Banister watches from Colchester - reunited (sort of)

Discussion in 'European & Other Pocket Watches' started by rstl99, Feb 11, 2017.

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  1. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User

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    #1 rstl99, Feb 11, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2017
    As some of you saw from a couple of other posts I made here, a little while ago I acquired a pair of running verge fusée movements, one of which is signed "Banister Colchester". This was made by Joseph Banister, a clock and watchmaker from Colchester Sussex, who was very well known in the area. He was partnered with another famous clock and watchmaker of the area, Nathaniel Hedge, and bought out Hedge's house, shop and stock-in-trade when he retired in 1818.

    I more recently purchased a copy of Bernard Mason's labour-of-love book entitled "Clock and Watchmaking in Colchester", which features a chapter devoted to Banister, who also appears in other sections of the book. Several clocks and four watches by Banister are featured in photographs in the book.

    One of the watches featured is a "silver verge watch" dated 1814. The photographs of watches in the book appear life-size, as you can see when I place my movement beside the one of this 1814 watch.

    The decorations on the movement are very similar in both watches, and placed side by side they look like reunited brothers. Their serial numbers are very close (7109 or 7199 in the book, and 7166 on mine) so mine probably dates from around the same year. I attach photos of the cover of Mason's book, and the "re-united" photos of the two movements, for your pleasure.

    It's certainly nice to own a verge-fusée watch by a known maker from that era, about whom I can find out details of his life, his watch-making practice, his origins, etc. An interesting transcription in the book from an advertisement of 1821 states "...his watches in particular are of his own manufacture, an advantage which few, if any other Person between London and Yarmouth possesses, and are besides warranted not to be surpassed by any Manufacturer in the Kingdom, in Price or Quality."

    This seems to confirm my supposition that Joseph Banister would have had more of a hand in the manufacture of his watches, than the average finisher or retailer of that era (in London or elsewhere), who more often than not purchased ready-made movements from north-west England and just added their signatures to them. Banister also invented and patented an "improved dead-beat escapement assembly" in 1836.

    There are many interesting facts and anecdotes about Banister in the book; he lived to a very old age of 96 years (died in 1875), and was revered during his life as a craftsman, businessman, family man, and upstanding citizen of Colchester.

    I'm proud to own one of his watch movements, which is still ticking!
     

    Attached Files:

  2. Kevin W.

    Kevin W. Registered User

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    Very nice Robert, its nice to actually hold a piece of the history in your hand, if that movement could only talk. Thanks for sharing.
     
  3. MartyR

    MartyR Super Moderator
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    There is something uniquely exciting about matching a watch to a photograph in an old book! As Kevin says, it creates that magical feeling of bringing history to life :)
     
  4. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User

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    Yes, these old English verge-fusée watch movements certainly give me a feeling of connection with history, especially the Thompson-London watch I have in a silver case dated from 1815, whose watch papers indicate it was serviced in my own town-city (originally Bytown, now Ottawa) in the 1840s.

    But this Banister watch movement, in addition to the period it originated from, connects me with the maker himself, which is very gratifying.

    From the book cited above, here is a painting of Joseph Banister when he was only 22 years old, starting off in his long career of making clocks and watches. Beside it is a photograph of the venerable old man in 1870, when he was 91 years old. He retired in 1853, at 75 years old. Also attached are a set of photos of one of his dead-beat escapement regulators, for which he was granted a patent in 1836.
     

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  5. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User

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    I managed to acquire a third Banister watch movement some time ago, and proudly display all three in my glass display case, along with a period postcard of Colchester showing High Street, where Joseph Banister had his shop for many years.

    A few decades divide these three watches. The oldest one, on the left, is signed Hedge and Banister, from the period (1807-1813) where Joseph Banister was partnered with the elder Nathaniel Hedge IV, who would later retire and sell his business to Banister.

    Hedge died in 1821 aged 86, Banister in 1875 aged 96.
     
  6. musicguy

    musicguy Registered User
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    Very nice verge fusée movements, and history.




    Rob
     
  7. Les harland

    Les harland Registered User

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  8. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User

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    You are indeed correct Les, and I apologize for the mistyping on my part, Colchester is indeed in Essex, and this is where Hedge, Banister, and all the venerable watch and clockmakers of Colchester exercised their noble profession.
    Regards,
    --Robert
     
  9. Les harland

    Les harland Registered User

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    #9 Les harland, Jul 17, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
  10. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User

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    Hi Les,
    Yes, that's why I purchased that old postcard, because it indeed shows the old Town Hall and clocktower in Colchester. The postcard shows a view of High Street, where Hedge and later Banister had his shop at 18-19, which based on googlemap street view is one of the buildings on the right of the picture in the postcard.
    Thanks for the Colchester visitor site link.
    When I finally go back for another visit in the UK, Colchester (Essex!) will definitely be on my list of (horological) places to see. Hopefully the museum will be open that features the clocks collected by Bernard Mason, who wrote the book on Clock and Watchmakers of Colchester.
    Best regards,
    --Robert
     
  11. JTD

    JTD Registered User
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    Sorry to tell you that the clock museum in Colchester (Essex) closed some time ago. The building is now a tea room and most of the clocks have been put in storage somewhere and are not on public view.

    You can see some of the clocks if you go to www.camulos.com scroll down and click on the link to Tymperley's Clock Museum in the column headed History Interest. You can't see all the clocks, but there are quite a lot there.

    Sad that it's gone.

    JTD
     
  12. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User

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    Thanks JTD for the update on Tymperley's, that is sad indeed. Poor Mr. Mason must have turned in his grave, to have preserved all those local clocks and watches, bequeathed them to the city, and to have recent elected officials shut it down for lack of vision, as camulos site stated...

    In looking at the photos of clocks from the museum, I am struck at how much more beautiful they are in "living colour", compared to the black and white photos in Mason's book.

    Let's hope those beautiful clocks and nice watches are looked after properly, or at some point put into the hands of people who will preserve and cherish them (i.e. collectors).
     
  13. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User

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    Just a quick addition to note to anyone who is interested that there is a marine chronometer in the British Museum that was made by Joseph Banister (and acquired from the Ilbert Collection).

    http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?assetId=991086001&objectId=54695&partId=1

    I attach a picture of the face of it (from the British Museum website). It is marked "No. 1" and dated to roughly 1830-1840, and this may in fact be the only chronometer that Banister made. Another example of what a fine clock-watchmaker Joseph Banister was.
     
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