Big clocks

    This clock was found in Dover Castle in 1851, removed from there in 1872 and brought to the Science Museum in 1884. It is one of only two known turret clocks still governed by foliot balances. This clock's foliot balance can be seen in the photograph below. It is partly suspended from above to reduce friction.

    Because the clock has a foliot balance rather than a pendulum, it almost certainly dates from before 1660. Not much more is known about its origin. Its ornamentation suggests that it cannot date from before 1450. There are reports of a clock being maintained in the Castle in 1404 but these may not refer to the current one.

    When the clock was discovered, it was reported to have the date 1348 carved into it but there is no sign of this now. The Castle's armourer claimed that the piece of metal bearing the date had been stolen but it is unlikely that Arabic numerals would have been used for a date in the 14th century.

    Some people think that the clock was originally installed in a nearby church tower and moved to the castle when the church became a ruin. Because the clock was not used while it was at the Castle, it was not converted to pendulum operation.

    Another theory is that it was brought from a remote French Chateau by an officer returning from Waterloo. On arriving at Dover, he was immediately sent to India and left the clock on the quayside, where the Navy took charge of it and took it to the Castle.

    The clock is most likely to date from the early 17th century because of its similarity to one from Quickswood Farm in Hertfordshire, which was made in 1625 but later converted to pendulum operation.