Even after the briefest of strolls around the area known as The City of London (or London in general) you'll very probably be struck (pun intended) by the number of public clocks, adorning buildings or hanging off churches. Quite often they're rather grand, ornate, pretty big and in many cases have their own unique history and back story.
Going back to the 16th century, clockmakers' tended to be members of the Blacksmiths' Company, as they worked with ferrous metals and utilised many of the metal work skills that were required as part of their own trade. With the growth of domestic clocks, requirements changed and as different and quite specific skills were essential to domestic clock and watchmaking the two groups separated and domestic clockmakers developed their own identity and market. Inevitably, resentment grew between clockmakers within the City and those from outside plying the same trade who threatened their monopoly. After many years of lobbying, they managed in 1631 to obtain from King Charles I a Royal Charter, recognising them as 'The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers' and thus protecting 'the Art or Mystery of Clockmaking of the City of London.'
Although the Clockmakers' Library was founded in 1813, the current museum is housed inside a modern annexe at Guildhall.
The original library of ancient manuscripts belonging to the Company gradually grew to include books, horological portraits and of course many examples of time pieces throughout the ages. It's all housed within one room, but never-the-less is chock full of information pertaining to the Company's formation and history, numerous 'celebrity' clockmakers and a collection which includes 600 English and European watches, 30 clocks and 15 examples of marine timekeepers, instrumental in the development of the science of navigation. In fact, you'll find yourself surrounded by the oldest specific collection of clocks and watches in the world, the earliest dating from c.1600, up until c.1850.
The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers' motto is 'Time is the commander of all things', so I'd suggest that if you find yourself in the area, you could pop in and see their museum for yourself ... but only if you have time of course. If not, then maybe you should make time.
The Clockmakers' Museum is situated in Guildhall Library -Aldermanbury, London, EC2V 7HH and is open Monday to Saturday (9:30am - 4:45pm). It's FREE to visit.
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