In 1852, when time signals began to be distributed from Greenwich via the electric telegraph, there was still a demand from watchmakers and others for Belville’s service, so it continued. When he died, in 1856, on discovering that she was not eligible for a widow’s pension, Maria (1811/1812–1899) asked Airy if she might continue the service in her late husband’s place. Her request was granted. When in 1892 she became too old to carry on, her daughter Ruth (1854–1943) was allowed to continue in her place. In an interview in 1908 she described a routine that involved checking her chronometer at Greenwich every Monday and visiting, at least once every two weeks, some forty customers in the London area. The service was continued by Ruth well into her 80s and finally came to an end during the Second World War, probably in the autumn of 1940.
Originally made for the Duke of Sussex, the chronometer by Arnold became known as ‘Arnold-345’ or more affectionately just as Arnold.
Ruth Belville The Greenwich Time Lady. David Rooney, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, 2008