Ivanhoe Ashby de la Zouch U3A Group Logo

The Industrial Heritage Group

Leader:  Mike Stow - indhist@ashbyu3a.co.uk - phone 01530 469152

The Industrial Heritage Group is for members who have an interest in our industrial heritage of trains, cars, planes, bikes, early manufacturing etc. to visit museums, railways, factories and other places related to our industrial past. We occasionally take a quite broad view of what constitutes "Industrial Heritage" if it is of interest to us!

Travel arrangements vary depending on how far we have to travel, but generally we meet in Ashby to car-share.

Our trips are normally on Wednesdays unless otherwise stated

Future programme

Wed 23rd JanTBACoventry Transport MuseumTony SmithFurther details to follow

Wednesday 28th November. Museum of Timekeeping

The trip to the British Horological Institute's Museum of Timekeeping at Upton Hall near Southwell proved to be one of our most popular venues with 27 members coming along. We were met by one of our guides for the day, Dawn Barnes, who ushered us into the ballroom of the Hall where we were introduced to Viscount Alan Midleton, President of the BHI and former watch expert on the BBC's Antiques Roadshow, who gave us a talk on the history of British watch & clock making and of the BHI.

The first mechanical clocks were made in the 13th century by or for the church. They were not very accurate but they told people when to attend church services.

It was as early as the 17th century when clocks were accurate enough for people to realise that the world and the universe were not as regular as we thought. The sun did not go round the Earth exactly 24 hrs every day. It varied. Therefore Mean Time was proposed. This is the average length of day measured over many years. A solar day can vary by as much as 15 minutes throughout the year. Clocks, not the sun, now determined the passage of time.

Incidentally a clock is technically a timepiece which sounds the time. (The word clock derives from the medieval Latin 'clocca' meaning bell.)

The BHI was formed in 1858 to promote British horology The British were world leaders in clock and watch manufacture until WWI when the makers all went over to war work. In the meantime, the USA forged ahead with cheap mass-produced watches. During WWII the Swiss did likewise, leaving us with no market for our watches. The industry has been a specialised trade ever since making mostly high-end handmade watches.

Dawn then told us about the development of the GPO's speaking clock. For a small fee one could phone a number and hear the exact time and therefore set your watch or clock. The first speaking clock went into service in the UK in 1936 and four different machines and 5 different voices have been used up until the present day. The museum has the first 3 machines on display and were heard both the 1st and 2nd machines play. The 2nd has the familiar voice of Pat Simmons whose voice was used from 1963 to 1985.

Alan then showed us the watch actually used by Capt Scott on his ill fated expedition to the South Pole. It was a cheap alarm pocket watch as seen in a photograph of Scott in Antarctica. Although not suitable for accurate timekeeping, its alarm was used to wake the team every two hours so that they would move about, eat something warm and not get frostbite

Dawn told us the story of John Harrison 1693-1776 the inventor of the first truly accurate marine chronometer which could be taken aboard ships to enable them to calculate their longitudinal position. His final clock H4 was accurate to just 5 secs after 81 days at sea on arrival in Jamaica.

We then had time to wander round the museum to marvel at the hundreds of timepieces (which Alan personally winds every week on Tuesday at 11am) and wonder at the ingenuity of the clockmakers.

Afterwards we lunched at the Saracen's Head in Southwell which was where King Charles I spent his last night of freedom before being handed over to the Parliamentarians and his subsequent beheading.

Yet again an excellent visit and even those not particularly interested in clocks said how much they enjoyed the day.

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