This is The World’s Oldest Working Clock And It Has Been Tick-tocking Since 1386

The iconic Salisbury Cathedral clock, with its giant iron-frame, is believed to be dated back to 1386, a claim that would make it the oldest working clock in the world.

The effort to determine the origin of Salisbury Cathedral clock was initiated by horological enthusiast T.R. Robinson.


Re-discovered practically abandoned in the cathedral tower in 1928, it had a pendulum which appeared to be a later installation and is thought to have replaced the original verge and foliot. Due to the unavailability of the original drawings, it is highly unlikely that the original verge and foliot looked anything like the one in use now. However, most of the parts, including the striking trains, are believed to be from the original design. The great wheel of the going train is also considered to be the one first installed many centuries ago.

The theory is that around the time the clock was built people did not care too much about precision timekeeping. Unlike today’s obsession with seconds and perhaps microseconds, people merely sought precise hourly time. The clock did exactly that by striking on the hour. Because of this, there was no need for a dial.

The first major modification the Salisbury Clock went through came around the end of 17th century. The standard verge and foliot mechanism was replaced by a radical new anchor and pendulum operating system. The pendulum anchor systems usually made clocks much more effective by significantly increasing the accuracy.

However, a detailed analysis of the Salisbury Clock carried out by Michael Maltin in the 1990s showed that if the layer of rope on the barrel was kept single, the clock could run to within two minutes a day.

The clock was ditched to the side in 1884 after a new clock was installed. It had been transferred to the cathedral’s central tower after the old bell tower was demolished in 1790. Following its re-discovery by T.R Robinson, it gained the recognition it rightfully deserved. The discovery of the clock was quite accidental, as Robinson had only climbed up the tower to see the 1884-installed clock when he happened across the much older relic.

A similar clock located in the tower cathedral of Beauvais in France also claims to be the oldest and is supposedly dated back to 1305. Italy too has a contender in the clock tower of Chioggia and although the Italian clock hasn’t put forward a date it claims to be amongst the oldest of clock towers.

H/T TheVintageNews

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