Moon Landing 50 Years On

Those of us of a certain age can all remember where we were when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Probably forgotten now, but a really clever piece of advertising at the time, was this a poetic effort by Barclays Bank – the Spread Eagle is their logo:

Barclays advertisment

Barclays Press Advertisement July 1969

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Institutiones Horologicae by Benjamin Martin

Title page of book

Title page of Institutiones Horologicae

Institutiones Horologicae, or, A Physico-Mathematical Theory of Clock-Work is a little known work by Benjamin Martin being the horological section of a much larger work printed in London for W. Owen, at Homer’s Head near Temple Bar, Fleet Street.

The book, published in 1764, is about the mathematical and physical principles of clockwork and how to calculate gear trains; the theory of pendulums and balance springs; the principles of celestial mechanics applied to the construction of planetariums, lunariums, etc; an explanation of the equation of time; and the theory and construction of sundials.

Benjamin Martin (note 1) is an interesting character, he was self-educated and his first profession was as a schoolmaster. Later he became a well known travelling lecturer and author making the new science of experimental philosophy popular in eighteenth century Britain. In 1756 he started an instrument making business in Fleet Street, London and was a successful retailer of scientific instruments. His publications, including The General Magazine, publicised and promoted his business. Continue reading

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King’s, Canons and Chronophage

Living near Oxford I have been in several of the colleges, all beautiful old buildings with a fascinating history and historic libraries. I have often wondered what the colleges are like in Cambridge so Ros and I went for a few days to have a look.

King's College Chapel

King’s College Chapel (left)

The most beautiful building is King’s College Chapel where we attended evensong. The chapel, built between 1446 and 1515, is a splendid example of late perpendicular gothic English architecture and has a splendid fan vaulted roof.

King's Great court

King’s College Gatehouse

I do not remember seeing any sundials at King’s but there is a clock with 4 dials in the tower over the gatehouse.

chronophage clock

Chronophage Clock

Another college, Corpus Christi, has a unique clock, designed by John C. Taylor and installed on an exterior wall of the college’s Taylor library in 2008.

The clock has a grasshopper escapement and the time display is by blue LED’s set in the large gilt dial.  This is an unusual clock but there is a book The Corpus clock by Christopher de Hamel which explains how it works.   Continue reading

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Thomas Cole, Clockmaker

Cole trut clock

Cole 30-hr strut timepiece

I am often asked ‘Who is your favourite clockmaker?’ and the answer has to be Thomas Cole, the great Victorian maker. This is because of the beautiful design, the superb engraving and the excellent quality of his clocks.

He was born in Somerset in 1800, the son of a clockmaker. Cole moved to London in the early 1820’s but was not working independently until about 1838. By 1845 Cole was calling himself a ‘designer and maker of ornamental clocks’ and exhibited as such at the Great Exhibition of 1851 at Crystal Palace. Thomas Cole died of typhoid fever on 3rd January 1864.  Continue reading

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Blue Plaques

Larcum Kendall Blue Plaque

Larcum Kendal blue plaque

The news recently that a blue plaque, commemorating the birth place of Larcum Kendall, has been unveiled in Charlbury Oxfordshire, 15 miles from where I live, set me thinking about which other English clock and watch makers are remembered in this way.

But first a note about ‘blue plaques’. The blue plaques scheme was started in London in 1866 and has inspired many similar schemes in the UK and around the world. It commemorates the link between notable figures of the past and the buildings in which they lived and worked.

Daniels blue plaque

George Daniels blue plaque

The most recent watchmaker to be honoured Continue reading

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Books on Marine Chronometers

Dent chronometer

by M. F. Dent

I was asked recently to recommend a book on marine chronometers. This is not an easy question to answer as I have 20 or more books on the subject on my own bookshelves. The first two books below are the essential ones to have in my view, but there are others if you want to get a more complete picture.

Gould: The Marine Chronometer

Rupert Gould

The first book, on the history and development of the marine chronometer is The Marine Chronometer by Rupert Gould, written in 1923 and still the best book on the subject.  This book has been reprinted many times, the recent reprint is the best as it includes Gould’s notes Continue reading

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