Selling Time, Before Wristwatches


This gem of a book tells the story of one life but illuminates in the process a swathe of history, writes Nicolette Jones
Written by the curator of timekeeping at the Greenwich Observatory, it relates the life of a woman who sold time to the clockmakers of London.

Between 1836 and 1940, Ruth Belville, and before her her father, John, and later her widowed mother, Maria, carried around the city a pocket watch certified weekly at Greenwich Observatory as correct to within a 10th of a second.

Clients checked their timepieces against the Belvilles’ silver “chronometer”, which was called Arnold after its maker, and paid for the privilege.

The book under review is Ruth Belville: The Greenwich Time Lady.

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