Many years ago, while researching London clockmakers I came across a report in the London Gazette for 31st May 1729 which stated that William Moraley, watchmaker of Newcastle had been declared bankrupt and was in prison. This told me very little about the man but an article in the journal of the Northumberland and Durham Family History Society (NDFHS) for Winter 1988 by a Mr. Vaughan, described a pamphlet written by a William Moraley of Newcastle published in 1743 about his unfortunate life. Mr. Vaughan had been related to the Moraleys so had researched the family history which he reported in NDFHS journal for Winter 1990. I was able to access an original copy of the pamphlet in the Newcastle Central Library.
Apparently, William Moraley was a descendant of Edward III of England through the female line and was the grandson of Ridley Moraley yeoman of Latterford, Simonburn, Nd., who had died in 1683. Ridley Moraley had three sons Alexander, John and William. William the youngest son, born about 1666, had been apprenticed in the Clockmakers’ Company in London through Henry Child to Philip Corderoy, clockmaker of St Mary Abchurch Parish, for 7 years on 8th February 1680/1 and had later been turned over to Thomas Tompion on 3rd October 1687 and freed by the Company in December 1688. Moraley must have continued to work for Tompion after he was freed.
When William Moraley married Martha daughter of John Mason, citizen and Founder, by special licence on 24th November 1697, he stated that he was 28 years old, in the presence of Solomon Bouquet, clockmaker. This was not his true age because he would have been at least 31 years. His bride must have been much younger than William.
John Mason, son of John of Wallbree, Wiltshire, had been apprenticed to Thomas Kimberley in the Founders’ Company on 29th September 1650 and freed about 1660. He bound 6 apprentices between 1664-1704 and must have died in January 1710/11 when his last apprentice was turned over to another master on 15 January 1710/11.
William Moraley, junior was born in late 1698 and baptised on 1st March 1698/9 at Christchurch Newgate Parish where the family were living. It has been said that William senior continued to work as a journeyman to Thomas Tompion even after his marriage but perhaps he continued to supply the Tompion workshop with watches after his marriage. By the time William junior was old enough to be apprenticed William senior had amassed a small fortune. He had invested £800 (equivalent to about £200,000 today) in the South Sea Company.
At the age of 15 in 1714, William junior was apprenticed as a clerk to an eminent attorney in the Lord Mayor’s Court where he continued for two years but as he admits he wasted his time wandering around the streets and got into bad company, so his father took him into his own workshop to teach him watch and clockmaking and promising to advance his son’s fortune when the right time came. William Moraley, junior was apprenticed in the C.C. to his father on 5th May 1718 and would have been able to take his freedom of the company by patrimony at the age of 21 years ( because his father was a freeman) but he never did take his freedom and consequently never worked as a master watchmaker.
The leading watch and clockmaker in Newcastle from 1680-1723, was Deodatus Threlkeld, who had a very profitable business over that period. His former master, Abraham Fromanteel had retired to Newcastle about 1712 and worked as a clockmaker with his journeyman, Benjamin Brown, until Abraham died in 1731. On 27th July 1723 the following advertisement appeared in the Newcastle Courant :- “Deodatus Threlkeld being gone from Newcastle to reside at his house at Tritlington, near Morpeth, will continue to make and sell as many gold and silver watches as he, with his own hand can finish, at which place may be furnished with the same, and also at Mr. Francis Batty’s, goldsmith at Newcastle, or at Thomas Shipley’s, merchant in Morpeth, at all which places watches will be taken in and mended. The said Deodatus Threlkeld will be at Morpeth every Wednesday, and to be heard of at the said Mr. Shipley’s.”
Threlkeld indicates here that he was a watch finisher as well as a retailer. From the earliest English watches made at the beginning of 17th century a number of craftsmen had made the different parts of the watch and the watch finisher assembled these different parts such that the watchmaker only had to adjust and regulate the watch before he sold it to the customer. It is often possible to see the same design of parts in the watches of different watchmakers. For example, similarly pierced, balance cocks were used by Samuel Watson, Thomas Tompion, George Graham and William Moraley. (see the Camerer Cuss Book of Antique Watches).
William Moraley’s brother in the Bigg Market, Newcastle must have seen the above advertisement and sent the information to his brother in London because in the same newspaper, less than a month later, on 24th August 1723 we read of William’s arrival in Newcastle :- “ William Moraley, Clock and Watchmaker, who served his Time with, and wrought for the famous Mr. Tompion at London, till his Decease, is lately come into his Native Country and designed to reside in Newcastle upon Tine, who makes and sells Gold and Silver- Watches, mends and cleans all Sorts of Clocks or Watches; and is to be met with at John Morley’s House, next Door to the Black and Grey, in the Big- market, Newcastle.” We note that William worked for Tompion until the latter’s death, but there is no mention of working for the famous George Graham after Mr. Tompion.
According to William junior’s narrative his father’s business went well for two years until William senior heard of his brother, Alexander’s death, in London in 1725. William senior went to take possession of his brother’s effects but died himself at Harwich on his return journey. From that time William junior said his problems started because his father had made a will leaving only his working tools and twenty shillings to his son and the rest of his estate to his widow Martha. We do not know what happened to the business after William senior’s death but William junior did not continue it.
William junior remained with his mother until her remarriage to Charles Isaacson on 19th October 1728 at St Andrew’s Church, Newcastle. William then tried always to get money from his mother and in the end decided to go to London to find his fortune. She had given him 12s but that did not last long when he arrived in London. He borrowed money from anyone who would lone him money until at last his creditors grew tied of him and took him to court and he ended up in prison. He was not able to find work in London, so that he could not have worked in his own name or for George Graham as some people have suggested.
William was released from prison in 1729 and while reclining in a public house a gentleman advised him to sell himself into voluntary bondage in exchange for a passage to Philadelphia which he agreed to bind himself for 5 years. He was taken aboard the Bonetta where there were 20 other men who were in similar circumstances to himself. The ship sailed on 7th September 1729 and after many hardships at sea the ship arrived in the Delaware River and docked at Philadelphia on 26th December 1729. William recounts how he and his fellow ‘slaves’ were allowed to visit the Town. He sold his red coat for a quart of Rum and his ‘Tye Wig’ for six pence, with which he bought a three-penny loaf and a quart of cider.
William watched while all his companions were sold one by one, before it was his turn, when he was sold for £11 to Isaac Pearson, a smith, clockmaker and goldsmith who lived at Burlington, New Jersey. “He was a Quaker, but a Wet one”. He goes on to say that there were three watchmaker’s shops in Philadelphia; Peter Stretch, the most eminent, John Wood and Edmund Lewis, from London.
William worked as a watch and clock repairer, as well as a blacksmith for his master. He was sent out into the country to repair the clocks and watches, which he enjoyed but he soon wanted to return to his old ways and asked his master to turn him over to another master, in Philadelphia. This demand made his master very angry, so William attempted to escape and ran away. He was soon caught and put in prison but was soon released and brought before the Mayor of Philadelphia, together with his master. He agreed to go back with his master, who agreed to reduce his term to three years. His master then became more generous and treated him well.
Isaac Pearson had a share in an ironworks to which he sent William to work. Sometimes William worked as a blacksmith and sometimes he was in the water and sometimes he was a cow hunter in the woods and sometimes he got drunk with joy that his work was ended. At last his iron work was finished and his term of his servitude was over. His master released him and he went to Philadelphia to find a new job. He worked for the watchmaker, Edmund Lewis for a while but the two were of similar temperament and fell out, so William left him and went to work for William Graham, a watchmaker newly arrived from London who was the nephew of the famous George Graham of Fleet Street. He worked for him for 10 weeks at 10 shillings per week wages with board and lodgings. William Graham then wanted to go on to Antigua (in 1733) so Moraley left him.
After a number of adventures as well as trying to work as a tinker, William returned to Philadelphia to work as a journeyman for Peter Bishop, a blacksmith, for eight shillings a week and board. He worked at the great hammer, making horse-shoes, horse-shoe nails, rounding of ship bolts and sharpening coulters for farmer’s ploughs. After six weeks his creditors caught up with him and threatened to take him before the magistrate. This forced him to leave Philadelphia and go to New York to avoid his pursuers. Having no success at finding a passage on a ship he returned to Philadelphia and went straight to Burlington where he found a ship bound for England and was taken on as the cook. On the 26th July 1733 they sailed down the Delaware river passing Chester the next day. It took them 13 weeks to sail to Ireland and William managed to find a ship travelling to Workington.
William was at last back on English soil arriving back on the 26th December 1733. He had to walk back about 80 miles across the country from west to east in the worst of winter weather, begging for food and shelter on the way. It took him nine days before he reached Newcastle, where he received a warm welcome from his uncle. He stayed three weeks with his uncle in the Bigg Market before going to live with his mother until she died about 1738. His mother’s will indicated that she had left her estate in trust to William but he was only paid a small amount each year, by the executors, to live on. William lived until January 1762 and was buried in St Nicholas churchyard on 19th January 1762. He believed to the end that he had been badly treated by his parents and life in general.
If you enjoyed this story, you might enjoy other stories about Early clock & watchmakers of London, the North East and other parts of England. You can find these in my two books:
Early Clock and watchmakers of the Blacksmiths' Company
Clockmakers of Northumberland & Durham
Here is a fascinating story, of tracing the family tree of a lady who was the descendant of a clockmaker. If you think your ancestor may have been in the clock and watchmaking trade and you would like to research more about your ancestor, please do get in touch with me.
A few years ago I was very pleased to receive a letter from a lady, living in the U.S.A., who was a descendant of the finest watchmaker who ever worked in the North East of England. While visiting the Texas State Archives she had come across a copy of my book “Clockmakers of Northumberland and Durham” in the state library and was anxious to obtain a copy. She is a descendant of Deodatus Threlkeld who was born in 1657, youngest son of William Threlkeld, parish priest for Brancepeth and Startforth, Durham. Deodatus was apprenticed in Newcastle to the London-trained clockmaker Abraham Fromanteel, from about 1671-1678. When Fromanteel was recalled to London by his father in 1680 to take over the family clockmaking business in the City, Threlkeld started his own business, taking over his master’s former customers.
Deodatus Threlkeld married three times, firstly to Hannah Anderson in 1684 by whom he had three children; William baptised in 1685, who died in infancy; Deodatus(2) baptised in 1687 who was trained as a watchmaker by his father; and Hannah baptised in 1689 who married a tinsmith, Samuel Milburn.
Deodatus then married Margaret Ilderton, daughter of George Ilderton of Ilderton in 1698/9, and sister of Robert Ilderton, one of Threlkeld’s apprentices. Margaret unfortunately died while giving birth to their son George, who died shortly after his mother.
In 1700 Threlkeld married for a third time, to Margaret Moor of Newburn, by whom he had sons John and Thomas, and daughters Mary, Jane, Margaret and Elizabeth who all survived to adulthood.
Deodatus (2) was first apprenticed to his father from 1701-8 but as soon as he was out of his apprenticeship and old enough to decide for himself what he wanted to do with his life; he decided to become a seaman and bound himself to a master mariner, Thomas Brown, from 1708-1715, who was a freeman of Newcastle who sailed from that port. Deodatus (2) was freed again in 1716.
My American correspondent is descended from Deodatus (2). Apparently by 1721 Deodatus (2) was captain of a ship called the Corbruiser, trading from Bermuda, in rum and most probably slaves from Africa, as the two ran hand in hand. He was living in Bermuda and owned land there by 1723. There is a record of him having served on a jury there and also his default of a loan of £17 for which he had listed a black boy, named Anthony, as security. Deodatus (2) died at Norfolk, Virginia in 1729.
Besides his legal wife, Sibell, whom he married about 1718 and who is the mother of Deodatus (3), Deodatus (2) had a mistress, Jermima Burrows, to whom he was never married. Her son John Threlkeld was born about 1717, before he married Sibell. At the time Deodatus was in Bermuda, there was a family called Burrows who were plantation owners, but there were no records for a Jermima Burrows. We must assume that she was either a slave or an illegitimate white child of the Burrows family. Since her son John voted and owned land in Virginia in 1768, we must conclude that he was white. This John Threlkeld took the surname Threadgill when he went to Virginia about 1734 from Bermuda. He died in Virginia in 1772 after having married Anabel and fathering at least 7 children. He and Anabel were the great, great, great, great, grandparents of my correspondent. Their son John (2) from whom she is descended, was the owner of a family prayer book which contained much of the family history.
John Threadgill (2) and his wife Mary Cobb moved down to Anson County, North Carolina and had 12 children. John died there on 22 Sept 1835. Their son Howell and his wife Mary Slaughter were the lady’s great, great, grandparents and they moved to Macon County, Alabama sometime before 1850. Howell had served in the War of 1812. He also lived in Georgia before going to Alabama. Howell and Mary had 11 children, the first 6 being born in North Carolina and the last 5 were born in Georgia.
My American correspondent is descended from the fourth child of Howell and Mary. His name was Noah Baxter Threadgill and he was born in 1818 in Anson, North Carolina. Noah Baxter married Mary Emily after moving to Autauga County, Alabama. They had 6 children, the last of whom was the lady’s father’s mother, Elizabeth Pastor Threadgill and she married William Charles Bates. Her father Albert Jefferson Bates, was the last of their 8 children. All of these people had been landowners and farmers. When she wrote to me, she said:
“When you see that my maiden name was Katie Bates. You can imagine the strange feeling I had when I saw that the book with so much information about my ancestor, Deodatus Threlkeld, was written by K. Bates.”
With regards to Deodatus Threlkeld (3) there is no record of his date of birth but he must have been born about 1719. His father Deodatus (2) was living in Bermuda until 1728, at the time he defaulted on the loan, mentioned earlier, when he was described as “now being in foreign parts” The first record of him being in Virginia was the filing of his will on 28 August 1728.
In 1728 a number of Bermudan families, dissatisfied with the governorship of the island, sought and were refused permission to leave and settle in the American colonies. They found a wrecked and abandoned ship on a coral reef which the
y repaired in secret, working only at night. They made a jury mast from a spar, a sail from bedclothes, and a rudder from a wide board. They reached the coast of America and sailed up the Elizabeth River to what is now Norfolk.
Although Deodatus (2) does not appear on the incomplete passenger list, it seems more than likely that Deodatus was the navigator on the ship. Deodatus (2) died in 1729 at Norfolk and his will was proved on May 16 1729, when he left half of his estate to his widow Sibell and half to his son Deodatus (3). There was a reference in the will to John Threlkeld, (son of Jermima Burrows, his mistress), and Elizabeth, daughter of Sibell from a former marriage.
In her own will dated January 3 1731/2 Sibell was using the name Threadgall and she refers to her son Deodatus as being under the age of 21. Sibell left one third of her Burmudan estate to her daughter Elizabeth, however, according to the law of the day, if the land had belonged to Deodatus (2) when she married him, Deodatus (3) would have received all of it. It therefore seems that Sibell owned land in Bermuda and money before she married Deodatus (2).
The last we hear of Deodatus (3) is on February 14 1731/2 in Bermuda, being a minor, he was described as the son of Deodatus Threlkeld, mariner, late of Virginia, deceased, when he appeared before the Lieutenant Governor of Bermuda and chose Captain William Richardson of Pembroke as his guardian.
We do not know if Deodatus (3) ever came to England to claim his “rightful inheritance” but we do know that his father’s letter did, or rather a copy of it did.
Following is the letter Deodatus (2) sent to his son Deodatus (3) in 1728 :-
“Directions for my son Deods Threlkeld to find his Grandfather in case of my death. August 26 1728.
You have two cousins in London, ye one Wm. Threlkeld, living in ye Strand, near ye new Exchange, Watchmaker, London; ye other Ralph Threlkeld at the sign of ye oyll jar in ye Strand, London; you may direct your letters to them for news of your Grandfather, or coppy of his will. I hope they will give you a true account, and which way to proceed. There is in Newcastle your cousin Francis Batty, Goldsmith living in the Side, in N.C. upon Tyne. I desire you to make the most use of him, he being your Attorney to take care of your Grandfather’s Estate; but take the advice of Mr. Scott or Mr. John Tucker, or some of our friends in Virginia before you proceed; likewise you may make a friend of Mr Robert Ilderton in N. Castle [Deodatus (1)’s first apprentice and his brother-in-law].
In case you should go for England, ye nearest way is to London, and then inquire for the relations as above written and take their directions; from London to N. Castle you may go in a Collier she to Sheels, which is seven miles by water to Newcastle and there inquire for your friends as directed above; from N.C. to Morpeth is twelve miles by land; from Morpeth, in Northumberland, to Tritlington house, which is your Grandfather’s Estate, is three miles, but I do not question but (you) will have good encouragement before you come to Tritlington, that you may proceed with courage, and heir to the Estate of your Grandfather, which is your undoubted right, is the prayer of your affectionate father. Deods. Threlkeld.
The Estate of Tritlington is worth one Hundred Pounds per Annum, and one Annuity of about Forty Pounds per Annum. Likewise my father sold a farm of land and house at Newburn, five miles from N. Castle, which was my mother’s for two Hundred Pounds, that was properly mine. My mothers maiden name was Hannah Anderson.
When you direct a letter to your Grandfather, direct to Mr Deods. Threlkeld, to be left at Mr. Thomas Shipley’s Mercht., in Morpeth, Northumberland.
There is an old will of mine, made to my sister Hannah Milburn when I was Batchelor, and now in the possession of Samuel Milburn, Tinman in N. Castle. I desire you to go to him with cousin Francis Batty and cancell ye same will by order of me. Deods. Threlkeld. Virginia. August ye 26 1728.”
When Deodatus (1) died on 26 Feb 1732/3 in his will he left £20 annum to his son John, a lump sum of £400 to his daughter Elizabeth. To his wife Margaret he left his land at Tritlington for her lifetime and the remainder of his Estate he left to his third son Thomas; his son Deodatus was not even mentioned in the will. Thomas eventually sold Tritlington on 24 Aug 1784 for a total of £6,100.
I would like to hear from anyone who had a clock or watchmaker as an ancestor and particularly those who might be related to Deodatus Threlkeld. I would also welcome hearing from anyone who owns a North East clock and would like to know more about its maker. Please contact me here.
Keith Bates is an amateur horologist who has been researching clocks, watches and chronometers and their makers for over 30 years.