Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Guildhall Clock Museum

This museum is a truly fascinating building. Not more than ten paces long and perhaps six paces across, a person could spend all day in this room. Examples of watches, clockworks, celestial globes from the 16th century onwards (many of them still functioning) adorn the walls and fill case after case, reminding one of the phrase "they don't make things like they used to." Furthermore, the Museum also provides the history of English clock-making and The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, the oldest horological institution in the world, whose motto is Tempus Rerum Imperator or "Time is the commander of all things." Established in 1620, the Guild received an official Charter from Charles I, allowing them to regulate every clockmaker in London. Subsequent to the the civil war in 1642, the technological advances in 1657 and the return of the Court in 1660, the forty year span of the Golden Age of English Clockmaking flourished under royal patronage. Indeed, their work in the 18th century would help to provide the basis for the Industrial Revolution (to say nothing of John Harrison inventing an accurate method of determining longitude), but their unwillingness to lower the quality of their work along with international competition led to the destruction of the London clock trade.

As someone with a great personal interest in archives and special collections, to see so many timepieces which are works of art yet retain perfect functionality after centuries is nothing short of amazing. In addition, having read "Longitude" by Davel Sobel, it was particularly interesting to see genuine examples of John Harrison work in his amazing forty year struggle to determine longitude accurately.

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