All trade in the City of London, from very early times, was controlled by the trade guilds or companies. A craftsman had to be a freeman of one of these guilds in order to trade within the City boundaries. The guilds also tried to regulate the tradesmen working outside the City by making sure that every craftsman and trader had been fully trained.
Freedom of one of the 79 London guilds (91 by the end of the century) could only be obtained by one of four ways:-
After completing the term of service, the apprentice would have to serve one or two years as a journeyman with his master before he could claim his freedom of the Company. It normally took several years before a journeyman could afford to set up his own workshop. In order to be freed by the Court of Assistants a journeyman had to produce a proof piece (or masterpiece) to prove that he had been properly trained and could teach others the craft. If his proof piece was accepted he then had to swear an allegiance to the Company, before he was admitted and paid his admittance fee. Quarterage was the membership fee which had to be paid every quarter.
Another clockmaker in the BC was Humphrey Osborne who was apprenticed to John Norman on 15th September 1606 for ten years. In 1615 John Norman made a new clock for St Andrew Hubbard Church in London. Humphrey Osborne was freed and admitted to the BC on 28th August 1717 when he produced a clock as his proof piece which was accepted by the Court of Assistants.
Not all apprentices managed to complete their apprenticeship for various reasons only one third of boys managed to complete their term. Some apprentices did not like the work and went to a different craft; while others died quite young. One apprentice who died soon after starting his service, was John Edwards. We read in the Parish Records of his burial :- John Edwards servant of Mr Warfeild, watchmaker in Fleet Street, buried at St Dunstan in the West Church on 2nd October 1651.” John Edwards son of Thomas a deceased husbandman of Llanberis, Cae, Wales, had been apprenticed to John Warfeild on 19th Feb 1650/1.
A freeman could not be freed in more than one company. If he wanted to join another company he could only join the second company as a brother with the permission of his first company. This meant he had to honour the oath he had made to his first company; continue to attend meetings and continue to pay his quarterage. This situation presented problems when the watchmakers in the BC wanted to start their own company in order to control the trade with so many foreign watchmakers working around London. The watchmakers could not leave the BC and had to have the Company’s permission to join the new Clockmakers’ Company (CC) when it had its first meeting in October 1632. Some watchmakers did join the new company but not all the clock and watchmakers did join.
In 1636 the two companies the BC and the CC signed an agreement which stated that the CC would only enrol the watchmakers and the makers of domestic clocks, but the “great clockmakers” (turret clockmakers) would remain in the BC. This agreement created problems for some of the watchmakers who joined the CC. We read in the Court Minutes of the BC on 21 0ctober 1630 :-“ Richard Childe being a clockmaker, paid for his admittance 3/4d”. Richard Child then joined the CC in October 1632. Later we read in BC Court Minutes on 19th July 1638 “ Richard Childe was threatened for breach of oath”. Perhaps he was refusing to pay his quarterage to the BC.
These two watchmakers were still working as freemen in the BC even when they had a higher status in the CC. In the early years of the CC the company depended heavily on the watchmakers from the BC who ran the new company as well as carrying out their duties in the BC.
Another freeman who went over to the CC was Benjamin Hill who had been apprenticed to Richard Child in the BC on 30th July 1632, was freed in 1640 but joined the CC on 30th November 1640. He was then admitted to the BC with his proof piece in March 1641. When he was chosen steward in 1653 by the BC he refused because he had already been elected Assistant in 1651 and Warden in 1652 by the CC. The BC took Hill before the Lord Mayor’s Court where he was ordered to comply, which he refused. The BC then offered to translate him to the CC if he paid a fine of £5 (equivalent to £1000 today). Hill paid his fine and was translated to the CC in October 1653.
The Plague epidemic of 1665 halted all trade and some clockmakers like Ahasuerus Fromanteel lost members of his family and several watchmakers including John Warfeild died from the disease. Worse was to come in September 1666 the Great Fire of London destroyed the premises of a number of the Companies, including the BC and many of the individual clockmakers lost their premises. Most of the buildings in the City were destroyed and all the companies were in turmoil. The only craftsmen who did not lose their premises were those in Southwark, south of the river. William Clement was able to continue his business in Southwark. He had been freed by the BC in 1664 and introduced the anchor escapement into his clocks about this time. He was able to supply a new clock to the Society of Middle Temple (lawyers) with his new escapement in 1667 which he erected on the roof of the building in September 1667.
The BC had lost its hall and all its properties and went to great expense to replace their buildings so they could not afford to lose any quarterage paying members to the CC. After the Fire, the BC were casting their nets farther afield and enrolling smiths from the surrounding areas outside the City.
The clockmakers in the BC were making clock movements from about 1670 and selling them to some of the leading clockmakers just as watches had been produced by varies craftsmen for the clock and watchmakers who were really just retailers of clocks and watches long before the end of the century. Brian Loomes records an instance of John Layton making clock movements for Nathaniel Barrow in May 1679. John Layton, son of Thomas was freed by patrimony in the BC on 29th October 1646 and joined the CC on 10th March 1653/4. Nathaniel Barrow had been apprenticed to Job Betts, a freeman of the BC, in the CC in January 1653/4 and freed on 28th January 1660/1. The Betts brothers Job and Samuel never officially joined the CC but made some excellent clocks and watches. Both had been apprenticed to John Drake in the BC.
There are many fascinating stories about the relationship between the Blacksmiths' Company and the Clockmakers' Company. My latest book, Early clock and watchmakers of the Blacksmiths' Company sheds light on this relationship, as well as featuring information about many of the most well-known clockmakers of the time, some of whom have been mentioned in this post.
The unwanted Dutch-style, case was given a 20” square dial with an 8-day movement by Watson and is thought to be the one displayed at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry (see figs. 1 - 3).
H Alan Lloyd described the Windsor, astronomical clock in an article he wrote for the Horological Journal in December 1942. The same writer wrote an article for the same journal in December 1948 about the two astronomical clocks Watson made for Sir Isaac Newton and are now in the possession of the Clockmakers’ Company.
Mr Lloyd knew very little about the clockmaker’s life and origins but he greatly admired his work and thought he was among the finest clockmakers to have worked in this country. With the help of Mr Philip Southall, we have been able to piece together more information about this extremely talented clockmaker and mathematician.
Samuel Watson was baptised at Kingsbury, War, sixteen miles north west of Coventry, on 15 Feb. 1650/51, son of Samuel and Sibbell Watson. Samuel junior would have been apprenticed, possibly in Coventry from 1664-1671. He married Elizabeth Milburn at Holy Trinity Church, Coventry on 8 April 1672. No children are recorded for the couple so that Watson may have worked elsewhere before 1682 when a son Samuel was baptised at St Michaels Church, Coventry on 1 June 1682.
Samuel Watson joined the C.C. as a brother on 29 Sept 1690 and had set up his business in Long Acre, where he is recorded paying water rates for 1692. Watson was the leading astronomical clockmaker at the end of 17th century but he did make other clocks, including fine tables clock (see fig 4). He seemed to specialise in table (spring) clocks but he did make some longcase clocks and a number of watches. One of Watson’s table clocks was stolen and advertised in the London Gazette of 27 July 1696:- “Lost 16the June out of a House near Red Lion Square a Repeating Table Clock in black Ebony Case and Cap, with Brass Furnature upon it, showing the hour and minutes, striking at the end of every hour and repeating the quarters upon two bells when pulled; having two Pendulums, a longer that moves behind, and shorter that moves in semi-circle on the upper part of the Dial Plate; the back Plate is engraved Samuel Watson London. Whoever gives notice of the said Clock to Sam Watson, watchmaker, near the Bagnio in Long Acre, so as it may be had again shall have two Guineas Reward.”
Samuel Watson’s daughter, Louis married the clockmaker William Threlkeld, of the Strand, on 14 Feb 1705/6 and their son William was baptised on the same day. Louis must have died young because Threlkeld married her sister Lydie on 28 May 1712 at St Martins in the Fields, Westminster. Another son William was baptised on 23 Feb 1714/5. Samuel Watson’s wife Elizabeth died and was buried at St Mary le Strand Church on 13th April 1707 and Samuel returned to Coventry about 1715.
Watson returned to Coventry soon after this incident and did make a few clocks and watches there. He remarried in Coventry to Dinah and they had a son William who was buried 30 May 1717 and Samuel died and was buried on 4 Feb 1722/3. Samuel junior worked in Coventry but it is not known if he was a clockmaker; he was buried on the 19 Apr 1740.
If you would like to find out more about Samuel Watson or other leading London Clockmakers, please consider purchasing a copy of my latest book, Early Clock and Watchmakers of the Blacksmiths' Company.
When I wrote “Early Clock and Watchmakers of the Blacksmiths’ Company” and described the effects of the plague on the population at different times in our history, I never dreamt that we would be experiencing a pandemic similar to what the clock and watchmakers experienced in 16th and 17th centuries. The inhabitants of the towns and cities of England experienced repeated attacks of the Plague.
We first hear of John Harvie, a London trained clockmaker, working in Newcastle towards the end of the 16th century. He made a clock for the old Exchange, or Townhall on the Sandhill, Newcastle in 1586. (See Fig. 1) By the time Harvie had his daughter Jane baptised at St Nicholas Church in Feb 1588/9 he must have been one of the leading figures in the Town, because the Sherriff of Newcastle, Robert Edon, stood as godfather to John’s daughter, together with other local notaries. Later in the summer of 1589 an epidemic of the Plague hit Newcastle. John Harvie must have left the Town in a hurry, which was the usual reaction of craftsmen and the more affluent inhabitants at that time. Harvie may have gone somewhere else at that time but he eventually returned to London. He died in St Botolph Parish, Aldersgate in 1602.
In 1636 when Newcastle was subjected to another epidemic of the plague the whole country felt the repercussions; there were shortages of coal in London, as well as salt from the Tyne. The ships which normally carried goods from Newcastle were refusing to call into the Tyne in case they carried the disease back with them. The Bailiffs of Great Yarmouth were petitioning for leave to buy salt from Scotland “ because the sickness is so at Newcastle and Shields as none dare adventure to fetch any”. The salt pans were situated near the mouth of the River Tyne, near North Shields. On occasions it was difficult to see up the river because the steam and smoke from the heated salt pans was so dense.
The death toll in Newcastle from the plague of 1636 was 5631 which represented almost 47 percent of the population of about 12000.
The plague was prevalent in London on many occasions but the epidemic of 1665 stands out as one of the worst attacks. A number of clockmakers and their families were affected. Ahasuerus Fromanteel’s family was badly affected in 1665. His wife Sarah, his youngest son Daniel and his brother John, as well as several of his workforce all died. The rest of his family left London but the disease followed them to Colchester, so they went to Norwich.
The Accounts of the Blacksmiths’ Company (BC) tell us that in September 1665 “ Paid to the Master of the Pest House, Sedan Men, and other charges about getting George Palmer into the Pest House £4-7-3”. The company were paying for George Palmer to be nursed when he contracted the plague. This was a huge amount of money, more than Palmer would have earned in a year.
George Palmer had been apprenticed to the clockmaker, William Woodfeild in 1626 and freed in 1634. Palmer was working in his own workshop by 1636 when he bound his first of seven apprentices, binding his last apprentice in 1661. Only one of his apprentices, Thomas Bennett, was freed, in 1662. George Palmer must have been unable to work and was destitute by 1665 when the company had to pay for his last few days. Nothing more is heard of George Palmer so we must assume he died. Approximately 14 percent of the London population died of the plague in 1665.
John Warfeild, one of the leading watchmakers of the 17th century who had his workshop in Fleet Street, is believed to have died from the plague in November 1665. John Warfeild had been apprenticed to Richard Craile on 24th April 1629 and was freed in 1637. John married Abigall Normington in 1638 and their son Alexander was baptised at St Dunstan in the West, Fleet Street, on 13th June 1639. John bound 10 apprentices between 1638-1662, seven of whom were freed including his son Alexander. Alexander was apprenticed to his father in November 1655 but he did not take his freedom of the BC until 1687. Alexander worked for his father until John died in November 1665; he then left London in a hurry and settled in West Wycombe, where his son Alexander was baptised in 1668. Alexander must have returned to London about 1675 and bound apprentices in the Clockmakers’ Company. Alexander took his freedom of the BC in 1687 in order to bind another apprentice Thomas Furnace on the same day in 1687 who was freed by Alexander’s widow Elizabeth in July 1694. Alexander having died in October 1688.
The plague in London was a big tragedy but only a year later the City suffered an even greater catastrophe when the Fire of London broke out in September 1666 and destroyed most of the buildings in the City. 80 Churches were damaged or destroyed, many of the companies lost their halls, including the BC who not only lost their hall but all their adjoining properties too.
Many of the clockmakers lost their premises in the fire, so that trade was almost at a standstill. Only those clockmakers working in Southwark, south of the river escaped the fire. The Temple church just off Fleet Street escaped the fire, as did the hall of the Middle Temple Society, who ordered a new clock from William Clement in 1667 which he installed in September 1667. (Fig 3. Middle Temple Hall c. 1815).
It took a number of years to rebuild the damaged buildings in the Capital. Most of the damaged churches were replaced with new buildings financed by the taxes levied on the coal supplied by the merchants of Newcastle to London. Clock and watchmaking excelled after these two disasters. The period up to the end of the century was one of the finest in the history of clock and watchmaking.
For more stories about some of the leading clock and watchmakers of the 16th to 18th Centuries, as well as more information about the London Guilds and the relationship between the Clockmakers' Company and the Blacksmiths' Company, please do consider purchasing a copy of Early clock and watchmakers of the Blacksmiths' Company
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
Keith Bates is an amateur horologist who has been researching clocks, watches and chronometers and their makers for over 30 years.