Sir William Congreve (1772-1828) was the eldest son of Lieutenant-General Sir William Congreve (d.1814). Educated at Cambridge, he subsequently studied law and edited a political journal. Thereafter he concentrated his energies on developing the military rocket for which, along with his horological inventions, he is best remembered.
In 1810/1811 Congreve was apppointed equerry to the Prince Regent and 1811 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. Also in 1811 he was made a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Hanoverian artillery; in 1812 he became Member of Parliament for Gatton; and upon his father's death in 1814 he succeeded both to the baronetcy and also to the office of Comptroller of the Royal Laboratory. When foreign dignitaries visited London Congreve arranged the pyrotechnic displays that the Prince Regent gave in their honour. In 1817 he became senior equerry to the Prince and in 1820 he was elected M.P. for Plymouth. He died in France in 1828.
Congreve's renown amongst horologists is based largely on his eponymous rolling ball clock, for which he took out a patent in 1808. That same year he also took out a patent (3164) for the design of the present clock with its 'extreme detached escapement', whereby the pendulum under its own momentum drives a countwheel which releases the train each minute to impulse the pendulum.
Two clocks fitted with Congreve's escapement were made by Jospeh Moxon and acquired for Carlton House and later moved to Buckingham Palace. Both have had their original escapements changed.
See Derek Roberts, op.cit, pp.82-88.