Marine: John Poole - Excellence and Sadness

davy26

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John Poole was an English Marine Chronometer Maker rated a little below the elite makers such as Arnold, Earnshaw, Frodsham, Kullberg and Dent. One reason why he didn't quite reach the highest echelon was his relatively short working life - he died aged just 49. Nowadays, when Poole chronometers come on the market any brief biographical details added to the watch's description almost always include this or something similar: John Poole took his own life in 1867, shortly after winning the gold medal at the Paris Exhibition.

Much as I'm fascinated by old clocks and watches, I'm even more intrigued by the people who made them, and I'm always surprised to see it when a note of this type is merely copied/pasted and no attempt has been made to understand the 'why' behind the factoid. After all, in the more straightforward society of Victorian England, what on earth would induce a prize-winning man with a successful business and thriving family to commit suicide?

Having found no indication of the circumstances of Poole's death in existing horological research resources/writings, I set about solving this mystery myself. I'm pleased that I've been able provide answers, but saddened by Poole's situation, even at this distance in time. My findings are reported in my article on John Poole, published in the August 2016 issue of Clocks Magazine.

The Marine Chronometer is an especially attractive type of timekeeper. The style of the instrument itself and the wooden storage box seem to me quintessentially English and singularly evocative of the nineteenth century. Their aesthetic merits were underpinned by functional integrity - however good one looked, it would be useless (for its primary purpose) if it didn't perform with supreme accuracy. And the accuracy was measured stringently, at the Greenwich Trials for instance. At these, in 1845 and again in 1854, Poole chronometers were the outright winners.

Since writing the article I came across this excellent example, representative of Poole's output:
2702large.jpg
Courtesy of Charles Miller

Eight Day Marine Chronometer, circa 1855 with silvered dial signed John Poole, 57 Fenchurch Street, London,2702, Maker to the Admiralty, gold hands with blued-steel subsidiaries, Earnshaw Escapement with Poole's auxiliary compensation set within a counterweighted and gimbal-mounted bowl within three-tier wooden box with tipsy key, with numbered maker's plate and inset handles. Offered at auction in May 2016 with an estimate of £3-5,000.

2702large.jpg
 
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Tom McIntyre

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I do not have access to Clocks Magazine. could you give a synopsis or possibly point to an on-line source of the article? i am interested in the Poole history.
 

davy26

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Dear Tom,

Glad to hear that you too are interested in Poole - he's well respected, but, I think, still a little underrated.

Clocks Magazine is readily available, either by subscription for hard copy to any part of the world or as a digital subscription - see: http://www.clocksmagazine.com/index.htm

You can also order single issues from: http://www.newsstand.co.uk/

With kind regards.
 

Tom McIntyre

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Dear Tom,

Glad to hear that you too are interested in Poole - he's well respected, but, I think, still a little underrated.

Clocks Magazine is readily available, either by subscription for hard copy to any part of the world or as a digital subscription - see: http://www.clocksmagazine.com/index.htm

You can also order single issues from: http://www.newsstand.co.uk/

With kind regards.
FYI, the current issue with your article is not available on Newstand nor is the index available on the Clocks web site. I can purchase a subscription through the NAWCC with a substantial discoount, but I rarely have need to reference it. I am afraid I will have forgotten this conversation by the time your views on the suicide are available. :(
 

novicetimekeeper

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FYI, the current issue with your article is not available on Newstand nor is the index available on the Clocks web site. I can purchase a subscription through the NAWCC with a substantial discoount, but I rarely have need to reference it. I am afraid I will have forgotten this conversation by the time your views on the suicide are available. :(
It's fair point. Brian Loomes publishes all his clocks magazine articles on his website. Perhaps once the article has been published in Clocks magazine you could revisit here and post a link to your article on your own website or publish it here too.

When I had a clock featured I bought a couple of copies but just to read one article that's an expensive read.
 

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