Current issue of Antiquarian Horology

Volume 40, Issue 1 March 2019

The front cover shows the dial of an experimental floor-standing 8-day centre seconds regulator, which is discussed in Part 2 of Chris Watson’s article on the horological connections of the John Smeaton family. Photo courtesy of Bonhams, London.

This issue contains the following articles:

‘A snapshot of the watchmaking industry in England through the lens of the 1881 census’
by Darlah Thomas (pages 36–58)
Summary:The census offers us a glimpse of the industry in England on the night of Sunday 3 April 1881. What was recorded then may not have been true the previous day or the day after, it was really like a snapshot in time. The population was required to supply age, gender, marital status, relation to the head of household, occupation and birthplace. Using data gleaned from these fields enables a vast amount of information to be analysed and a picture of the time to be created. It is well known that watchmaking in England experienced a steep decline during the second half of the nineteenth century and the country was gripped by a long depression, so what was left of the industry in 1881?

‘The John Smeaton family from York and their horological connections. Part 2 – The Leeds years’
by Chris Watson (pages 59–75)
Summary: The first part of this article, ‘The York years’, mainly related to John(1) Smeaton and his son John(2), both of whom were watchmakers. In 1678 John(2) married and moved to Leeds. This second part looks at the events that followed through the generations, down to and including John(3), the renowned civil engineer, highlighting the horological and closely related activities of their lives.

‘Marine chronometers: the rapid adoption of new technology by East India captains in the period 1770–1792 on over 580 voyages’
by Simon C. Davidson (pages 76–91)
This paper examines marine chronometer usage in the determination of longitude by East India Company captains. The original ships logs of 587 voyages by the East India Company for the period 1770–1792 were examined to determine the usage of marine chronometers by captains on voyages of eighteen to twenty-four months across three oceans to India and China. It was found that chronometers were adopted and routinely used by East India Company captains much earlier than has generally been supposed, being used on 80 per cent of all voyages at the end of the period. Chronometers displaced the use of lunars as the primary method of determining longitude sooner than has been claimed in recent assessments.

‘The clockmaker’s art in the service of crime: the so-called ‘Thomas disaster’ on 11 December 1875 in Bremerhaven’
by Günther Oestmann (pages 92–101)
This article discusses the background of the so-called ‘Thomas disaster’ on 11 December 1875 in the German harbour town Bremerhaven. It was the first discovered attempt at insurance fraud using a time bomb to be placed on a ship. Special consideration is given to the clockwork mechanism, and in this respect hitherto unknown sources have been consulted. (Read this article here)

‘Three medieval clockmakers: children of Mercury’
by William Linnard & John A. Robey (pages 102–108)
Three planet-books produced in the third quarter of the fifteenth century contain images of a clockmaker attending to a clock. These all appear as miniatures in astrological illustrations showing Mercury and his ‘children’ and were produced in three different countries: Italy, the Netherlands and England. The links between the three images are traced, and the three clocks are described in detail. It should be noted that any text in the planet-books relates to astrology, not to the individual trades depicted.

The issue totals 144 pages and is illustrated mainly in colour, and is completed by the regular sections Horological News, Book Reviews, AHS Programme and Calendar, AHS News, Letters to the Editor and Further Reading.