Flamsteed Astronomy Society

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Eddie and Mike had the opportunity to help-out as ‘meeter-greeters’ at ‘The Excitement of Time’ exhibit staged during the Royal Society’s 2006 Summer Exhibition, July 3rd to 6th.  The Time exhibit was organised by Sir Arnold Wolfendale (14th Astronomer Royal) and Dr John C. Taylor as a celebration of the work of John ‘Longitude’ Harrison, and to mark the dedication of Harrison’s memorial in Westminster Abbey in March 2006.  Design and project management for the exhibit was done by Tyra Till.


The rest of the Royal’s Summer Exhibition was devoted to new developments at the forefront of today’s scientific research, so the Time exhibit was something of a change — part of the ‘trailing edge’ as it were, rather than the leading edge.


In addition to several excellent information panels about the development of precision timekeeping from the pendulum clock to the atomic timekeeper, via Harrison, the exhibit offered a rare chance to see four milestones of English clock development ‘in the flesh’ —

The oldest known working English domestic clock.  A brass lantern clock by Robert Harvey c. 1610.  This beautiful little clock pre-dates the pendulum  and is regulated by a ‘verge and foliot’ escapement.  It would have kept time to around 15 minutes a day — maybe up to 5 minutes a day.

The earliest surviving English long-case pendulum clock by Ahasuerus Fromanteel c. 1660, the same year as the foundation of the Royal Society.  Fromanteel’s son John, was sent to study with Salamon Coster who made the very first pendulum clocks in The Hague, to the designs of Christiaan Huygens.

George Graham’s exquisite ‘Kingwood’ long-case clock c. 1725.  Graham was apprentice to Thomas Tompion and inherited his business.  With Tompion he is regarded as one of the fathers of English clock-making.  The ‘Kingwood Graham’ is named after its stunning Kingwood veneer case.  It would have been capable of keeping time to a few seconds a week.  Graham was a fellow of the Royal Society and helped and encouraged Harrison after Harrison came to London seeking financial support to develop the sea clocks.  Harrison regarded him as one of his foremost friends and supporters and found it hard-going with the establishment in the Board of Longitude after Graham’s death.  The Royal Society itself gave Harrison steady encouragement throughout the 40-plus years of his work on the marine timekeepers, and in 1749 they honoured Harrison with their highest award, the gold Copley Medal.   John Harrison, however, declined election to the Fellowship for himself, and campaigned to see his son William elected.

John Harrison’s 1725 long-case regulator.  Harrison built two regulators for his personal use to develop temperature-compensation technology and to regulate the sea-clocks after he began work on them from 1730.  The regulators were capable of keeping time to a second a month and set the standard for the next 150 years, only surpassed by Harrison’s own RAS Regulator for which he claimed an accuracy of 1 second in 100 days. For comparison, Harrison’s prize-winning marine timekeeper, the watch H4, was accurate to 0.6 seconds a day (18 seconds a month) on its second trial.


These clocks are in private ownership, and to see them at all, never mind all together and working, was a rare treat indeed to lovers of antique clocks.


“The Excitement of Time” exhibit at

The Royal Society, July 3rd to 6th, 2006

Eddie Yeadon & Mike Dryland at the Excitement of Time Exhibit, by Tyra Till

The dynamic duo with John Harrison’s 1725 regulator.  The exhibit was staged in the ‘Quiet Room’ off the Royal Society’s Library (picture Tyra Till)

Eddie Yeadon & John C. Taylor, by Mike Dryland

John Taylor shows Eddie a fine point on the 1660 Fromanteel pendulum long-case (picture Mike Dryland)

John Taylor at the Excitement of Time Exhibit, by Tyra Till

John Taylor with the Harrison regulator, Kingwood Graham, and superb animation of the Harrison ‘grasshopper’ escapement (picture Tyra Till)