Back to All Events

The Ups and Downs of the Greenwich Time Ball - An Overview of Its History, Mechanics and Upkeep

  • HSNY at the General Society Library 20 West 44th Street New York, NY, 10036 (map)

Anna Rolls, Curator of the Clockmakers Museum, London

Lecture videos are available to members immediately, and the general public with a 2 month delay.

The time ball at the Royal Observatory Greenwich in London marks 1:00pm daily when it drops from the top of its mast. Installed in 1833, the ball was one of the earliest public time signals, offering an improved service for mariners who could rate their chronometers directly on-board ship in the adjacent reaches of the River Thames. It is now one of the many accessioned objects in the collections of the Royal Museums Greenwich. It is integral to the fabric of Flamsteed House, a scheduled ancient monument, and is powered by 20th century engineering and timed by 21st century electronics. As such it is one of the more complex objects to look after within a museum environment. At the May, 2019, meeting of the Horological Society of New York, Anna Rolls will discuss the history of the time ball, the evolution of its mechanical operation and the challenges it has faced in its transition from an observatory instrument to a working museum attraction.

The time ball at the Royal Observatory Greenwich

About Anna Rolls

Anna Rolls has been working as the Curator of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers Museum and Archive since September 2018. She looks after a collection composed of over 1000 watches, as well as clocks, chronometers and other horological ephemera, which is based in the Science Museum London. Prior to this, Anna was employed for nine years as a conservator of metalwork and scientific instruments at the Royal Museums Greenwich, where she worked alongside the horological department and commenced her training with the British Horological Institute’s Distance Learning Course. Anna graduated in 2008 from the University of Sussex with a MA in Conservation Studies and has a Postgraduate Diploma in Conservation of Fine Metalwork from West Dean. Anna is an active and visible member of the Antiquarian Horological Society.