London Metropolitan Archives - Item Details


Date of Creation:

1503 - 1992

Reference Code:


Scope and Content:
  • Records of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, 1503 - 1992, including copies of charters and bye-laws; Court and committee minute books; financial accounts; lists of liverymen; registers of freemen; registers of freedom admissions; registers of apprentice bindings; papers relating to duties and taxes on clocks and watches; papers relating to patents, hallmarks and foreign imports; letter books; Clerk's papers and papers relating to charities. Please note there is no public access to Ms 2710/17-20, Ms 20384 or Ms 22353 without permission from the Company.

    The collection includes a number of papers of John Harrison (1693-1776), describing his construction of longitude timekeepers and watches. These papers were catalogued at various dates from 1918 by members of Guildhall Library staff. The records include description, with plans, by John Harrison, of his first longitude timekeeper or"sea clock"; papers relating to the horological inventions of John Harrison, collected by Alexander Cumming (ca. 1732-1814), clockmaker, by virtue of his appointment by Act of Parliament to adjudicate on Harrison's explanation of the mechanisms of his longitude time keeper "H 4"; journal, 1761-6, relating to the testing of John Harrison's chronometer for the determining of longitude at sea in accordance with a statute of 12 Queen Anne, chapt. 15, by Walter Williams; essays, notes and calculations by John Harrison, and his son William Harrison; and letters mainly from William Harrison, statements, cases etc relating to the tests at sea of John Harrison's longitude watches and his efforts to win an award from the Board of Longitude.

    PLEASE NOTE: Permission is required from the Company for photocopies or photography of Harrison material (whether for private study or for publication). All requests for reproductions for the purposes of publication should also be referred to the Company. More information is available from staff.

    Some further records of Clockmakers' Company remain uncatalogued please see staff for further information.
Extent: 202 production units
Classification: LIVERY COMPANIES
Site Location: Guildhall
Level of Description:

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Administrative History:
  • The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, the sixty-first London livery company in order of precedence, was founded on 22 August 1631 on receiving the Royal Charter from King Charles I. Before then, English clockmakers were mostly involved in the production of large clocks for towers and churches, and so they were members of the Blacksmiths' Company, as well as of companies that were not related to the clockmaking craft. Smaller clocks and watches were either imported or produced by immigrant craftsmen, who were encouraged to settle in England by King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I. Their numbers in London were dramatically cut by the bubonic plagues of 1593 and 1603. It was only during the reign of King James I that the local production of clocks and watches began to prosper, and it became necessary to establish a company dedicated entirely to the craft. The first Master of the new Clockmakers' Company was David Ramsay, former Chief Clockmaker to King James I and the creator of the iconic star-shaped 'Nativity' watch which is one of the highlights of the Company's museum collection.

    London's clock and watchmaking started gaining international reputation for excellence from 1660 onwards, when the restoration of the monarchy and technological advances - such as the balance spring and jewel bearing - allowed it to flourish even further, ushering in the trade's Golden Age. Its most celebrated achievement was the development of the marine chronometer by John Harrison in 1735, which solved the problem of calculating the longitude at sea and won him and his son William the coveted Board of Longitude prize. Although Harrison, a Yorkshireman, was never a member of the Clockmaker's Company, he was assisted by the Company members - such as George Graham - both financially and professionally.

    The Clockmakers' Company never owned a hall, originally meeting in taverns or on other companies' premises. Its documents and treasures were kept in the great chest, which resided in the Master's home and was moved every year. The chest and its contents survived the Great Fire of 1666, so the Company's records, including its ordinances, go all the way back to its foundation. Like then, the Company is governed by the Master, three Wardens and a Court of Assistants. Its motto is 'Tempus Rerum Imperator'

    The Company is still actively involved in supporting, promoting and preserving horological crafts and industries, which in 2019 were added to the Heritage Crafts Association's Red List of Endangered Crafts. It does so through grants, prizes, mentoring, networking, library, and the Clockmakers' Museum - the oldest dedicated collection of clocks and watches in the world - which has been housed at the Science Museum in London since 2015.

    The administrative office of the Clockmakers' Company is located at 1 Throgmorton Avenue in the City of London.
Creator: Worshipful Company of Clockmakers
Copyright: Depositor
Source of Acquisition:
  • These items, and other records of the Company, have been deposited with the Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library at various dates since 1922. The Manuscripts Section merged with London Metropolitan Archives in 2008. The records have been catalogued by various members of staff over many years.
  • 1950/004
  • 1950/006
  • 1951/005
  • 1968/004
  • 1974/003
  • 1983/031
  • 1986/034
  • 1987/037
  • 1988/016
  • 1992/013
  • 1993/059
  • 1977/017
  • 1977/044
Access Restrictions: These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information may be subject to access restrictions Not available for online ordering. Please see staff
Arrangement: As the archive is large and complex, and to assist the user, the catalogue has been arranged in sections, each with an archival classification code as follows:
CLC/L/CD/A Constitutional records
CLC/L/CD/B Court records
CLC/L/CD/C Membership records
CLC/L/CD/D Financial records
CLC/L/CD/E Trade records
CLC/L/CD/F Clerk's records
CLC/L/CD/G Charities and estates
Related Material: For Clockmakers' Company rough court minutes, 1712-15; Clockmakers' Company list of apprentice bindings, 1716-19 see CLC/L/CL/B/002A/MS00660/001.

See also LMA/4636, the archive of the renowned horologist Dr George Daniels, who was the Master of Clockmakers' Company in 1980.


The Printed Books Section of Guildhall Library holds the printed works of the former Clockmakers' Library. The Company has never had a hall, but its collection of clocks and watches was formerly held in a museum in Guildhall Library. The Clockmakers' Museum is now within the Science Museum in South Kensington.

The Clockmakers' Company has deposited a number of organisations, businesses and personal collections for which a list is given below:

Personal, family and organisations:

CLC/002 Antiquarian Horological Society (Ms 20575 only, rest deposited by the Society)
CLC/039 British Horological Institute
CLC/125 National Benevolent Society of Watch and Clockmakers
CLC/521/MS14469 and CLC/521/MS18446 Turner, William
CLC/521/MS15189 Jump and Sons
CLC/521/MS15819 Atkins
CLC/521/MS16841 Barnsdale Family
CLC/521/MS20384 Upjohn, James
CLC/521/MS06788A Thwaites, John
LMA/4636 Daniels, George {watchmaker, member and a master of the Company)


CLC/B/024 Birch and Gaydon
CLC/B/043 Charles Frodsham and Company
CLC/B/057 Connell Family
CLC/B/064 Daniel Debois and Sons
CLC/B/073 E Dent and Company Limited (except MS23814-22 relating to Dent Family which were part of a British Records Association deposit)
CLC/B/118 Hodson, Charles
CLC/B/138 Joseph Preston and Sons
CLC/B/141 Kullberg, Victor
CLC/B/176 Parkinson and Frodsham
CLC/B/223 William James Barnsdale and Son
CLC/B/227/MS14785 Lupton, C
CLC/B/227/MS14555/001-002 Sills, Edwin Robert


The following Clockmakers' Company deposits remain uncatalogued and require prior notice for access. Please contact staff for further information:

Arnold, John Roger (Chronometer maker) B10/160
Bertele, H Von (Dr) B10/161 (research papers on history of clocks)
Frodsham (clockmakers) 1990/028;
Harrison papers B18/131
Maskelyne, Robert B10/160
Mercer, Vaudrey (research on clockmakers) 1990/027
Parkes, Daniel (clockmaker) 1990/026
Rowley and Sons (clockmakers) 1990/026
Usher and Cole (chronometer and watchmakers B18/130
Vulliamy, Justin 2008/001
Further records relating to clockmakers are held - please see Business Guide for further details
Publication Notes:

For further details of the printed and manuscript library of the Company, see John Bromley ed., "The Catalogue of the Books and Manuscripts in the Library of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers" (1977). For a history of the Company see "Some account of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers of the City of London" (1881) by S.E. Atkins and H.C. Overall. The story of John Harrison's endeavours, details of the timekeepers and watches and further available sources are given in Humphrey Quill's "John Harrison, the man who found longitude" (1966) and Dava Sobel, "Longitude, the true story of a lone genius who solved the greatest scientific problem of his time" (1995). A number of other printed works are available on Harrison and longitude as part of the Clockmakers' Company Library, now deposited with the Printed Books Section of Guildhall Library.

For further information relating to Livery Companies, particularly using the company records for family history, please see Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section “Livery Company Membership Guide” and Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section “Leaflet Guides to Records: Searching for Members or those apprenticed to Members of City of London Livery Companies” (both available online).

For a general introduction to the history of the City of London Livery Companies please see entry in “The London Encyclopaedia”, ed Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert.

'The Clockmakers of London: An account of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, its Library and its Collection' by George White second edition 2018 (published by Worshipful Company of Clockmakers) [received for addition to Library April 2018]