King's College London
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Stories of Strand-Aldwych

Charles Clay

The first clockmaker of note working on the Strand was Charles Clay; an expert in producing gilded timepieces for the aristocracy of early 18th-century England. Working where the King’s Building now stands until his death in 1740, Clay elevated clockmaking to an artform by privileging the outward beauty and finery of his clocks above all else. Some of Clay’s finest clocks were even musically inclined, playing to the tune of Handel through the use of intricate clockwork and a miniature organ. A notable work of Clay was the Royal Mantel Clock. The complex dial with the signs of the zodiac was designed by Clay, who was a Clockmaker to His Majesty’s Board of Works. Clay was paid for the design of the enamelled dial and for its central gold mount chased with the face of the sun with a longer hand that points to the day of the month. Royal Mantel Clock[1]Royal Mantel Clock[1] 


Some of Clay’s most prestigious timepieces now reside in Windsor Castle, Kensington Palace, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the MET in New York, the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, and the Museum of the Royal Palace in Beijing. Though few could afford to buy one of Clay’s designs, for 2s 6d a ticket would allow visitors into Clay’s own house in the Strand to view his latest work!

[1] Victoria and Albert Museum Collections, [Accessed August 2022].

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