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Time RestoredThe Harrison timekeepers and R.T. Gould, the man who knew (almost) everything$

Jonathan Betts

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780198568025

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198568025.001.0001

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(p.401) APPENDIX THREE Summary of Gould’s Harrison Notebooks and the Later Work

(p.401) APPENDIX THREE Summary of Gould’s Harrison Notebooks and the Later Work

Time Restored
Oxford University Press

These notebooks are now all preserved in the manuscripts section of the National Maritime Museum (NMM). They were not all acquired by the NMM at once however, and their listing needs a little explanation. The numbers used to describe them (i.e. ‘Book 1’, ‘Book 2’, etc.) represent Gould’s own numbering system.

Book 1 is primarily a nineteeth century manuscript which happened to have a number of blank pages at the back which Gould used to make a few brief notes on the restoration of H1. For this reason, when he presented his Harrison notebooks to the Chronometer Section (1946, though he had bequeathed them in his will), he kept back Book 1 as being of little interest, and it remained in his family’s possession after his death.

In August and October 1946, he presented (in two batches) his books 2–17 to the Ministry of Defence’s Chronometer Section. Book 18 appears to have been kept at the Royal Astronomical Society and only joined the others after Gould’s death. Here they remained until 1979, when they were presented to the museum by the Section. Between 1945 and 1947, there had been a little correspondence between Gould and the Section and these letters, and some prints of H4’s mechanism, were all tied together by the Section, making a further ‘notebook’ presented to the museum, though not numbered in Gould’s sequence.

On their arrival at the museum, the Manuscript Section gave these eighteen books the NMM reference numbers GOU/1 to GOU/18, with Gould’s Book 2 being GOU/1, Book 3 being GOU/2 etc., the additional file being given the reference GOU/18. Then, in 1988, Cecil Gould presented the museum with his father’s notebook No.1 which now has the reference GOU/19.

Book 1. (GOU/19) Nineteenth century copy of the manuscript by Harrison entitled An Explanation of my Watch… (1763) preserved in the Clockmakers Company library (MS 3972/1), made for Bennett Woodcroft of the Patent Office. Gould has added two and a half pages of typescript commentary, and annotated the manuscript itself heavily, with a view to having it all put into typescript form. The end of the book contains several pages of notes by Gould on the first cleaning of H1, and a few notes on the second restoration in the1930s.

(p.402) Book 2. (GOU/1) ‘Harrison No.2’. The restoration of H2, and a few notes on H3, during the period October 1923 to October 1924 at Epsom.

Book 3. (GOU/2) ‘Harrison No.3’. The beginning of the restoration of H3, starting in September 1924 and then continuing from October 1929 to November 1930. Here the narrative of H3’s assembly is continued in Book 4, but when this is nearly full, in January 1931, the notes begin again in Book 3, continuing until completion in March 1931. Finally there is a brief note about a repair to H3 in August 1937.

Book 4. (GOU/3) ‘Harrison No.3’. The continuation of the restoration and assembly of H3, from November 1930 through to January 1931, when H3’s completion is continued again in Book 3. The final pages of Book 4 contain a brief note, from December 1933, concerning the winding of H2 and H3 at the Science Museum, and two pages of notes, from December 1930, on the longcase clock with the ‘winking pendulum’ (see p. 131).

Book 5. (GOU/4) ‘Harrison No. 1’. The full restoration of H1, from September 1932 to October 1934, including its return to Greenwich and continuing repairs. One further note, from October 1937, concerns a stoppage of H1. The last six pages of the book consist of a diary kept by Gould during August 1932 when the children were staying at Downside.

Book 6. (GOU/5) ‘Harrison No.4; Kendall 1; Harrison No.2’. The later restoration of H4, from May to June 1935 and K1, from June to July the same year. The book continues with the cleaning work on H2 from October 1936 to April 1937, then continued in Book 7.

Book 7. (GOU/6) ‘Harrison No.2’. The continuation from Book 6 of the cleaning of H2, containing the completion of the job in April 1937, with a couple of notes of stoppages in July 1938.

Book 8. (GOU/7) ‘Harrison 3’. The beginning of the second restoration of H3, starting in October 1937, the book finishing with the move of H3 to the Queen’s House in Greenwich in April 1938.

Book 9. (GOU/8) ‘Harrison 3’. The continuing second restoration of H3, from May 1938 to August 1939 when H3 was packed up for protection, and continuing again in July 1943 at Upper Hurdcott, intermittently until August 1945 when, still fully dismantled, it was packed for transporting to Bradford on Avon.

Book 10. (GOU/9) ‘Harrison No.1’. Three different sets of typescript instructions and explanations for the staff at Mercers on the work required on parts of H1. ‘Notes on the Winding Mechanism’ (October 1932); ‘Notes on the Balance Springs’ (November 1932); and ‘Notes on the Compensation Mechanism’ (December 1932).

Book 11. (GOU/10) ‘Notes on John Harrison’s Second Marine Timekeeper (and a few on his third)’ A twenty-seven-page typescript monograph, written for the Science museum in 1925, (see p. 145).

(p.403) Book 12. (GOU/11) Offprint of ‘The Restoration of John Harrison’s third Timekeeper’ The Horological Journal, (Vol. 73, No. 873, May 1931, pp 166–168 and Vol. 73, No. 874, June 1931, p175), with a number of Gould’s annotations.

Book 13. (GOU/12) ‘Various papers, in chronological order, re the cleaning & repair of Harrison 1’. Included are some photographs and sketches of H1, and correspondence and notes dating from ‘1920’ to October 1934.

Book 14. (GOU/13) ‘Various papers, in chronological order, re the cleaning & repair of Harrison 2’. Included are ‘Harrison’s second marine timekeeper—procedure for repairing the wires connecting the balances’ (October 1927), and correspondence dating from October 1923 to May 1947.

Book 15. (GOU/14) ‘Various papers, in chronological order, re the cleaning & repair of Harrison 3’. Included is lengthy correspondence dating from September 1929 to February 1932 and then from December 1937 to December 1945.

Book 16. (GOU/15) ‘Rough note book, kept by me during the repair, cleaning and adjustment of the Royal Astronomical Society’s Harrison Clock’. The entries in this notebook are arranged in a most haphazard order (see p. 211). The book begins (at the back) with a few notes on the going of the clock (running at the Society probably) dating from February 1927. The entries continue (at various places in the book and at various locations) from this point through until February 1929 on its return to the RAS.

Book 17. (GOU/16) ‘RAS Harrison Clock’. Copies of correspondence dating from November 1924 to February 1929.

Book 18. (GOU/17) ‘The Harrison Clock’. Record of the going of the RAS Harrison regulator from April 1929 to June 1949.


A file of correspondence chiefly between Gould and the Chronometer Section, dating from April 1945 to December 1946. It includes Gould’s own summary of what the first twelve books contain. At the front are a number of modern pulls from the copper printing plates of John Harrison’s The Principles of Mr Harrison’s Timekeeper (see p. 98), which were still in the possession of the Admiralty, and which were considered of historical interest.


As part of his work in restoring H3, Gould had full-size photostat copies made of the five drawings commissioned from Thomas Bradley (c.1840) of H3, and these were then annotated extensively by him during the course of the work at various times. These annotated copies, along with two torque graphs (p.404) for H3, two eccentricity charts for the escape wheel of H3, and an eccentricity chart for the escape wheel of H2, were also presented to the Chronometer Section in May 1972 and are all now preserved in one folder at the NMM.


H1, which had suffered from some corrosion while in store at Cambridge during the war, needed considerable work. It underwent restoration by D.W. Fletcher at the Chronometer Section (by this time established at Herstmonceux in Sussex) in 1952, in preparation for its display, along with H2 and H4 at the British Clockmakers Heritage Exhibition at the Science Museum in September that year. In 1961 H1 was completely dismantled and cleaned again, by Roger Maber at the Chronometer Section, during which time Gould’s key-winding was all removed, the somewhat corroded original compensation gridirons were replaced (the steel parts being replaced with stainless steel!) and the original type pull-winding was restored. Since then it has run virtually constantly without attention, its only significant stoppage being when all the timekeepers were moved from the museum’s Navigation Gallery to a new display in the Royal Observatory in 1985.

H2 was serviced by Roger Maber at the Chronometer Section in November 1960, during which time he improved one or two of Gould’s less tidy repairs and made accurate dimensioned drawings of some of the parts. The timekeeper has run reliably at the museum ever since.

H3 was eventually put back together and returned to the NMM for display by David Evans. It was then dismantled and cleaned again by Roger Maber in the spring of 1961. After fifteen years of reliable running it was then restored again at the Chronometer Section by Bert West and Roger Stevenson in January and February 1976, in preparation for display at the NMM’s exhibition to commemorate the bicentenary of Harrison’s death. At the same time, the glazed case of H3, which had been rediscovered in the museum’s stores in the early 1970s, was cleaned at the NMM and photographed, with H3 within it.

H4, needing lubrication, had to be cleaned several times at the Chronometer Section in the 1960s and 1970s. In February and October 1962 it was cleaned by Bill Roseman (Officer in Charge of the Section) and Bert West; in June 1964 by Roger Maber; in December 1967 by Bert West, Roy Shergold and Roger Stevenson; in December 1971 and April 1972 (+new mainspring) by Roger Stevenson; in February 1976 by Roger Stevenson and Robin Thatcher; and in October 1979, by Robin Thatcher. In September 1982, H4 was cleaned at the NMM (Old Royal Observatory) by Jonathan Betts (J.B.) and Bert West (with Anthony Randall as an observer) at which point, the care of all the Harrison timekeepers was taken on by the staff at the NMM. In August 1984, H4 was (p.405) cleaned again by JB; in February 1986 (+new hooking on mainspring) by JB, and in 2004 (for research on diamond pallets by Jonathan Hird at the Cavendish Laboratories, Cambridge) by JB.

After its return to the museum following The Second World War, K1 was not generally kept running when on display, and does not appear to have been cleaned again until 1983, when it was overhauled and photographed by JB (with Anthony Randall as an observer).

K2, the Bounty Timekeeper, which was until 1963 the property of the Royal United Service Institution, was overhauled and repaired by Peter Amis in 1957. On the closure of the Institution in 1963, ownership of the watch was transferred to the National Maritime Museum, who then asked the RGO Chronometer Section at Herstmonceux to take on its regular care along with the other timekeepers by Harrison and Kendall. In 1964 it was cleaned by R. Bowie, in 1972 by Roy Shergold, in 1976 by Roger Stevenson and Robin Thatcher, and in 1984 by JB.

K3, the other Kendall which James Cook took on his third voyage of discovery, remained in the possession of the Admiralty until it was transferred on loan to the museum in 1967. The timekeeper was not kept running on display, and does not appear to have been overhauled until 1986 when it was cleaned and photographed by JB.

For the sake of completeness, the fate of the two other watches in this pioneering story could be noted.

H5 was never in Admiralty possession and, after its acquisition by the Clockmakers Company in the nineteenth century (see p. 102) was not kept running in their museum, so has rarely been overhauled. It was cleaned and overhauled for the Company by Richard Good in 1955, again by George Daniels in the 1970s, and then in 1983 by JB (with Anthony Randall as an observer).

The Jefferys watch (see p. 96) had suffered near-destruction during the Second World War. It had been stored in a safe in a jewellers shop in Hull when the building was destroyed by bombing and the watch had been completely ‘cooked’ during the subsequent fire. After the war it was carefully cleaned by David Evans of the Chronometer Section, though the watch would never again be fit to run, all parts having been annealed during the fire. With the permission of the Corporation of Hull Trinity House and the Clockmakers Company, in 1993 the watch was again dismantled and studied at Greenwich by JB (with Anthony Randall as an observer and photographer).