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Date updated: 26/01/2023

This brief guide to researching clocks and watchmakers at Guildhall Library is intended as an introduction to some of our resources in this area. Most of our resources relate to the British Isles but we do have international resources relating mainly to Switzerland and France.

The Clockmakers' Company

The Company was established by royal charter in 1631 to include all those following the trade of clockmaking in the City of London or within ten miles of the City. As with the other London companies, the Clockmakers' control over their trade gradually declined, but they still retain a connection with it. At present, the membership comprises approximately one third clockmakers and those in allied trades, one third antiquarian horologists and collectors and one third others.

The Company' library, established in 1814, was deposited at Guildhall Library in 1873 and the Company's historic records have been deposited since 1925.

Antiquarian Horological Society

The Antiquarian Horological Society was established in 1953 and promotes the historical study of horology and allied sciences. The Society's library was deposited at Guildhall Library in 1973 and to some extent it duplicates that of the Clockmakers' Company, but there is more emphasis on foreign countries and recent developments.

Guildhall Library holdings

  • Current details of holdings in the both the Clockmakers' Company and Antiquarian Horological Society libraries can be found in the Guildhall Library catalogue.
  • Details of the Clockmakers' Company library and records as they stood in 1975 can be found in J Bromley, The Clockmakers' catalogue (1977).
  • Details of the collection of watches and clocks can be found in C Clutton and G Daniels, Clocks and watches: the collection of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers (1975).

Researching biographical information

Sources containing biographical information include:

  • Apprentice bindings, 1694-1890
  • Freedom admissions, 1631-1947
  • Quarterage books, 1698-1850, with gaps. These records can indicate period of activity and sometimes date of death.
  • Court minutes, 1632-1992. The minutes can include promotions to the livery, elections to the Court of Assistants and to offices, and requests for charitable assistance by members and their dependents.​

Published sources relating to the Clockmakers' Company

C E Atkins, Register of apprentices of the Worshipful Company Clockmakers...1631 to...1931 (1931) and Freemen of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers 1631-1984 (1984).

Lists of the Master, Wardens, Court of Assistants and Livery, with their addresses: more recent issues also include Freemen. Guildhall Library has copies for 1784-1789, 1796-1815, 1817-1965, and 1968 to date (now published every few years).

S E Atkins and W H Overall, Some account of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers (1881) includes biographical notices of prominent members, lists of Masters and Wardens, and many passing references to individual members.

Prior to the formation of the Clockmakers' Company many clockmakers belonged to the Blacksmiths' Company and Guildhall Library holds records of the Blacksmiths’ Company and most other ancient City of London livery companies.

City livery companies and related organisations: a guide to their archives in Guildhall Library (3rd ed., 1989).

The records of several individuals and firms engaged in the clock and watch trades can be found in the Library Catalogue under the name of the maker or at L 69.14 clocks and watches.

Notable firms represented include Thwaites and Reed, V Kullberg and E Dent & Co. Ltd.​

The Society was formed in 1916 by the amalgamation of the Watch and Clock Makers’ Benevolent Institution (established 1815), the Watch and Clock Makers’ Pension Society (established 1817) and the Watch and Clock Makers’ Asylum at New Southgate.

The records held are principally minutes and annual reports and accounts, which may include lists of donors and subscribers and, in the case of the Asylum, inmates.​

We hold many lists of clock and watchmakers, some national or provincial and others relating to specific localities. Notable general lists include:

  • F J Britten, Britten's old clocks and watches and their makers (9th ed., revised by C. Clutton, 1982)
  • G H Baillie, Watchmakers and clockmakers of the world (3rd ed. 1951, revised by C Clutton, 1982)
  • B Loomes, Watchmakers and clockmakers of the world, vol. 2 (1976)
  • B Loomes, Watchmakers and clockmakers of the world (21st Century ed. 2006)
  • B Loomes, Early clockmakers of Great Britain (1981)
  • D Moore, British clockmakers & watchmakers apprentice records 1710-1810 (2003)​