Venner chance comes along, take it


In November, David Rooney mentioned the Venner time switches in telephone kiosks. This prompted wheels to whir in my brain and I went hunting in my ‘reserve collection’ for something I acquired many years ago, by chance.

Venner workshop ledger


Unfortunately, the history of the firm as presently researched is somewhat sketchy. If anyone is interested in doing so, here is a workshop ledger from Venner, c.1934 onwards. It is a systematically arranged in-house descriptive and photographic catalogue of several hundred ‘specials’, produced from the early 1930s to the late 1940s. Every item had a unique code, all indexed, and most items have a fine quality photograph, with a scale included – these people meant business, and they were perfectionists.

Type 99567 special time delay relay


Venner master clocks are finely finished, but this meticulous approach extended to machinery that would probably be invisible throughout its life. As often in the mid-twentieth century, when electro-mechanics were relied on and before integrated circuits, the requirements for accurate timing and switching, perhaps with some programming, necessitated significant mechanical and engineering ingenuity. It is telling that each description starts with ‘special’.

Typical description of a ‘special’


From 1938, we learn that the Royal Physical Society needed a system for lecturers, which would switch a green lamp to amber, one minute before time, and then to red when their allotted slot expired.

Special for the Royal Physical Society



In all it is a marvellous piece of ephemera and testament to the very high standards set by manufacturers of mysterious clockwork black boxes which are worthy of closer study.

Venner workshop ledger



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10 Responses to Venner chance comes along, take it

  1. Hello, I wonder if you can help me. I have a good quality Venner master clock in for repair which has been rather spoilt. I am trying to find out what should be in the movement in order for it to wind correctly when the electric motor it triggered. I am also trying to find out how it should be triggered. The clock has a seconds pendulum and a slot at the bottom of the pendulum to allow a red light to pulse every second. I wonder whether your workshop ledger has anything like this in it?
    Best wishes, Richard Simmonds.

  2. Steve Payne says:

    Hi – can you help I have a Venner electric/mechanical master clock but there are some small pieces missing that regulate the main spring and electric gears do you have any photos or drawings to help remake the parts ???Many Thanks The clock plate is VENNER Number 624872

  3. Francisco Catarino says:

    Hello I have a clock venner N124416 tipe Cw. 220V 25A, would have information when was manufactured?

  4. michael slack says:

    Hi I have two Venner master clocks one working and the other in need of repair (tooth missing from the first fibre wheel in the winding train. I can take photographs if you can tell me where to send them. The winding motor and some of the gears I think are the same as used in the ERD tariff time switch and one of the spring reserve street lighting time switches

  5. Mike hughes says:

    i have just acquired an early veneer timeswitch in perfect condition and keeps accurate time it seems to be from the early 1920s

  6. Mike hughes says:

    Also should add that it uses 4 mercury filled dash pots (things were done quite differently in those days)

  7. Is anyone able to put a date please to the Venner time switch illustrated here:
    Many thanks.

  8. Maureen White says:

    My husband’s father Harry White was one of four who started up Venners. He company secretary, another Mr. Grasby who started Grasby Instruments. My brother in law worked with this company, they worked on midget submarines at Itchenor near Chichester.
    Unfortunately Harry died suddenly in June 1937. My husband’s older brother worked at Venners later joining Grasby Instruments.
    My husband’s memory of this time is sketchy as he was very young at the time.
    Any information would be of interest.

  9. Maureen White says:

    Just a possible correction, when I said four started the company cannot be quite correct as R Venner who invented the time switch started the business in 1906 I believe. He did have sons one born 1910. The company went public in 1937 before that Venners was a private company I have read.
    The modern factory building in Kingston was built in 1932.
    Harry was the company secretary but I am not sure when he joined.
    Any information would be of interest.

  10. John Charles Wakely says:

    I have a number of items that were salvaged from the demolition of the Venner factory in 1977. They had their own darkroom, hence the high quality photographs. They also had their own power station powered by a Bellis Lancashire diesel engine. I have a brass plate somewhere commemorating it’s opening by Mrs Graseby in 1931.
    I also have a plate from the boiler house removed from a massive boiler/furnace, built by C.B. Jackson & Co Ltd of London S.W.!. It is dated 1930.I also have a few pictures salvaged while the demolition ball was operating from the front managing directors [?] office of the power house in 1931 [if I can find them..]. I used to go to school just along West Barnes Lane off the Kingston By Pass.

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