Richard Craile was one of the early 17th century watchmakers. He was born in 1600, the son of William Craile a curate of Grantham and apprenticed to Robert Grinkin about 1615. Richard witnessed his master's will in 1626 when Robert died so Richard was probably a journeyman at that time. He took his freedom of the BC on 18th January 1626/7 by the testament of Ann Grinkin, Robert’s widow who had taken over the business. Ann Grinkin bound an apprentice, Humphrey Downing on 3rd September 1629 in the BC who was to become the master of Charles Gretton, a leading clockmaker at the end of the 17th century.
Richard Craile started his own business as a watchmaker but may have still been helping Ann Grinkin in her business in Fleet Street; her son Robert was not freed by patrimony until 1631, at the age of 21, when he was able to take over the business. Richard bound 10 apprentices in the BC between 1628-1657 and a number of them were freed, including John Warfeild bound in 1629 and freed in 1637. Richard’s son William Craile was freed by patrimony in 1652. Richard joined the livery of the company in 1632, was made an assistant in 1638, a warden in 1654 and would have been elected Master of the company in 1658 but must have been too ill or had died in 1658; he was definitely dead by 1659 when William Craile took over the business.
Richard Craile had bound all of his apprentices in the BC but in 1646 he was being pursued by The Clockmakers’ Company who wanted him to join their company and bind his apprentices there. In October 1646 the Court of Assistants of the BC issued a statement saying that they would defend Mr Craile in a court of law providing he did not join the CC. Richard had resisted the efforts of the new company to make him join them for a number of years with the help of the BC. However in March 1653/4 he was forced to bind an apprentice, John Briscoe (Bristoe or Bristow) in the CC.
Richard died about 1658/9 and his business in Fleet Street was taken over by his son William. William also took over his father’s apprentices including John Briscoe and ran a very successful watchmaking business for many years, dying in 1703. William bound a number of apprentices of his own including John Chatfeild who also became outstanding watchmaker.
Meanwhile John Briscoe who had been an apprentice of Richard Craile bound in the CC did not take his freedom of that company but did eventually take his freedom of the BC in 1680. He must have been a successful watchmaker because he was made a warden of the company in 1693 and was elected its Master in 1695.
Richard Craile and his apprentices were part of the trade descent of Robert Grinkin which continued through the 17th and 18th centuries and into the 19th century ending with the chronometer maker James Hatton junior who was working from 1775-1815 when he died.
All of these watchmakers are discussed in some detail in my new book Early Clock and Watchmakers of the Blacksmiths' Company.
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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.