Today marks the unveiling of two remarkable clocks at the Science Museum.
The redisplay of the Wells Cathedral clock mechanism and the barograph clock by Alexander Cumming in the Making the Modern World gallery will enable these two highly significant devices to be seen in the wider context of the history of industrialisation.
The Wells Cathedral clock is one of the world’s oldest clock mechanisms while the barograph clock was used to make some of the world’s first urban climate studies.
The Wells Cathedral clock mechanism has been lent to the Science Museum by the Chapter of Wells Cathedral where the clock face resides. The barograph clock was acquired with Art Fund support (with a contribution from The Wolfson Foundation).
Mechanical clocks were first invented in the late 13th century and the survival of the original mechanism from Wells Cathedral, believed to have been made in about 1390 when such machines were still new technology, is remarkable. It is thought to have been constructed by the same makers as the clock at Salisbury Cathedral which, dating from 1386, is the oldest known surviving clock.
The mechanism of the Wells clock has been displayed in South Kensington since the late 19th century, when it was replaced at the Cathedral by a newer device. Visitors will now be able to observe more clearly than before the clock chiming the quarter hours and striking each hour as it has done over the last 600 years.