Clock and watchmaking dates back, in the UK and in the museum, to the 16th century. Unsurprisingly, only the very wealthy had clocks, let alone watches. A display of watches from the early 1600s amazed me - stunning watches, the only thing letting you know they were 400 years old is the fact that they were really quite fat - I guess making them any thinner would have been hugely challenging with the tools and materials of the time.
Industry and trade in old London was dominated by Guilds (hence the Guildhall) , and the Worshipful Company of Clock and Watchmakers if over 370 years old.
Some of the things I took away from from the museum (in my brain, not my pockets):
- Even in the earliest times, the trade sub-divided into specialities - tools-makers, wholesalers of parts and mechanisms, and the end assembly and adding of cosmetic touches.
- 1666-1700 was the golden age of English clockmaking, invigorated (yes, yes, Phoenix-like if you want) by the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire. Numerous technical advances were made at this time, like anchor escapements and the balance spring.
- England and London led the world until the 19th century in manufacture of the highest quality timepieces, creating a sizable export market
- The factory-manufacture of watches that arose in paces like Switzerland and America took the London Guild be surprise, and they were very slow to do anything about their working practices. What's sad, is that they simply couldn't imagine people would want to buy watches of inferior quality. But of course, people did, because they were cheaper...
- Thomas Tompion lived from 1639-1713, and was a particularly famous clockmaker.
- There are numerous designs of clock on display, mostly working - like a rolling ball along a tilting platform clock that fascinated me for a few minutes
- Alexander Bain created the first ever electric clock in 1840. 1840! I'm betting he didn't sell many, what with no-one having any electricity until many decades later.
- There are some beautiful long case clocks, all running. 3pm, when I was there, was a little noisy, although all the clocks struck at different times, over 5 minutes or so. I wonder if that's deliberate, or that they all drift at different rates, and presumably someone comes and sets them all to GMT now and again (on every winding?)
|Harrison's H5 Chronometer|
Harrison had a tablet laid in his name in Westminster Abbey, but only in 2006.
As I don't have any other pictures, here is a shot of the free leaflet:
That's Thomas Tompion on the right; Harrison is on the other side.
If you want a detailed history of watch and clock making in the UK, this is the place to go. And there are some beautiful items.
Food and Drink: None - there is no-one working there, remember?
Toilets: The actual Guildhall toilets, which are standard public building stuff
Travel: It's here. St Pauls.