2024 Annual Meeting

Dials and Bells in the Eighteenth Century:
Stories From the Thwaites Daybooks

Held at St. Mary-at-Hill Church, Lovat Lane, London EC3R 8EE, and online via Zoom, on Saturday 11 May 2024.


The company founded by Aynsworth Thwaites in the 1750s, which continued under his son John from 1794, was an important maker of domestic and turret clocks, selling through a wide range of retailers as well as direct to clients. It also carried out significant repair, modification, and maintenance work.

For the last four years, James Nye and Keith Scobie-Youngs have been studying a twenty-year period of the company, from 1780 to 1800, through its extraordinary series of daybooks, now held at Guildhall Library.

In the 2024 AHS Annual Meeting, we heard some of the stories that have been emerging from the project.

In the first session, Rebecca Martin, who transcribed over 2,500 of the daybook records, introduced the project, providing an overview of the Thwaites business and offering insights from the transcription process. Next, Lincoln Hamilton described the Thwaites clock at London’s Horse Guards and corrected much misinformation in the wiki-sphere. Then, James Nye looked at Woburn Abbey, remodelled in the 1790s by Henry Holland for the Duke of Bedford, where life on the estate was interestingly regulated by a Thwaites clock.

After lunch was the AHS Annual General Meeting, at the end of which we held our annual awards presentation.

The afternoon session was opened by Peter de Clercq, who surveyed the world of the wind dial. These devices, largely unexplored in the horological literature, were nevertheless once in widespread use. Many were made by Thwaites. Next, Chris Pickford explored the voice of Thwaites’ clocks: the bells that were used to sound out their hours. Finally, Keith Scobie-Youngs explained the evolution and legacy of the Thwaites turret clock: a machine that he describes as the Ford Model T of public horology.

Saturday 11 May 2024


MORNING LECTURE SESSION

10.00 Church doors opened for in-person attendees. Registration with tea, coffee and biscuits.

10.30 Chair’s introduction

10.35 Rebecca Martin, From the Coalface: Transcription Insights from the Thwaites Daybooks Project

11.10 Lincoln Hamilton, Correcting Time: Debunking Some Myths about the Horse Guards Clock

11.45 James Nye, Woburn Abbey: The Challenge of Keeping Time


12.15 Lunch


AGM SESSION

14.00 Annual General Meeting, followed by presentation of awards


AFTERNOON LECTURE SESSION

15.00 Peter de Clercq, Wind Dials

15.35 Chris Pickford, …And Don’t Forget the Clock Bells. Here’s Why…

16.10 Keith Scobie-Youngs, The Ford Model T of Turret Clocks

16.40 Closing words.