A number of clockmakers, trained in the Blacksmiths’ Company, were producing wholesale clock movements in the last quarter of the 17th century. When Thomas Tompion moved to new premises on the corner of Water Lane and Fleet Street in 1676, a succession of clockmakers were tenants in his old premises in Water Lane. They were John Gray, Thomas White and William Baldwyn who were all clockmakers trained in the B.C. and possibly supplying clocks to the Tompion workshop.
Other clockmakers from the B.C. were supplying movements to other clockmakers, consequently very few of their signed clocks have been recorded. The Higginson brothers John and Nathaniel trained a number of later successful clockmakers and so must have produced a large number of clock movements but very few of their fine clocks have survived.
John Higginson was freed by the B.C. in 1672 and his brother Nathaniel Higginson was freed in 1676. They had probably both been trained by their father Nicholas (who had been trained by his father John, freed 1603). Nicholas Higginson freed about 1635 had joined the C.C. in 1646 as a brother but remained a member of the B.C. working in Chancery Lane until the 1670s. John Higginson may have taken over the family business shortly after he was freed in 1672. The B.C. records are missing from 1660-1680 so we do not know if John bound any apprentices before his first recorded apprentice Humphrey Maysmore bound about 1679 and freed on 6th Oct 1687. Richard Washington, son of a London gent., was bound by John on 28th July 1681 and freed on 30th July 1691 and many other apprentices. Very few of John Higginson’s excellent clocks have survived.
Richard Washington, one of John Higginson’s apprentices was freed in 1691 and appeared to have worked most of his life in London, binding several apprentices there and dying there about 1729. As far as is known none of Richard’s clocks have been recorded.
A second longcase clock dial and movement has recently been found signed only “Richard Washington” on the bottom of the chapter ring without a place name; indicating that the clock was made before he knew where he was going to settle (Fig.3).
John Gammon apprenticed to Richard Washington in 1691 was freed by the B.C. in 1698. He went on to make clocks in his own name. A brass lantern clock dated 1703 is signed “Jno. Gammon Londini Fecit 1703” which is illustrated by George White in his book “English Lantern Clocks” so he was just one of Richard’s former apprentices who worked as clockmakers. Richard Washington bound his last apprentice, Joseph Hind in 1705 and must have died about 1729 when his widow Mary bound an apprentice, John Squire in Feb. 1729/30.
John Washington was apprenticed and freed by the B.C. in 1676, master unknown (records missing), he worked in London binding his first recorded apprentice, Joseph Mickellny in Feb 1682/3 and his last apprentice, William Henry Hinckley in Jan 1701/2. Brian Loomes in his book “Brass Dial Clocks” records that John Washington died in Penrith in 1713. The London clockmaker of the same name could have settled in Penrith.
Brian Loomes also illustrates a longcase clock dated 1689 by Aaron Cheasbrough of Penrith which has a London style movement, with five finned pillars, anchor escapement, royal pendulum and outside locking-plate striking. He also believes that Cheasbrough could have been apprenticed to John Washington. It is possible that Cheasbrough was apprenticed to John Washington in London between 1676-1680 and moved to Penrith before 1689.
It seems obvious that more research into the above clockmakers needs to be undertaken to find out if these were the same Washington clockmakers who were trained in the Capital.
If you have any information about these clockmakers, please do contact me so we can continue to piece together the puzzle.
If you have questions regarding any of the clockmakers mentioned in this blog, I would be happy to hear from you.
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Keith Bates is an amateur horologist who has been researching clocks, watches and chronometers and their makers for over 30 years.