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

By | January 1, 2017

With its giant iron-frame, tagged as the oldest working clock in the world, the iconic Salisbury Cathedral clock is believed to be functioning as early as 1386.

Horological enthusiast T.R. Robinson initiated the effort to know the origin of Salisbury Cathedral clock.


Practically abandoned in the cathedral tower, it was rediscovered in 1928. The clock had a pendulum which seems to be a later installation and supposedly replaced the original verge and foliot. Because the original drawings are unavailable, it is very unlikely that the original verge and foliot looks the same like the one in use now. But most of the parts, as well as the striking trains, are said to be from the original design. Among the parts, the great wheel of the going train is also believed to be the original installed many centuries ago.

The theory is that, back then when the clock was being built, people did not really care about precision timekeeping. Contrary to today's obsession with seconds (and perhaps microseconds), when people sought exact hourly time. Literally, the clock did that by striking on the hour. There was no need for a dial due to this.

The Salisbury Clock went through its first major modification when 17th century was about to end. The standard verge and foliot parts were replaced by a new anchor and pendulum operating system. This pendulum anchor systems generally made clocks more effective by essentially increasing the accuracy.

A detailed analysis of the Salisbury Clock done by Michael Maltin in the 1990s, however revealed that if the layer of rope on the barrel was maintained single, the clock could be able to run until two minutes a day.

Unfortunately, the clock was again forsaken in 1884, right after a new clock was installed. It had been reassigned to the cathedral’s central tower when the old bell tower was destroyed in 1790. Following the re-discovery of the clock by T.R Robinson, it yielded the recognition it truly deserved. Its discovery was quite by chance, as Robinson had merely climbed up the tower to check the 1884-installed clock when he happened to come across this ancient relic.

A comparable clock within the tower cathedral of Beauvais in France also calls for the title to be the oldest clock and is supposedly dated back to 1305. As a contender, Italy too has the clock tower of Chioggia. Although the Italian clock hasn’t forwarded a date of origin, it asserts to be amongst the oldest clock towers.

H/T TheVintageNews