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Visit of the worshipful company of clockmakers

Date updated: 22/11/2022

The Master of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers and some of his colleagues visited London Metropolitan Archives on Friday 24 June. The tour of LMA was organised by Dorota Pomorska-Dawid, who is currently cataloguing the archives of the Company itself, along with the business archives of individual clockmakers and astronomers who had deposited their records with the Company. The Clockmakers Charity are kindly funding this cataloguing work, which will allow the records to become more easily available for consultation and to ensure their ongoing preservation.

The Clockmakers' group gather outside the LMA in Clerkenwell ready to start their visit, June 2022
The Clockmakers' group gather outside LMA, to start their visit

The visit started with a welcome by Dorota and an overview of the history of LMA. The tour group then moved to the conservation studio where one of Dorota’s colleagues talked about the types of conservation and preservation work carried out. This included viewing items from the ‘Rogues Gallery’. These are documents damaged beyond repair by fire and pests, including a 17th century freedom register burnt in the Chamber fire of 1786, The group also had a very special opportunity to view some ‘iconic documents’, including Robert Hooke’s diary from 1672-83, (which is inscribed on the UNESCO UK Memory of the World register); Isaac Newton’s sacrament certificates from 1701; and an as yet uncatalogued draft petition to Parliament by John Harrison in 1763, with notes by Humphrey Quill. The latter document is part of the current cataloguing project. These items proved totally fascinating for the tour group of Clockmakers.

A 17th century freedom register burnt in the Chamber fire of 1786
A 17th century freedom register burnt in the Chamber fire of 1786. © The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers

The tour then went behind-the scenes, moving down to the basement to view one of LMA’s enormous strong rooms full of floor to ceiling mobile shelving. Time was then spent in the Archive Study Area. Set aside were a selection of items from the Clockmakers' Charity collection which are currently being catalogued. Some examples included pages cut from Justin Vulliamy's daybook, a description by John Harrison of his first longitude timekeeper or 'sea clock' (1730), and a volume of the Stone Collection of trade cards & watch papers dated to c.1769. The tour concluded with a look at the current LMA exhibition of ‘Magnificent Maps of London’ followed by an excellent lunch at a nearby restaurant. The Clockmakers would like to thank Dorota Pomorska-Dawid for her kind assistance with this visit report, which was written for the July 2022 edition of the Clockmaker Newsletter and is reproduced here with the kind permission of The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers.

The tour group looking at iconic documents by Robert Hooke, Isaac Newton and John Harrison, in the Conservation Studio
The tour group views ‘iconic documents’ by Robert Hooke, Isaac Newton and John Harrison. © The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers