Clock world full of cranks?

This post was written by James Nye

Things turn up. Back in 2006, when David Rooney and I were researching the Standard Time Company (STC), we planned a lecture at the Guildhall library.

The only surviving early clock we knew of had spent its life at the Royal Observatory—but out of the blue, days before the event, a Lund-synchronised dial clock turned up.

In the following eight years, that was it—nothing else—and then suddenly, through the kind agency of Keith Scobie-Youngs, The Clockworks acquired a wonderful addition a few weeks ago, in the form of an outsized fusée gallery movement, fitted with a massive Lund synchroniser.

The movement is by Thwaites, from the early nineteenth century, and signed elaborately by Metcalfe of 122 Newgate Street, London.

Clock movement by Thwaites, elaborately signed “Metcalfe of 122 Newgate Street, London”
London stock exchange
“The Stock Exchange”

When STC went public in 1886, it listed its clients in the prospectus, and the very institution on which it was being floated appeared second in the list.

The accurate timing of bargains made by the jobbers on the London Stock Exchange was an important matter, and ‘the House’ was an early adopter of the new technology that provided hourly synchronisation of its clocks.

Remarkably, our new addition was one of probably several STC-synchronised clocks that populated ’Change, where it seems to have served for some time.

Each hour, a signal would travel from STC’s offices on Queen Victoria Street around a series of looped networks, energising the coils of the synchronisers. These were the ‘set-top boxes’ of their day, added perhaps many decades after a clock was first made—as was clearly the case with this clock.

The Stock Exchange synchroniser is particularly large, operating two small fingers that project through the dial, to correct the minute hand each hour. The long use of the device is evidenced by the deeply indented witness marks in the tab on the back of the hand, caught by the synchroniser.

The synchroniser
Apertures in the dial for the synchronising fingers
The back of the hand showing wear marks from the synchronising finger
The back of the hand, showing witness mark from the synchronising finger


The fusee
The fusee

Overall the movement seems rather outsized for the scale of the dial it ended up supporting—the large counterweight is much more than a match for the 15-inch minute hand.

Sometimes, it’s very hard for us to trace the environs in which our clocks spent their time—and to deduce whose lives they counted out. Thankfully in the case of this remarkable STC clock, there’s an old crank that can tell us a story or two.

The crank
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