor and Old Father Time as supporters.

In 1831 the Company decided to start a museum and library, and this was the beginning of the collection you can see today. Since 1925, it’s been housed in the Guildhall, and open to the public – though space is very restricted, with only 25 people allowed in at a time.

There’s a fine display on the history of clockmaking and, in particular, the clockmaking trade in London. But there’s also a display of modern work, and most intriguingly a fine small collection of marine timekeepers from the eighteenth century. My unscientific brain doesn’t quite remember how it works, but if you want to do your longitude and latitude properly and end up with decent marine charts, you need an accurate timepiece – and London clockmakers were providing exactly those tools for ships’ captains and navigators.

But it was a man from the Humber who ‘discovered longitude’ – John Harrison, whose fourth chronometer (known as H4) won the Admiralty’s £20,000 prize for an accurate timekeeping device. Just to prove it wasn’t a fluke, he was required to make a perfect working copy of H4 – which he did; it’s called H5, and is still in the museum.

And there is one stunningly beautiful item that goes all the way back to the start of the company; a star-shaped watch in silver, engraved with Biblical scenes, by David Ramsay, the first Master of the company.

When: Mon-Sat 0930-1630

Where: the Guildhall Library, Aldermanbury, EC2v 7HH [map]

Photo by Mike Cattell on flickr – well worth looking up for the most informative description and history of the clock

How much: free

Related places:
  1. A
    Guildhall Library Shop
    5 Aldermanbury, London EC2V 7HH, United Kingdom
    View Details and Book
Tags: clocks, featuredarticle, museum


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