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.