Spring Forward, Fall Back

This blog entry has been written by a placement student currently at the museum. With the clocks changing it seemed a perfect topic for Rebecca to cover and she has found some very interesting things.

Hopefully this blog entry will serve as a reminder to all those people who, one sunny Monday in March, have strolled casually into work or school at 9am thinking that they are perfectly on time, only to feel like a complete idiot when you realise that everyone else has already arrived because you’ve forgotten that the clocks have moved forward and you’re actually very late! (Oh, that was just me then?) 

Yes, it’s that time of year already when the clocks go forward an hour, marking the beginning of British Summer Time and hopefully a bit of summer sun. This Sunday, as your clever mobile phones, computers and digital TV’s automatically adjust to the new time; spare a thought for past generations who had to manually adjust the time on their many grandfather clocks, carriage clocks and pocket watches. 

As well as having to adjust the time, people would also have to wind up these clocks to give them power. A grandfather clock is a weight-driven pendulum clock which was first developed in the late 17th century but they remain very popular today. They would have to be wound up either every day or once a week, depending on how expensive the clock was, using a ‘key’ which would be inserted into the clock face. Here you can see one of the Museum’s many grandfather clocks being wound up, as you can see it is not an easy task. 

Oh look, it's already time for lunch!

Pocket watches would be wound up in a similar way to grandfather clocks, with the holes for the ‘key’ seen clearly in one of the clock faces of the pocket watches here. It was important for the owners of these watches to keep them wound up to ensure that they showed the correct time. In Ohio, in 1891, two trains unfortunately collided as a result of an engineer failing to wind up his pocket watch, leading to it stopping for 4 minutes and so he misjudged the timing of the train. 

Four watches and i'm still late for work

This shows how vital it was that people remembered to keep their watches wound up, and constantly adjusted them so that they showed the correct time. Now, I don’t know about you but I even struggle to remember where I left my keys, so I don’t even want to consider how I would cope with having to remember to wind up and adjust a multitude of clocks every day! So this Sunday, as I grumble about getting an hour less in bed, I’ll remember all this hand-wound clocks and be extremely grateful that I live in the age of digital time-keeping.

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1 Response to “Spring Forward, Fall Back”


  1. 1 Jayne March 27, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Very interesting


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Blackburn Museum can be found in Blackburn, Lancashire. It houses objects documenting Blackburn's industrial past as well as a world class collection of Fine Art, Japanese prints, Icons, Numismatics and Manuscripts. Come and visit us to find out more.

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