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Wells Clock – World’s Oldest Mechanical Clock


“Wells Cathedral is a Church of England cathedral in Wells, Somerset, England. It is the seat of the Bishop of Bath and Wells, who lives at the adjacent Bishop’s Palace.

Built between 1175 and 1490, Wells Cathedral has been described as “the most poetic of the English Cathedrals”. Much of the structure is in the Early English style and is greatly enriched by the deeply sculptural nature of the mouldings and the vitality of the carved capitals in a foliate style known as “stiff leaf”. The eastern end has retained much original glass, which is rare in England. The exterior has a splendid Early English façade and a large central tower.

The Wells clock, an astronomical clock, is located in the north transept. The surviving mechanism, dated to between 1386 and 1392, was replaced in the 19th century, and was eventually moved to the Science Museum in London, where it continues to operate. It is the second-oldest surviving clock in England.

The dial represents a pre-Copernican or geocentric view of the universe, with sun and moon revolving round a central fixed earth, like the astronomical clock at Ottery St Mary. The clock still has its original medieval face. As well as showing the time on a 24 hour dial, it reflects the motion of the sun and the moon, the phases of the moon, and the time since the last new moon.

When the clock strikes every quarter, jousting knights move around above the clock and the Quarter jack marks the quarter hours with his heels. The outside clock face, opposite Vicars’ Hall, placed there just over seventy years after the interior clock, is driven by the inside mechanism. In 2010 the official clock-winder retired and was replaced by an electric mechanism”

The clock face of world’s oldest continually-working mechanical clock is seen as it is hand wound for the very last time on August 21, 2010 in Wells, England. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Paul Fisher, winds by hand the world’s oldest continually-working mechanical clock for the very last time on August 21, 2010 in Wells, England. The clock in Somerset’s Wells Cathedral has been wound by hand since it was installed in the 1380’s, however as of Monday when Paul Fisher – who is 63 – retires, the mechanism will be replaced by an automatic electric motor. Installed in 1392, the clock face is the oldest in the world although the original motor mechanism was replaced in 1882 and now operates in the Science Museum in London.