skip to content

Papers of John Pond : Letters from chronometer makers

Papers of John Pond

<p style='text-align: justify;'>Within this volume we see the letters that correspond to those found in the volumes of correspondence between Astronomer Royal, John Pond and the Admiralty Board Secretaries, John Barrow and John Croker, and then later Francis Beaufort, Hydrographer for the Navy in <a href='/view/MS-RGO-00005-00229'> (RGO 5/229)</a>, <a href='/view/MS-RGO-00005-00230'> (RGO 5/230)</a> and [RGO 5/231]. When looking at all these volumes together John Pond emerges as very much the go-between; the middle man between the clockmakers and the Admiralty.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>In particular this volume gives insight into the maintenance and repair work required. In order to keep chronometers working they would be sent back to their makers, for at the very least cleaning, if their rates were not to the standard demanded by the Royal Observatory after returning from a voyage. Additionally, within this volume the role of Thomas Taylor, Pond's assistant at the Royal Observatory, becomes more apparent as much of the correspondence relating to repair and acquisition of chronometers was sent directly to him. For example, there is a <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> letter (RGO 5/237:14)</a> from the 8th of March 1825 in which Thomas Earnshaw finds that chronometer no.364 is stopping because the balance spring is broken in it and attributes this to accident, claiming it is a “casualty to which all springs are subject.” This explanation for the breakage is also an example of the evidence that we see in this volume that Pond and Taylor start to hand on the <a href='/view/MS-RGO-00005-00229/'> responsibility of assessing all damaged chronometers (RGO 5/229:197)</a> for accident or negligence to the makers themselves when they are asked to repair them. Also apparent in this letter is the keenness demonstrated by chronometer makers to ensure that their reputation as the producer of high quality hardware was maintained, even in the face of their pieces being returned to them broken. Again Earnshaw offers another explicit <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> example (RGO 5/237:7)</a> of this on the 28th of January 1824 when he writes to Pond regarding chronometer no.813, which is unfit for service, yet its works are "sufficiently sound to warrant the application of new chronometrical parts". Earnshaw declares that he will fix it to the best of his ability and won't undertake the charge lightly as he is anxious that the watch should sustain the reputation of the name it bears. John R. Arnold also <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> declares (RGO 5/237:40)</a> that whilst there are defects with chronometers nos.255, 2182, 417, 535, 554, 540, 556 ranging from severe rust and broken springs to just needing cleaning, that all are completely fixable. Similarly Santiago James Moore French on the 30th of January 1829<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> claims (RGO 5/237:96)</a> after one of his chronometers was returned to him that the piece needed only a few parts replacing and that he had “seldom seen a chronometer in such good order, after so long a voyage.”</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Purchasing of chronometers to add to the government's collection was either the result of premiums awarded by the Royal Observatory or from individual pieces being sold either by their makers or on the private market; throughout this volume there is evidence for the constant expansion of the government's collection of chronometers. For a very <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> typical example we have a letter (RGO 5/237:44)</a> from John Jackson who was willing to sell his chronometer to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty for the £73.10s offered in 1826. Others attempted to negotiate price, for <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> example, (RGO 5/237:8)</a> French writes from the Royal Exchange on 24th of April 1824 stating that the chronometer that Pond wishes to buy, no.720, is worth 100 guineas not the 70 offered and won't be sold for anything less. The alternative to the purchasing of individual chronometers for Pond was commissioning them with premiums rewarded after annual trials held at the Royal Observatory. Within the volume we see the <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage();return false;'> printed declaration (RGO 5/237:225)</a> signed by makers who entered their chronometers for the trial of 1834. The names of William Hislop, Thomas Cummins, Henry Appleton, Robert Molyneux, Edward Baker, Thomas Hewitt, John Carter, John R. Arnold and Edward John Dent, James Murray and John Sweetman Effie are amongst those who entered chronometers into the trial.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Sophie Waring<br />History and Philosophy of Science<br />University of Cambridge<br /></p>

Want to know more?

Under the 'More' menu you can find , and information about sharing this image.

No Contents List Available
No Metadata Available


If you want to share this page with others you can send them a link to this individual page:
Alternatively please share this page on social media

You can also embed the viewer into your own website or blog using the code below: