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Martin Burgess

Edward Martin Burgess FSA FBHI, born 21 November 1931, known as Martin Burgess, is an English horologist and master clockmaker.

Early life

Burgess was educated at Gresham's School, Holt, between 1944 and 1949, where he was a member of Farfield. His exact contemporaries at Farfield included Robert Aagaard, later a furniture maker and conservator who founded the youth movement Cathedral Camps.

Career

After a first career as a restorer of Egyptian antiquities, Burgess turned to horology and clock-making and has specialized in building innovative and gigantic clocks, often with a detached escapement.

He is also a leading expert on John Harrison, the 18th century horologist who built the first ever successful marine chronometer, leading to the possibility of an accurate measurement of longitude. Even now, the principles of Harrison's regulator clocks are not fully understood.

Burgess coined the term sculptural horology in the 1960s.

Notable clocks

Burgess’s Sculptural Clock with Bells has the dimensions 8’ high, 54 1/2” wide, and 18 1/2” deep, and is now in the Former Time Museum of Rockford, Illinois.

His magnificent Second Sculptural Clock, made in 1965, is now owned by the American graphic artist Donald Saff. The clock (which appeared on the cover of the Horological Journal for August 2001) has a massive compound pendulum which beats at 2.5 seconds and an escape wheel which turns in five minutes. A limited edition of thirty-five half-size replicas, known as ‘Concord clocks’, Harrison style with grasshopper escapement and compound pendulum, was made by E. Dent and has the dimensions 30" high, 14" wide, 11" deep.

His Gurney Clock was given to the people of Norwich by Barclays Bank to mark the 200th anniversary of the founding of what is now Barclays by the Gurney family in Norwich in 1775. The clock is in the shape of a golden lion automaton in a golden castle (the lion and castle are two of the heraldic symbols of Norwich) and has a weight-driven observatory Harrison regulator of a type designed in 1775. On the hour, bronze balls are taken by the lion and travel down a track to a set of scales (a symbol of Barclay’s Bank) and on into the castle. The clock took eleven years to build and was housed in a public park, but by 1992 it had been badly vandalised. After a long campaign by the Norwich Society, it was then restored and installed in the Castle Mall, Norwich, inside a massive glass and metal case.

Publications

  • The Mail-maker's Technique in The Antiquaries Journal Vol 33 (1953) 48-55
  • Further Research into the Construction of Mail Garments in The Antiquaries Journal Vol 33 (1953) 193-202
  • The Mail Shirt From Sinigaglia in The Antiquaries Journal Vol 37 (1957) 199-205
  • A Mail Shirt From The Hearst Collection in The Antiquaries Journal
  • A Habergeon of Westwale by William Reid and E. Martin Burgess in The Antiquaries Journal
  • The Grasshopper Escapement, its Geometry and its Properties in Antiquarian Horology, Volume 7, part 5 (1970)
  • Principles and Objectives, in Conservation of Clocks and Watches (ed. Peter B. Wills, British Horological Institute)
  • How Greenwich Observatory Lost the Harrison Regulators (in Horological Journal, November 1974)
  • The Harrison Regulator for the Gurney Clock (in Horological Journal, July 1987)
  • Looking forward to the Harrison Seminar (in Horological Journal, July 1988)
  • Reply to Mr Greene from Martin Burgess (in Horological Journal, April 1990)
  • Questioning Airy (in Horological Journal, July 1990)
  • Harrison & H4 (in Horological Journal, November 1993)
  • Quest for Longitude (in Horological Journal, April 1997)

Honours

Documentary film

The documentary Clock-maker (1971), directed and produced by Richard Gayer, is a profile of Burgess. It focuses on the building of one of his gigantic clocks, an open mechanism eighteen feet high, driven by weights and weighing some 350 kilograms, or 760 pounds avoirdupois.

References

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