Thursday, July 17, 2014

What is the Most Important Anniversary This Year? Some Might Say Not 1914 After All

Ships, Clocks and Stars - The Quest for Longitude Exhibition is for All Maritime Interests
Shipping News Feature

UK – To most people this year’s big anniversary is, quite rightly, the centenary of the commencement of hostilities in the Great War. To maritime historians however there is a clear rival with the tercentenary of the Longitude Act 1714, a chapter in history that arguably produced a result even more influential in historical terms than the horrific slaughter which began two hundred years later. Now one of the most exciting collections of clocks ever amassed is going on show at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London to celebrate the event.

The display, titled ‘Ships, Clocks and Stars’, will be bringing together a wide range of timepieces to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Longitude Act 1714. The exhibition tells the fascinating story of the race to calculate longitude position at sea, solving the problem of navigation and saving sailors from the fate of shipwrecks and starvation. The noted inventor and avid horologist Dr John C Taylor OBE is delighted to be contributing some of his extensive clock collection as part of this unique exhibition.

The gallery will in part be paying tribute to John Harrison, the man who won the first Longitude Prize in 1714, earning £20,000 for his work in making navigation at sea far more accurate using time and, thanks to Dr Taylor providing his clocks to the exhibition, all of Harrison’s timepieces that are known to exist will be together in the same place for the first time ever at the exhibition which will run until Sunday 5 January 2015.

Dr Taylor will be contributing four timepieces to the exhibition, including his prized John Harrison Longcase Pendulum Clock and a stunning pocket watch from his own collection. As one of the clocks that Harrison used to regulate his sea clock during his research, the longcase holds a special place in horology history. He will also be contributing a Fromanteel Norfolk Longcase Clock, a timepiece created by the incredibly influential Fromanteel family and his final piece is a Mudge Green clock, an historically important and early marine timekeeper with a constant force escapement, which was completed in 1779.

Dr Taylor is perhaps best known for his work in bi-metals (also a passion of Harrison’s and included in his timepieces to compensate for changes in temperature) the Doctor having designed the thermostat controls that are used in small household appliances such as kettles (almost 2 billion sold to date), however it was his love of clocks that led him to create the Corpus Chronophage, on show at Corpus Christi College at Cambridge University.

The Chronophage is a metre-high clock that features a stunningly beautiful model grasshopper that powers the timepiece and metaphorically ‘eats’ time as each minute passes. This stunning piece has become one of the city’s leading tourist attractions, with fans flocking from far and wide to catch a glimpse of the time-eating timepiece.

Standard tickets for the ‘Ships, Clocks and Stars’ exhibition are available from £8.50 including admission to Longitude Punk’d, with other price combinations available to include things such as Cutty Sark admission, and the exhibition is open 1000-1700 daily with last admission at 1600.

Photo: John Harrison by Thomas King