2021 December Meeting

2nd December 2021

The George Daniels Memorial Lecture

“The Development of the Mechanical Watch”

Dr Roger Smith OBE, FBHI.

In many respects Dr Roger Smith requires no introduction, producing his first and second watches in the 1990s and having worked with the late George Daniels, Roger set up his own workshops on the Isle of Man 20 years ago, Roger W Smith Ltd. In 2018 Roger was awarded the order of the British Empire, (OBE) and an honorary doctorate from the Birmingham City University. Roger’s image was immortalised last year by the Isle of Man Post Office when they released a commemorative book of six stamps featuring three master watchmakers. I remember on his visit to the branch, September 2014 “Against All Odds” amongst other things Roger spoke of British watchmaking’s survival with its exclusive design and execution of workmanship. Currently his business on the Isle of Man produces 15 watches per year and recently, one of Rogers watches, a Series 2, sold at auction, for a record price of £536,000.

Now on his Fifth series of design, tonight’s lecture ‘’The Development of the Mechanical Watch’’, is an in-depth look, into his development of George’s co-axial escapement and the benefits that a practical escapement can bring to timekeeping but also to the improved mechanical efficiency of the mechanism that it sits within.

Duncan Greig

The meeting was held at The White Hart Barn in Godstone and made accessible via Zoom to those unable to attend.

24th October 2021

‘Memories of Clerkenwell’

A Walking Tour

On the morning of Sunday 24th October over twenty South London Branch members gathered in Clerkenwell for a remarkable walking tour, led by Ron Rose and Rob Wren, which brought to life their recent lecture to the branch.

Heading south on St John Street, and close to the main junction with Clerkenwell Road, they viewed the former premises of Strong & Woodhatch the gilders, Thwaites Brothers (dial painters – where business transacted through a hatch was almost entirely conducted on the stairs), A. Lee (watch and clock repair, and the possible location of a tall model Eureka that several remember in a long-standing window display), Gleave & Co (still in business, and therefore a remarkable survivor), and of course probably the best-known landmark, the former Renata House on the north-east corner of the crossroads – home to Shoot & Son Ltd, where many sourced their materials over time.  Shoot’s was not just a shop (where you were served first if you were a familiar face) but also a social club. Regular punters lingered long, catching up on personal matters.

Looking at the south side of Clerkenwell road, across from Shoots, Ron and Rob entertained with tales of Mr Ball of the Criterion Stores who resolutely refused to bow to decimalisation, maintaining pricing in the old money, and converting only at the last moment.

Travelling east on Clerkenwell Road the group stood opposite the former premises of Robert Pringle – more like a department store of horology and tools, by contrast with all the small premises.

Back west and south of the crossroads on St John St they viewed No 88, now a restaurant, but famous as Gedge & Co, supplier of lacquers and acids by quart, gallon or other large measure – never the small quantity required. As Ron recalled, there was little need for intoxicants or stimulants when a visit to heady-scented Gedge’s might set one up for the week.

Moving west to St John Square was the site of Berendt Brothers, material dealers – who clearly moved over time, remembered by different people in different locations. Here the group offered additional memories of the building to the south-east corner of the crossing with Clerkenwell Road including the construction of the Tompion 222 replica.

Into Briset Street and to the building owned by Dan Parkes, home also to Sinclair Glass, and A & H Rowley Parkes. Here Dan Parkes, up on the first floor, handled many of the most important Golden Age clocks, and there was much comment on the quantity of parts in so many clocks that could list Briset Street in their DNA.

With a brief detour down Britton Street to see the location of W. Rayment, and then Sinclair Glass before its move to Briset Street, the group entered the northern part of St John Square, known universally to the locals as Smith Square, since the three sides of the square were dominated by the buildings of J. Smith & Sons, major non-ferrous metals suppliers, but also makers of a wide variety of clocks.

From there to Clerkenwell Green the group stopped to admire the external dial and early hands at St James’s Clerkenwell, driven now by a Moore clock that replaced the original Aynsworth Thwaites clock.

The excursion ended outside 15 Bowling Green Lane, former premises of Thwaites and Read, where Ron arrived as a young clockmaker in 1962. He pointed out the windows behind which he and Mr Fox (his supervisor) worked on an upper floor, making the reproduction clocks. We heard about the displacement of people around the building and the turret clock department, with perhaps thirty staff, to the rear at the back of the ground floor. Ron waxed lyrical about his time throughout the mid-1960s at Thwaites, and about the double-sided drum clock that used to project from the front of the building, and which has now been tracked down, and which Ron hopes to reinstall in the near future at a new location.

[An edited report by James Nye FSA]

2021 October Meeting

7th October 2021

The Loseby Family of Clockmakers and their Turret Clocks”.

Andy Burdon

Following on from the lecture given to us in February 2019, Andy has been researching one of his favourite makers and their family.

Loseby is a name normally associated with compensated balances on marine chronometers, but both the father and three brothers were also involved with the manufacture of high-quality turret clocks. His talk will concentrate on the remaining existent clocks by the family and some background to their work. 

Biographical information from Peter Stewards introduction 2019:

Andy Burdon worked for thirty years in corporate IT in London for a multi-national Engineering Group and subsequently went on to help set up a new company in the IT hardware disposal business.

Andy has had a lifelong enthusiasm for turret clocks and curates his own turret clock collection and workshop. Andy is a Council Member of the Clocks Conservation Committee at the Church Buildings Council and the Chief Executive Officer of his own technology company having held a number of previous CIO board positions in the technology and communications industry. He is also the database manager for the AHS turret clock group recording every turret clock made in the UK. Since taking over the database in 2016 he has worked to turn it into an internet-based database and take it from 650 records to just over 4500. He has worked with the Church of England to link the turret clock database with the Church Heritage Record database which contains the information about all 17,600 Church of England churches in the UK.

In November 2018 Andy joined the Smith of Derby board as a Non-Executive Director and has been working with Smith of Derby Limited for many months, helping the company improve performance in the traditional turret clock marketplace and working with the engineers in the field to improve the work they perform.

The meeting was held at The White Hart Barn in Godstone and made accessible via Zoom to those unable to attend.

2021 September Meeting

2nd September 2021

The Beresford Hutchinson Memorial Lecture

Memories of Clerkenwell

Ron Rose at the opening of the Branch workshop told us of how at 15 his careers officer gave him a choice of left hand or right hand, in one was a career servicing typewriter’s, in the other an apprenticeship clock repairing. He and later his brother Alan were apprenticed to Thwaites and Reed, in the 1960s. Then relocating to Eastbourne. Ron had fully established himself and his business at Strike One Islington by the time I first met him, the year of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee 1977. I made a point of putting his book, English dial clocks, firmly on my Christmas list the following year.

Two intrepid horological maestros from the South London branch, Mr Ron Rose, and Mr Robert Wren, have been exploring their personal and horological memories of Clerkenwell, the centre of our trade, the interesting buildings, and characters therein.

Robert Wren, a reprobate extra from the film Quadrophenia, commenced his apprenticeship at his uncles Lawrence and Colins shop in Hastings. He remembers venturing into the Wells with his late father. As a younger man, Robert accompanied him on his rounds as a salesman within the trade. Robert has put together numerous photographs of Clerkenwell and the surrounding workshops taking us on a pictorial journey starting from St John’s Street we are taken on a journey around suppliers and trade shops with memories of the characters within, journeying around St John’s Smith Square to the Wells and then ending up in Bowling Green Lane, former home of Thwaites and Reed.

Many things have changed in this historic centre of clock and watch making in London.

Google now states “popular with creative firms and dotted with smart apartment blocks in converted warehouses Clerkenwell is home to cutting-edge restaurants and cosy gastropubs”.

This was not always the way it was, indeed nor is it the way that I remember Clerkenwell, when I first ventured on the bus from Hackney Technical College, along Old Street on my first tool buying adventure to Clerkenwell. These two gentlemen have a depth of knowledge and memories that need to be recorded and added to for future generations.

I sincerely hope that we will be able to have a walking tour of the area in the coming weeks.

Duncan Greig

The meeting was held at The White Hart Barn in Godstone and made accessible via Zoom to those unable to attend.

2021 August Meeting

5th August 2021

Peter Gosnell

Joseph Ives and his Lever Spring Clocks

Peter Gosnell, who along with his and Beresford’s research into the British United Clock Co., has contributed talks to us in the past notably in June 2018, “Industrial Clock Manufacture in Birmingham Before 1885” and April 2019, “The Untold Story of British Jerome”.

Peter will be talking about Joseph Ives, the Connecticut clock manufacturer and his Lever Spring (sometimes called “Wagon Spring” ) clocks.

Circa 2000 Peter became a volunteer member of staff under Jonathan Betts at what was then called The Old Observatory, Greenwich. By association, this gave him access to some examples of Lever Spring clocks in both public and private collections in the UK. Between the years 2001 – 2008 further research on Lever Spring clocks was undertaken during Peter’s yearly visits to America when once again access to rarer clock examples was forthcoming.

In 1847 Silas B. Terry, the youngest clock making son of Eli Terry, invented a process for hardening and tempering high carbon steel to make coil springs suitable for driving clock movements. Before this in England and Europe, the process had been a closely guarded secret giving them monopoly of supply to American clock makers. Prior to 1847 there had been two alternatives devised in Bristol, Connecticut to the use of these expensive imported steel coil springs.

One developed by Joseph Ives’s nephew, Joseph Shaylor Ives in 1836, used brass instead of steel to make the coil springs. The other solution developed by Joseph Ives himself from 1817 until 1859 made use of the leaf spring in conjunction with an equalising device. This development of the lever spring by Joseph Ives will be the major focus of tonight’s talk.

The meeting was held at The White Hart Barn in Godstone and made accessible via Zoom to those unable to attend.

2021 July Meeting

1st July 2021

Keith Scobie-Youngs FBHI ACR

The Remarkable City Career of Aynsworth Thwaites

Due to the government’s plan to remove all legal limits on meetings and social gatherings being changed from the 21st of June to the 19th of July, Peter Gosnell’s talk which was scheduled for this meeting has been temporarily postponed. We are incredibly grateful to Keith Scobie-Youngs, director of the Cumbia Clock Company, who has agreed at the last minute to stand in on the Zoom platform for what we sincerely hope will be our last talk in Lockdown.

Many of you will remember Keith’s talk, at the Beresford Hutchinson Lecture 2019, on the Tower clocks of Hampton Court. Who can forget that double remontoire Gillet and Bland movement?

For the 1st July Zoom lecture he has agreed to enlighten us on The Remarkable City Career of Aynsworth Thwaites. Using the archive of the Clockmakers Library and personal experience working with turret clocks from the 1980s, Keith has pieced together the history of Aynsworth (1719 – 1794) father of John Thwaites who partnered with Jeremiah Reed to become Thwaites and Reed one of the most prolific makers of domestic and tower clocks in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Meeting held on line via Zoom.

2021 June Meeting

3rd June 2021

Seth Kennedy

Antiquarian Horologist

The South London Branch is delighted to welcome Seth Kennedy. Seth is an antiquarian horologist who specialises in working on antique pocket watches. He works on movements from the 17th to 20th century, restoring the movements of these vintage masterpieces and even restoring their cases. He often must make bespoke parts even complete cases.

He is an accredited member of the BHI who came to horology after redundancy in the mechanical engineering field. Mentored by Ray Bell, he cherishes a signed copy of The Watchmaker by George Daniels, former president of the South London branch. Seth has excelled in learning our craft even studying and learning the art of engine turning.

Meeting held on line via Zoom.

2021 May Meeting

6th May 2021

West Dean Students

Annual Presentations from four students.

The South London Branch is delighted to welcome back Malcolm Archer, Tutor, from West Dean.

He will give us a short introduction on how he has been coping with teaching horology to the students over the last year and then individually introduce four student presentations.

Titles of the presentations areas follows:

La Joueuse de Tympanon

By Emmanuelle Sibley

Professional development diploma

By Michael Martin

My first year at West Dean

By Sam Moss

An Early Digital clock ?

By Rebecca Hawkridge

Meeting held on line via Zoom.

2021 April Meeting

1st April 2021

A talk by Duncan Greig

“A trip across the pond”

Duncan Greig recounts a trip to America to set up Mr Coldwell’s masterpiece at the residence of   Mr Donald Saff, Maryland, in 1996.

“During lockdown tidying things up as we all have been doing, ! came across an old photograph album. This reminded me of how good Horology has been, not only meeting likeminded and interesting people but taking me to America on more than one occasion. I have contacted Donald Saff, current owner of Clock B, asking for permission to share with you photographs of the trip made to install Mr Caldwell’s Masterpiece.

This enormous clock I first came across reading Royer Collard’s book on Skeleton Clocks. The clock being built 1926 was the work of Mr George Caldwell of Holmfirth. My host was extremely kind, and we visited the home and workshops of Durward Center, Baltimore, where my horological appetite was fed some more. I hope to show you some unusual pieces of horology that many of us in the UK have not experienced.”

Meeting held on line via Zoom.