• Short Summary

    Ancient and modern stand side-by-side in rural Sussex as the men who govern the world's clocks start operations from the new Greenwich Observatory station at Herstmonceux.

  • Description

    Ancient and modern stand side-by-side in rural Sussex as the men who govern the world's clocks start operations from the new Greenwich Observatory station at Herstmonceux.

    With the battlements of Herstmonceux Castle governing the scene in this beautiful valley, visitors may miss the distinctive towers of the new observatory buildings as they stare up into the sky from a nearby hill. But, in their daily activity, the two buildings are closely linked for both house the men whose duty it is to watch the stars and gauge the right time.

    For 300 years, since 1675 when King Charles II founded the Greenwich Royal Observatory on the Thames, time has ticked by happily. Then, as industrial London expanded along the banks of the Thames, a cloud appeared on the observatory horizon - a man-made cloud of smoke and smog that obscured their vision and played havoc with the all-important daily viewing of the heavens.

    There was only one answer - the men and machines of Greenwich had to move to a new and cleaner atmosphere. A new location was sought, Herstmonceux was chosen, and Greenwich Royal Observatory was moved into beautiful Sussex lock stock, and telescope.

    Now the new buildings of Herstmonceux have been completed and a large section of the staff have moved into the new observatory building while others are housed within the formidable battlements of nearly Herstmonceux Castle. Back at Greenwich the old building still stands - a simple iron bar marking the point where the zero line passes through the world famous construction.

    At Herstmonceux, the functioning of the entire plant is under the control of the Astronomer Royal, Dr. Woolley, who holds the ultimate responsibility who estimating the correct Greenwich time. A brilliant mathematician, Dr. Woolley has the monumental task of calculating the relative positions of the stars in relation to the earth - from this fantastic task he produces a final and clear estimate of the world's time.

    This information is passed on to the Chronometer Department which has been responsible, since 1823, for the maintenance and distribution of navigational time???[QUERY] used by the Royal Navy. Similar services have been provided for the Royal Air Force, at their request, since 1948.

    Over 13,000 chronometers and watches are tested annually and the test periods range from a few hours up to six weeks according to the type of instrument. They include rating in five positions and wrist watches are subjected to temperatures varying from -15 degrees centigrade to +45 degrees centigrade. Daily checks of timekeeping are carried out by young scientists who read the errors of watches at a speed of 30 per minute with a mean accuracy with 1/10th seconds. Chronometers are reliable to within half a second per day whilst the lowest grade of wrist watch has a maximum tolerance of 30 seconds per day. Wrist watches in watertight cases are tested in reduced pressure equivalent to an altitude 35000 feet and special types are subjected to increased water pressure simulating immersion to a depth of 500 feet in sea water.

    Packed and despatched to all parts of the world, the watches and chronometers tested at Greenwich - for that will be the name of the observatory even though it has now moved to Sussex - each have a "case history".

    A major move has now been completed and ensures that the letters GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) can still be accepted throughout the world as the height of accuracy in time-keeping.

  • Tags

  • Data

    Film ID:
    Media URN:
    Reuters - Source to be Verified
    Issue Date:
    HD Format:
    Available on request
    Black & White
    Time in/Out:

Comments (0)

We always welcome comments and more information about our films.
All posts are reactively checked. Libellous and abusive comments are forbidden.

Add your comment