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Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Hispter Museum - The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers Museum

You’ll know by now that here at the Ministry of Curiosity we like to celebrate London’s smaller museums with our hipster museum series. Small collections, mini museums and those hidden gems are explored and reviewed by us on the website and twitter using the hashtag  #hipstermuseum.

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 Well, on this occasion we want to bring to your attention The Clockmakers Museum a stunning collection of timekeeping objects belonging to the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers. This is no ordinary small, hidden collection because it can be found in the most obvious of places – a national. Since October 2015 the Clockmakers museum has been sited at the Science Museum, South Kensington.

It’s not uncommon for larger national museums to amalgamate collections of smaller museums into their own as they become unable to care for the objects in the wide variety of ways necessary. This is something that the press have recently discussed in detail with the controversial move of the Royal Photographic Society’s collection from the National Media Museum to the Victoria and Albert Museum as the Bradford based museum shifts its collection policies and collection it has come under fire for centralising national collections to London and again taking away from the North.  

Nonetheless the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers museum has never been displayed on its own site from 1874 to 2014 it was housed by the Guildhall Library. Founded in 1631 The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers was charted as a way to regulate the clock and watch making trade – originally only those who were members of the company could make timekeeping devices.  The collection is the oldest of its kinds in the world having started in 1814 and consists of more than 1000 watches, 80 clocks, 25 marine chronometers.

The museum has been on my watch list (geddit?!) for some time, and unfortunately I never got a chance to visit it at its Guildhall site so I can’t say for sure how much of a change in impact it has had in relocating to the Science Museum. However, I can certainly say that it is more accessible for me and perhaps others on its new location, and thus I was able to spend a joyous lunch hour perusing it in its new home.

The current display is a treasure trove of a museum and tells the story of the socio-economic history of British clock making since the company’s formation, the clocks and their makers through the beautiful, delicate and intricate clocks and tools of the collection.

With some objects stunningly illustrating the domestic time keeping and how the Longitude Act 1714 assisted in the formation of mechanical skills by offering monetary prizes for anyone able to present a simple and practical method for the precise determination of a ship's longitude. An, how the formation of the prize and winnings had the knock on effect of the industrial revolution. The museum really emphasises how clocks, their formation and importance have had an exceptional impact on British History.

Other timepieces are more beautiful and exemplary examples of craftsmanship.  The Nelthropp collection for example shows and spectacularly displayed group of watches and shows and insight into the mind of a private collector without any reference book.

Then there are the almost novelty object but nonetheless significant and beautiful , a pedometer from the 18th Century that could track how many steps were taking across 12 miles by a swinging mechanism from a waistband. Additionally the museum hosts the early 19th century skull watch that belonged to  Mary Queen of Scots skull as a horological memento mori the case sites within the jaw and the watch face within the skull, it’s a beautiful, creepy and fascinating piece.

If you want to see these items and more head to the Science Museum, the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers museum is on the second floor of the museum and free entry then enjoy the Media Space galleries – I here there’s some great shows on in there too! 

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