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Thomas Tompion

Thomas Tompion's Cottage in Ickwell July 2007
Thomas Tompion's Cottage in Ickwell July 2007

Thomas Tompion was baptised (and so probably born) in Northill in 1639. He worked as a blacksmith in Ickwell until 1664 when he travelled to London and became apprenticed to a clockmaker, joining the Clockmaker's Company in 1671 and becoming its Master in 1704; he was also a member of the Royal Society. He made his name in 1676 with the opening of the Royal Observatory, when Charles II commissioned him to create two clocks which would be very accurate and only need winding once a year.

Tompion worked with the scientist Robert Hooke (1635-1703), a scientist and architect who pioneered the use of microscopes and invented a cylinder escapement which, for the first time, allowed flat watches to be made. He then began to work on a spring escapement which his partner, George Graham, carried on after his death. He died in 1713 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

The clock on the south face of the west tower March 2010
The clock on the south face of the west tower March 2010

He made a clock for the Pump Room at Bath in 1709 which is still in working order, Cecil Higgins Museum in Bedford also has a Tompion clock on display. Northill church has a one-handed clock by Tompion in the tower, perhaps installed just before he left Ickwell in 1664. He is also said to have built the clock in the turret over the stable block at Ickwell Bury| in the 1680s. His old house now bears a plaque erected by the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers in 1952 which reads: "The birthplaceof Thomas Tompion, clockmaker. Born 1639. Died 20th November 1713. Buried in Westminster Abbey".

Tompion memorial May 2010
Tompion memorial May 2010

The plaque pictured above is in Northill church. It was installed by the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, reads.