salisbury cathedral clock

Salisbury Cathedral clock, one of the oldest in the world

The Salisbury Cathedral Clock is a peculiar tower clock with an iron frame but no dial. It is thought to date from around 1386 and is a well-preserved example of the first form of mechanical watch.

It is considered to be the world’s oldest operating clock, while other clocks make similar claims. Previously housed in a destroyed bell tower in 1790, the watch was restored to working order in 1956 and is now displayed in the north aisle of the cathedral, near to the west front. The clock was taken disassembled and repaired in 1928 after it was discovered in the cathedral tower. Although it no longer chimes, the clock works in the north aisle of the nave, more or less like it did 600 years ago.

Photo: © Copyright Hywel Williams and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License .

The precise date is critical because if it was created in 1386, as many watchmakers think, it is the world’s oldest functional watch. Others claim to be the world’s oldest operating clock, which may be found in France’s Beauvais Cathedral and Italy’s Chioggia clock tower.

The watch is one of the timepieces from the 1300s to the 1500s discovered at Wells, Exeter, Castle Combe, Ottery St Mary, and Wimborne Minster in West England.

Salisbury was introduced to the new notion of uniform hours, which would eventually replace the seasonal increments of the sundial period. It rang every hour, reminding inhabitants to attend church services and providing a consistent structure for the day.



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