*Joseph Addison (1672 – 1719), quoted in “The Spectator” (1886).
Hidden London observes: “it was common practice to arrange a rendezvous beneath some well-known clock”.
After all, a public clock in its heyday was designed to be noticed, was likely to be unique, and carried its own silent reproach to the latecomer.
The article continues: “in October 1931 Selfridges unveiled what one writer called ‘London’s newest meeting place’. Other commentators hailed it as ‘one of the sights of London’ and a ‘horological masterpiece’.”
Christian Wolmar wrote in 2020: “Agreeing to meet people ‘under the clock at Charing Cross’ became a music hall joke with a louche undertone…Meeting under the clock at Waterloo became even more of a commonplace than the equivalent at Charing Cross.”
The Irish Film Institute introduced “Under the Clock” (2018):
“This documentary (from the makers of Older than Ireland) celebrates the century-long tradition, firmly embedded in the hearts and minds of Dubliners, of meeting under Clery’s clock. This once-popular meeting place provides a starting point for a fascinating journey through Ireland’s under-explored social and sexual history, its dating culture, the role of women in Irish society and the marriage ban. This history is told through the recollections of ordinary people who stood under the clock, filled with nervous anticipation, bravely awaiting the arrival of their dates.
Under The Clock brings together stories of hope and disappointment infused with gentle humour, and stories that will be fiercely nostalgic for the tens of thousands of people who met under the clock of Clery’s once-bustling department store.”
[“In 1932, the Irish government, facing an economic downturn, introduced a marriage ban which required that female primary school teachers were required to resign on marriage…it remained in place until 1958.” Redmond, Harford (2010)]
Sometimes our implicit trust is undermined:
“Another outraged member of the public, trying to catch a train in Deptford (in 1840), complained that the various clocks on the station were not accurate. He saw it was ‘four minutes slower than your watch. It must be right you think because it belongs to a railway company.’ Not so, as in the station another clock was five minutes faster than the one downstairs and the train left as he was getting to the platform…” (Christian Wolmar)