Where Are the New Victorians?

Published: 2021-06-29 07:04:12
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Where are the New Victorians?

I recently interviewed a retired chronometer maker in Cumbria. Now 92, still lucid and able to live alone, Tony Mercer, grandson of the illustrious Thomas Mercer, started the dynasty of Thomas Mercer Ltd, making chronometers, clocks, instruments and measuring equipment in London and St Albans from 1858 to 1984.

Just in case you didn't know, Harrison was the winner of the Government prize for answering the longitude question (as in the BBC docu-movie Longitude) with a chronometer which took navigation from hit-and-miss to a precise science. Of course, they never paid him all of what they promised - this was England, even then. To get most of it, George lll had to threaten to intercede with Parliament. http://www.scribd.com/doc/23717890/Marine-Chronometer
This obviously had a significant impact on the Royal Navy, and thus the British Empire. Great Britain, already number one in the world, out-distanced the competition even further. British ships planed the Union Jack all over the world, 'discovering' places first, acquiring them and maintaining them to its own advantage.
Thomas Mercer was a big player in that tradition. Unlike Harrison, who left no long-term business legacy, Mercer could and did design, manufacture, and distribute (albeit often through middle-men who took a lot of the kudos, notably at the Royal Navy trials).

Tony never knew his grandfather, but recalls "My father Frank worshipped him. He remembered Thomas as single-minded - every other aspect of his life, including his wife and family, was geared towards his business, his profession, his vocation. "Of course, that's how it was back then. Discipline came naturally, and people accepted it."

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