The 2013 NAWCC Ward Francillon Time Symposium and Special Exhibition of Spectacular Clocks, Watches, and Sundials
by The Pre-Eminent Master
Thomas Tompion (1639–1713)

California Institute of Technology Pasadena, California

7-9 November 2013

Chris McKay

Author and Specialist in Turret Clocks (U.K.)

The Great Age
of the Tower Clock

  • Biography
  • Presentation
  • Further Information
  • Chris McKay was formerly a chartered electronic engineer who worked in many roles from field service through design and development to sales and marketing. After being made redundant he turned to teaching in secondary schools, where he took on a roving life teaching in all sorts of schools from one under special measures to a leading prep school.

    When he was only 19 McKay worked on his first tower clock and since then he has completed many restoration projects. He is often involved in advising churches and heritage buildings on tower clock maintenance, repair, restoration, and conservation.

    As an author McKay has produced facsimilies and histories of various manufacturers. His book The Turret Clock Keeper’s Handbook (1998) is available on the Internet for free and gives practical advice to those who look after such clocks. In 2010 his book Big Ben: The Great Clock and Bells at the Palace of Westminster was published. Reviews have acclaimed this book as the definitive history of Britain’s iconic clock tower.
    From the dawn of mechanical timekeeping tower clocks have been the principal means to disseminate time to the public. Although now eclipsed by the personal wristwatch, tower clocks still have a place in architecture old and new and in the community in the vicinity of the clock.

    Chris McKay’s presentation essentially covers the period of the 19th century when so much social, economic, and technical development took place. McKay explains how the development of the turret (tower) clock in England, was driven by the changing social system plus the availability of new materials and manufacturing techniques. These factors shaped the technical development of the turret clock. In turn the clock regulated society and so helped to fuel further developments.

    Many clocks will be illustrated and some will be totally unique, a common occurrence with turret clocks and one of the factors that makes them so fascinating. Links between the English turret and continental and American clocks will be examined.