Box chronometer, No. 2290, in storage box, with documents, brass / glass / wood, made by Robert Molyneux, London, England, 1835-1845, used at Sydney Observatory, Observatory Hill, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
In 1815 Robert Molyneux was listed as a maker of clock escapments but between then and the late 1820s he established his own firm and was able to advertise himself as an independent watchmaker. By 1829 he was entering chronometers into the 'Premium trials' at Greenwich Observatory. The most accurate and robust timekeeping equipment was then used by the British Navy and gained the clockmaker instant acclaim.
Molyneux's chronometers won a number of prizes at these trials winning a first place in 1840 (number 20.0), 1842 (number 19.2), and 1843 (number 21.3). This success went a great way to establishing his name as one of the pre-eminent clockmakers of the nineteenth century.
In 1832 Molyneux moved from 44 Devonshire St to a new business address at 30 Southampton Row. By 1840 Molyneux began to produce more astronomical regulators although he was initially competing with some of the best clockmakers in the business. As William Hardy, Robert Pennington, and John Roger Arnold grew older however Molyneux received more of their work further enhancing his reputation.
One of Molyneux's earliest regulator clocks is linked to Sir Thomas Brisbane, the ex Governor of Australia. Brisbane, who was responsible for setting up Australia's first observatory at Parramatta. After he returned to Scotland in 1825 he installed a Molyneux regulator in his observatory, at Makerstoun.
The number of surviving regulators and chronometers is reputed to be quite large with the earliest signed 'R. Molyneux, London'. Clocks produced in the final years of the firm were signed 'Robert Molyneux and Sons, London'.
The engraving on this chronometer suggests this is an early example of one of the most reputable nineteenth century British clockmakers. Some of these early clocks included movements made by another well known clockmaker represented in this collection, Robert Roskell.
This chronometer is of national significance due to its pioneering role in Australian science and its association with Australia's earliest astronomers. It is also of international significant for its association with early nineteenth century scientific instrument makers.
Geoff Barker, Assistant Curator, Total Asset Management Project, March 2008
Mercer, V., The Life and Letters of Edward John Dent Chronometer Maker; and some account of his successors, the Antiquarian Horological Society, 1977
Mercer, Tony, 'Chronometer Makers of the World', N.A.G. Press and Tony Mercer, 1991
Wood, Christopher, 'Robert Molyneux's Astronomical Clocks and Chronometers', Antiquarian Horology, Number 4, Volume 9, 1975
This two day marine chronometer was made by Robert Molyneux, of Southampton Row, London, England between 1835 and 1845.