or rather, it is said, gambled away, by Henry VIII. In 1292 a clock in Canterbury cathedral is mentioned as costing £30, and another at St Albans, by R. Wallingford, the abbot in 1326, is said to have been such as there was not in all Europe, showing various astronomical phenomena. A description of one in Dover Castle with the date 1348 on it was published by Admiral W. H. Smyth (1788–1865) in 1851, and the clock itself was exhibited going, in the Scientific Exhibition of 1876. A very similar one, made by Henry de Vick for the French king Charles V. in 1379 was much like the common clocks of the 18th century, except that it had a vibrating balance instead of a pendulum. The works of one of these old clocks still exist in a going condition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. It came from Wells cathedral, having previously been at Glastonbury abbey.
Fig. 1.—Verge Escapement.
These old clocks had what is called a verge escapement, and a balance. The train of wheels ended with a crown wheel, that is, a wheel serrated with teeth like those of a saw, placed parallel with its axis (fig. 1). These teeth, D, engaged with pallets CB, CA, mounted on a verge or staff placed parallel to the face of the crown wheel. As the crown wheel was turned round the teeth pushed the pallets alternately until one or the other slid past a tooth, and thus let the crown wheel rotate. When one pallet had slipped over a tooth, the other pallet caught a corresponding tooth on the opposite side of the wheel. The verge was terminated by a balance rod placed at right angles to it with a ball at each end. It is evident that when the force of any tooth on the crown wheel began to act on a pallet, it communicated motion to the balance and thus caused it to rotate. This motion would of course be accelerated, not uniformly, but according to some law dependent on the shape of the teeth and pallets. When the motion had reached its maximum, the tooth slipped past the pallet. The other pallet now engaged another tooth on the opposite side of the wheel. The motion of the balls, however, went on and they continued to swing round, but this time they were opposed by the pressure of the tooth. For a time they overcame that pressure, and drove the tooth back, causing a recoil. As, however, every motion if subjected to an adverse acceleration (i.e. a retardation) must come to rest, the balls stopped, and then the tooth, which had been forced to recoil, advanced in its turn, and the swing was repeated. The arrangement was thus very like a huge watch balance wheel in which the driving weight acted in a very irregular manner, not only as a driving force, but also as a regulating spring. The going of such clocks was influenced greatly by friction and by the oil on the parts, and never could be satisfactory, for the time varied with every variation in the swing of the balls, and this again with every variation of the effective driving force.
The first great step in the improvement of the balance clock was a very simple one. In the 17th century Galileo had discovered the isochronism of the pendulum, but he made no practical use of it, except by the invention of a little instrument for enabling doctors to count their patients’ pulse-beats. His son, however, is supposed to have applied the pendulum to clocks. There is at the Victoria and Albert Museum a copy of an early clock, said to be Galileo’s, in which the pins on a rotating wheel kick a pendulum outwards, remaining locked after having done so till the pendulum returns and unlocks the next pin, which then administers another kick to the pendulum (fig. 2). The interest of the specimen is that it contains the germ of the chronometer escapement and free pendulum, which is possibly destined to be the escapement of the future.
The essential component parts of a clock are:—
1. The pendulum or time-governing device;
2. The escapement, whereby the pendulum controls the speed of going;
3. The train of wheels, urged round by the weight or main-spring, together with the recording parts, i.e. the dial, hands and hour motion wheels;
4. The striking mechanism.
Fig. 3.—Section of House Clock.
The general construction of the going part of all clocks, except large or turret clocks, is substantially the same, and fig. 3 is a section of any ordinary house clock. B is the barrel with the cord coiled round it, generally 16 times for the 8 days; the barrel is fixed to its arbor K, which is prolonged into the winding square coming up to the face or dial of the clock; the dial is here shown as fixed either by small screws x, or by a socket and pin z, to the prolonged pillars p, p, which (4 or 5 in number) connect the plates or frame of the clock together, though the dial is commonly set on to the front plate by another set of pillars of its own. The great wheel G rides on the arbor, and is connected with the barrel by the ratchet R, the action of which is shown more fully in fig. 25. The intermediate wheel r in this drawing is for a purpose which will be described hereafter, and for the present it may be considered as omitted, and the click of the ratchet R as fixed to the great wheel. The great wheel drives the pinion c which is called the centre pinion, on the arbor of the centre wheel C, which goes through to the dial, and carries the long, or minute-hand; this wheel always turns in an hour, and the great wheel generally in 12 hours, by having 12 times as many teeth as the centre pinion. The centre wheel drives the “second wheel” D by its pinion d, and that again drives the scape-wheel E by its pinion e. If the pinions d and e have each 8 teeth or leaves (as the teeth of pinions are usually called), C will have 64 teeth and D 60, in a clock of which the scape-wheel turns in a minute, so that the seconds hand may be set on its arbor prolonged to the dial. A represents the pallets of the escapement, which will be described presently, and their arbor a goes through a large hole in the back plate near F, and its back pivot turns in a cock OFQ screwed on to the back plate. From the pallet arbor at F descends the crutch Ff, ending in the fork f, which embraces the pendulum P, so that as the pendulum vibrates, the crutch and the pallets necessarily vibrate with it. The pendulum is hung by a thin spring S from the cock Q, so that the bending point of the spring may be just opposite the end of the pallet arbor, and the edge of the spring as close to the end of that arbor as possible.
We may now go to the front (or left hand) of the clock, and