Clock House

The Clock House is mentioned three times in the Ramsey Abbey List of Employees.

  • A John Drury was paid 6d for making iron works for the clock house, no date given.
  • Henry Smith was paid a stipend of 40d for keeping the clock (winding etc.) in 1390 and 1391.
  • Henry Tyler was paid 24d for work on clock house, no date given.

We can see from these entries that the Abbey had a clock to help the Monks with their many prayer periods. Below is an extract from Wikipedia about Medieval Clocks.

“Simple clocks intended mainly for notification were installed in towers, and did not always require faces or hands. They would have announced the canonical hours or intervals between set times of prayer. Canonical hours varied in length as the times of sunrise and sunset shifted. The more sophisticated astronomical clocks would have had moving dials or hands, and would have shown the time in various time systems, including Italian hours, canonical hours, and time as measured by astronomers at the time”.

Unfortunately we will never know the exact type of clock that was installed at Ramsey, unless somebody finds some written evidence in the future. But the photos below show two of the Medieval Turret Clocks that were around in the early and late 14th Century, so we can hazard a guess that it would have looked very similar in design to these two clocks.

Salisbury Medieval Turret Clock

The Salisbury Cathedral clock is a large iron-framed tower clock without a dial, in Salisbury Cathedral, England, it dates from around 1386.

Thought to date from about 1386, it is a well-preserved example of the earliest type of mechanical clock, called verge and foliot clocks, and is said to be the oldest working clock in the world, although similar claims are made for other clocks.

Previously in a bell-tower which was demolished in 1790, the clock was restored to working condition in 1956 and is on display in the North nave aisle of the cathedral, close to the West front.

Peterborough Medieval Turret Clock

The Clock with No Face. The monks of Peterborough Abbey had to keep track of time in order to observe the eight daily services set by the Rule of St Benedict. For centuries they did this with the help of sundials and by ringing bells.

Timekeeping developed with this early clock. It has no face, but strikes every half hour so that the monks knew when to pray. The wooden frame and earliest parts of the mechanism date from about 1450 and are painted black. In 1687 local clockmaker John Watts added a more accurate pendulum and other parts (painted green). In 1836 a new mechanism (painted blue) was installed on top of the frame with a three-metre pendulum.

This clock was in use in the bell tower until 1950 when it was replaced by an electronic device. It was restored and relocated here in 1984, but it still works.

To see a 3D Model of this clock click this link.

Another view of Peterborough Cathedral Clock