The Clockmakers' Museum was founded early in the second
decade of the 19th century, making it the oldest collection of clocks and
watches in the world. Through the generosity of clockmakers, watchmakers and
other donors, it has amassed a unique horological collection dating from the
15th century to the present day.
The Collection comprises over 1,300 items including 14 free-standing long case clocks, 80 other clocks of various sorts and 25 marine timekeepers. Included in the Collection is the earliest known clock movement by John Harrison and his superb fifth marine timekeeper, together with examples of work by most of the greatest London clockmakers and watchmakers.
The Museum was housed at Guildhall between 1872 and 2014, when it moved to the Science Museum in South Kensington where it was re-opened by HRH The Princess Royal on 22nd October 2015. Thanks to the support of the Science Museum, the Clockmakers' Museum enjoys substantial visitor numbers and wide public interest.
Until the sixteenth century, clock making by native English craftsmen was
mostly confined to the production of tower and church clocks. Domestic
clocks and watches were mostly imported, or the work of immigrants from the
Continent. Because tower clock making involved working in ferrous metal,
clockmakers within the City of London tended to be members of the
Blacksmiths° Company. Blacksmiths in this sense meant general metal workers,
the shoeing of horses being the province of the Farriers.
The growth of the domestic clock making industry however led to a feeling within the trade that it was a craft apart. Resentment grew up between the clockmakers who had become established in London and outsiders who came to set up in or near the City and who threatened their market. From 1622 onwards groups of London clockmakers undertook a series of political manoeuvres designed to undermine the opposition, both through the Blacksmiths Company and in their own right. They failed at first to gain the recognition they sought, but by 1629 they had accumulated sufficient credibility to petition the Crown for an independent Company. To the considerable distress of the Blacksmiths, who believed they were the rightful repository of the clockmaker's art, the clockmakers were granted their Charter by King Charles l on the 22nd August 1631.
The Charter gave the Clockmakers power to control the horological trade in the City of London, and for a radius of ten miles around. It incorporated a controlling body, which should have 'continuance for ever under the style and name of The Master, Wardens and Fellowship of the Art and Mystery of Clockmaking'.
The original Charter is kept in the Guildhall Library, together with the rest of the Clockmakers’ Company library, where it may be inspected. The Clockmakers' Company also keeps its clock collection in Guildhall in the Clock Museum.