This longcase regulator clock arrived in Australia with Governor Brisbane in late 1821 and was used at Australia's first permanent observatory at Parramatta, New South Wales. Brisbane was a keen amateur astronomer and he brought this clock, along with three others to use as a regulator in conjunction with the observatory's telescopes.
In 1809, the Astronomer Royal, Nevil Maskelyne had ordered an astronomical regulator clock from Hardy to use in conjunction with the new mural circle built for the Greenwich observatory by Edward Troughton. Governor Brisbane must also have been keenly aware of Hardy's expertise as a clock maker for he had ordered a similar regulator clock for his observatory at Largs, Scotland the year before.
The clock expert J. Redfern suggests that Brisbane's regulator clock may have been a early version of Hardy's Greenwich clock. One of the clocks unique features which supports this proposition is the location of the winding arbour to the right of centre. This caused the weight to fall too close to the pendulum and was corrected in known later models. Another possibility is that it is the one which Hardy installed at the Greenwich observatory for Maskelyne in order to trial his new design prior to ordering another in 1809.
The instrument was put into storage after the Parramatta observatory was closed down in 1847 and remained so until the new Sydney Observatory was built above the Rocks. The opening of the new observatory in 1858 saw many of the original Brisbane instruments taken out of storage for use. This clock was one of the few instruments which the new Government Astronomer Rev. W. Scott felt was good enough to use in the new observatory.
The Hardy clock was used for transit observations by Scott until 20 November 1860 " when a new clock, by Frodsham, was put in its place, and the old one set aside to be used hereafter in the Equatorial Room." Hardy's astronomical clocks appear to have suffered from a design fault as many of them began to exhibit a series of unexplained changes in the time rate. In the Greenwich clock the fault appears to have been the spring pallet escapement and this was replaced with a dead beat escapement in 1828 by Edward Dent.
Similar problems plagued the Hardy clock at the Cape of Good Hope observatory and in 1874 when the four springs finally broke in Sydney observatory's clock they were modified by the local clock maker F. Allerding. By 1909 the observatories mechanician I. W. Masters had added electrical contacts to the clock. These changes appear to have improved the performance of the clock which by 1909 was still keeping 'a fair rate' of standard time. At some stage during the clocks time at the observatory the original base was replaced with a substitute one made of a different wood.
This example of the continued use of the instrument serves to illustrate how instruments in the observatory were re-used and modified to continue their useful life in the Observatory before it became a museum in the 1980s. This instrument remains 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 astronomical instruments as well as being associated with one of the pre-eminent clock makers of the nineteenth century.
Turner, A.J., 'Documents Illustrative of the History of English Horology, II: the Cost of William Hardy's Regulator Clock for Greenwich Observatory, 1811', in Antiquarian Horology, Number Six, Volume 11, Winter 1979
Lomb, N., 'The Instruments from the Parramatta Observatory', in Historical Records of Australian Science, Volume 15, 2004
Masters, I., Raymond, W, Report on the State of the Instrumental Equipment at the Sydney Observatory, Sydney Observatory manuscript, unpublished, 1909
Scott, W., Astronomical Observations made at the Sydney Observatory in the Year 1860, Thomas Richard, Government Printer, Sydney, 1861
Geoff Barker, August, 2007