The Quartz Clock, Q3, installed at Greenwich in 1939 and re-erected at Abinger in 1943

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Location of the clock and batteries at Greenwich

George Rickett with the newly delivered quartz clock Q3 in 1939. The small plate above the central dial at the top of the instrument is inscribed 'N.P.L. Quartz Clock No. 3 ...'. From the 24 February 1946 edition of Le Patriote Illustré

The use of the cellars in Flamsteed House for timekeeping purposes began in 1856 when the small void at the foot of the Octagon Room staircase was cleared of a large quantity of old iron and brasswork from old instruments and its floor lowered before being knocked through to the basement of the North Dome staircase by the creation of a subterranean passage (ADM190/4/281). At that time, the basement of the North Dome (the Eastern Summer-House) contained galvanic batteries that were used in connection with the recently established time service. The newly adjoining cellar provided much needed space for the storage of additional batteries. The American astronomer Maria Mitchell who visited Airy in August 1857, recorded the advice he gave her when descending the ladder to the basement: ‘Turn your back to the stairs, step down with the right foot, take hold with the right hand; reverse the operation in ascending; do not, on coming out, turn around at once, but step backwards one step first.’

t was the ability of the cellars to provide a stable temperature together with their massively constructed walls that lead to the clocks themselves being mounted in them. But this wasn’t until 1924, when one of the two main cellars was adapted to house the new standard clock - Shortt 3.

In 1938/9, Spencer Jones’ larder (a bathroom in Airy’s time) was divided to accommodate batteries for the regular time service and also the high capacity cells required to provide the current for the recently introduced quartz clock in the event of an interruption to the mains supply. The new Battery Room occupied the northern half of the converted larder.  The clock itself was placed on a specially built brick plinth (which still survives) in the small cellar beneath the Octagon Room stairs that had previously been used as the battery room extension. The clock was relocated to Abinger in 1943.