21 November 2013 – 2 February 2014
The Asahi Shimbun Displays
Objects in focus
Recommend this exhibition
This display will focus on the finest creation of London’s greatest clockmaker, Thomas Tompion.
This magnificent clock celebrates the coronation of William III and Mary II in 1689, and was kept in the royal bedchamber. It was made by a talented and industrious man who was in the right place at the right time. Thomas Tompion came from modest beginnings – he was the son of a village blacksmith – but he ended up making clocks and watches for royalty, and is buried in Westminster Abbey.
London 350 years ago was the perfect place for Tompion’s genius to shine. In the previous century, religious persecution in the Netherlands and France had led to an exodus of Protestants, including many goldsmiths, silversmiths, engravers and watchmakers who established their trade in London. The city’s prosperity meant that Tompion found a plentiful supply of clients.
When William died the clock passed to Henry Sydney, Earl of Romney, Gentleman of the Bedchamber and Groom of the Stole. On his death in 1704, it passed to the Earl of Leicester and then to Lord Mostyn and remained in that family until 1982. It is now known as ‘the Mostyn Tompion’ after its former owners.
The clock continues to keep good time, and is notably ‘year-going’ – it runs for a whole year on a single wind. Lord Mostyn held a winding party each year, and the British Museum continues this tradition today.
In ‘the Mostyn’, Tompion built a sophisticated timekeeping instrument, a status symbol and a work of art all in one machine. The display itself is perfectly timed to coincide with the 300th anniversary of Tompion’s death in 1713.