In celebration of the village carpenter who solved the greatest problem of his age and saved countless lives, help the community of Barrow-upon-Humber fundraise for a commemorative statue.
John Harrison was a self-taught village boy who learnt the skills of clock-making at an early age. Before he was 25 he had built several fine clocks using only wood which were more accurate than most clocks in existence at that time. The clock at Brocklesby Hall, for example, is now over 300 years old and is still ticking and telling the time.
Then Harrison heard of the Longitude Prize. The government established a Board of Longitude which offered a prize of £20,000 for anyone who could devise a way of measuring longitude at sea and thereby enable ships to sail safely and precisely. Many tried and failed but Harrison succeeded. In the process of perfecting his final design (which evolved into the marine chronometer), he also invented a number of things we take for granted and which are part of countless products we use every day: the bi-metallic strip and the caged roller bearing.
To date Harrison has been recognised through books and film, and through a plaque in Westminster Abbey, but no significant memorial exists. The community group in his village of Barrow-upon-Humber is now rectifying this, raising funds for a life-sized statue to stand in the Market Place. Marcus Cornish, a nationally renowned sculptor, has begun work on the commission, which will show Harrison winding his famous watch while standing on a curved plinth representing the curvature of the earth.
In order to recognise Harrison’s achievements, Better Barrow Community Project is reaching out to all those who understand the importance of mental dedication allied to practical skill. Support has been forthcoming from near and far, in small amounts and large, from the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers to the local newsagent, from Trinity House to the Primary School… Further financial support is still required to bring the project to a conclusion and see John Harrison stand in the centre of his home village.
More information, including how to donate by becoming a Friend, Supporter or Patron, can be found on the website www.betterbarrow.org/donate
The significance of Harrison’s work in the fields of horology, navigation and engineering cannot be overestimated. Nor can his dogged determination. The difficulties of timekeeping at sea where changes in temperature and pressure, plus the effect of a constantly moving surface make normal clocks impossibly inaccurate, were well known. Harrison spent most of his adult life working on better and better solutions to the problem, creating clocks of amazing ingenuity and beauty. Then, in 1751 or 52 he had the courage to abandon clocks in favour of a watch as the more practical solution. Though focused on the outcome, he was able to change his mind and think differently! His H4, as it is now known, took horology in a new direction and established the essential method of navigation which was to guide James Cook and all the mariners who followed him until well into the 20th century.
Harrison brought an ‘uneducated’ artisan’s mind to bear upon the problem, constantly refining his ideas, inventing solutions to other difficulties which cropped up along the way and never doubting that his method would be the one to change the maritime world. Though he did doubt whether the Board of Longitude would ever award him the prize… His life is an inspiration to those who are battling with current problems of the 21st century.