The Salisbury Cathedral Clock is quite possible the oldest working clock in existence. The movement of this incredible 14th century example was a pleasure to see up close.
Our entire experience as Salisbury Cathedral was an adventure. We entered late in the afternoon and were greeted by a docent who was letting us know that the last showing of the Magna Carta was about to close. The Magna Carta?!? That was not what we had come to see, but if it was here . . .
I remember saying, “The Magna Carta,” as I began running down the side aisle of the Cathedral, pushing my mother in law in a wheelchair. “Where are we going?” she shouted. “Magna Carta! Magna Carta!” I learned upon seeing the exhibit that this was, in fact, one of a few contemporary copies of the document available today. After the hub-bub died down and we caught our breath, we took our time admiring the clock.
A real Thomas Tompion clock!
Father of English Horology
Thomas Tompion (b. 1639 – d. 1713), the ‘father of English watchmaking’, was the best maker of the day and supplied the original Royal Observatory clocks in 1676. He was also the first maker, of any product, to give his items unique serial numbers, a practice common today.
Tompion Clocks at Greenwich
Now, this beautiful Tompion specimen is located in the Octagon Room of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London. Incidently, English horology files, this room was also used as set in Longitude, the scenes where they giving audience to the various theories of the time on how to calculate longitude at sea. Stephen Fry has a particularly memorable scene featuring a wounded dog.
Just outside of Canterbury England can be found the beautiful small Kentish village of Littlebourne, which has at its heart the 13th Century St Vincent church.
I often stay with friends in Littlebourne when I visit England. On my 2010 visit, I took the opportunity to explore the church clock tower. I know very little about Tower Clocks, so take a look at the photo and let me know more about the movement, if you know. St Vincent’s church is relatively small and the rich sound of the clock ticking away in the tower can be heard all around the church.
Deal Timeball is a Victorian maritime Greenwich Mean Time signal located on the roof of a waterfront four-story tower in the coastal town of Deal, in Kent, England.
It was established in 1855 by the Astronomer Royal George Biddell Airy in collaboration with Charles V. Walker, superintendent of telegraphs for the South Eastern Railway Company. It was built by the Lambeth firm of engineers Maudslay and Field.
The Timeball Drops
The timeball, which, like the Greenwich timeball, fell at 1 pm precisely, was triggered by an electric signal directly from the Royal Observatory.
The Downham Market Clock sits in the main square. The unique Victorian black and white clock tower has stood at the center of this Norfolk town for well over a century.
Gothic in design and made from wrought iron, it is proudly considered one of Downham Market’s most distinctive features.
The clock was presented to the town in 1878 by local draper, grocer and clothier James Scott. Unusually, it had illumination of the dials by a gas supply.
The earlier Photos were taken around 1900. It’s astonishing how little the town square has changed over the past 100 years.
The Corpus Clock, Cambridge University, is one of the school’s most recently added sites of interest, and one of the most ingenious.
Situated on the outside of the Taylor Library at Corpus Christi College, the 24-carat gold plated clock was conceived and funded by Corpus Christi alumni John C. Taylor. He invested 5 years in its creation and the project cost £1 million with 200 people involved in its construction. It was officially unveiled on 19th September 2008 by world renowned physicist and Cambridge professor, Stephen Hawking.
Windsor Castle is the preferred home of the current reigning British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II and so we couldn’t help but write a post about the Windsor Castle Clocks.
Horologist Grand Tour
This is another popular haunt for horologists as old Queenie has one of the finest privately owned clock collections in the world. It seems as though every room is adorned by a spectacular clock. Among the collection are clocks by Pinchbeck, Tompion, Ferdinand Berthoud, Mudge, and John Pyke.
Charles Clay Organ Clock
The Charles Clay organ clock (1743) is one of the finest organ clocks ever built which plays music specifically commissioned by Handel.
This clock wasn’t on our itinerary, but when we passed the Bath Abbey we noticed that they offered tours of the clock tower. Well, we couldn’t resist, of course. Bath Abbey clock here we come!
It was well worth the five pounds.
We worked our way up a winding stair case to a room that houses the large mechanical tower clock, as well as the ropes pulled by the bell ringers. They even walked us out to huddle behind the clock face.
May not be a particularly important clock, but what insight it gave to how these mechanisms operate. And the view from the cathedral roof was stunning.
No trip to the UK would be complete without seeing an original Thomas Tompion specimen. The Pump Room clock in Bath.
Tompion clock in The Pump Room
Thomas Tompion (1639–1713) was an English master clockmaker and watchmaker known today as the father of English clockmaking. His work includes some of the most important clocks and watches in the world. This famous clock is located in the restaurant, The Pump Room, at the Roman baths.
Make it a Day Trip
If you get a chance to visit, allow enough time to walk across the plaza and take a tour of the Bath Abbey tower clock.
The Wells Cathedral clock is an astronomical clock in the north transept of Wells Cathedral, England. The clock is one of the group of famous 14th to 16th century astronomical clocks to be found in the west of England. The surviving mechanism is dated to between 1386 and 1392.
Wells Cathedral Clock
Salisbury Cathedral and Wells cathedral are home to the world’s oldest working clocks. We hope to make it to Salisbury on our next trip to the UK.
Wells Clock Shop Conspiracy
We had a strange experience while in Wells. There was a clock shop near the cathedral and it, of course, caught our eye as we were passing by. We popped in and in the in the center of the shop was a grandfather clock and on the dial a name was inscribed: James Harrison. On the case, was propped a copy of Longitude by Dana Stobel, the terrific story of John Harrison and his quest to create the marine chronometer. (We highly recommend this book and the subsequent mini series made for A & E.)