Gerard Hornby rack lever

John Matthews

NAWCC Member
Sep 22, 2015
2,950
1,359
113
France
Country
Region
I believe the signature on this watch to be that of Gerard Hornby of Liverpool, the father of Richard Hornby, the noted watchmaker who worked in Pool Lane. Allan Purcell attached a number of documents here on the Hornby family of watchmakers. He made a good case for the existence of two Richard Hornbys active in Liverpool at the same time. I agree with Allan's conclusion.

Gerard Hornby was born 1761 and died in I825 age 64.

His father was George Hornby (~1734-1799) listed at 3 Crosshall Street in 1790 as a victualler, in ~1794, at the same address, as a watchmaker & victualler, and finally in 1796 as a watch movement maker working at 12 Princes Street.

The first directory record I have of Gerard's activity is as a watch finisher in 1790 operating from Hale Street and then in 1794 as a watchmaker also in Hale Street. From 1796 until 1824, the year prior to his death, he operated in Princes Street. The 1796 entry records him at number 12, the same address as his father.

I have not found a record of Gerard's apprenticeship, but it is reasonable to assume this began when he was ~14 years and therefore it is probably that he became free, just a few years before he took Kerfoot, as an apprentice watch finisher. This is recorded by Denis Moore:

64/119 Hornby, Gerard mas, Robert Kerfoot app, Watch Finisher, Liverpool, Lancs, 30 Oct 1786, 7 years £14.

I think it unlikely that he was apprenticed to his father on the basis that his apprenticeship would probably have been from 1775-1782, and given the trade directory entry for his father in 1790.

Throughout his career, Gerard was based in Princes Street. Richard, his son was born in 1789 and although I am not aware of a record of his apprenticeship, this would probably have been in the period from 1803 to 1810. As there is a record of a partnership between Gerard and Richard from 1810 until March 1819 it seems possible that Richard's apprenticeship may have been with his father, Gerard. Richard was married in February 1819. Although I have not seen a trade listing of Gerard Hornby and Son, watches and watch papers are known, e.g.

One watch signed G. Hornby and Son, a verge converted to rack lever in an 18 ct. gold case hallmarked Chester 1816, movement serial number 4147, has been found. This shows that the father Gerard worked for some time with his son Richard. The case also has a watchpaper for Richard. (Allan Purcell 1990: AH vol.19.01)

There is a respected opinion that it was the Hornby family that were responsible for the early development of the single roller. I have always assumed that opinion was specifically referring to Richard, Gerard's son. However, I note that Alan Treherne in a lecture on the Hewitt family in 2008 (AH vol. 31:02) recorded:

A watch by Richard Hornby of Gerard Hornby & Son (HM 1817) has an escapement with right-angle English lever, single table roller without draw.

I have no further information regarding this watch, but the date falls in the period of the partnership. It would be tempting to infer the watch may have been signed G Hornby & Son, but the quote appears to imply that it was signed by Richard. However, it is reasonable to infer that it was quite possibly the father and son partnership from which early single rollers emerged.

This particular watch is not a single roller. It is a well presented rack lever with a two-way slide, the capped movement very much finished in the Liverpool style. The cap lacks a maker's mark. The 30 tooth escape is engaged by a counterpoised rack lever controlling a plain steel balance. The unusual features are the facility for front winding and the open face gilt case.

The front winding aperture in the dial has been well protected by a brass ferrule and apart from a very small chip in the enamel, inwards from IIII and a very faint hairline, the dial is in very good condition. The gilt case carries the maker's mark 'TN' incuse. I believe this to be the mark of Thomas Norris who was working at 8 Rawstone Street, in London, when he registered the mark on 01/02/1822. While I cannot be absolutely certain that this was the original case (one never can!), my feeling is that it probably is. I have been unable to find another case maker who used this mark and the presentation of the watch would be perfectly at home in the window of a London jewellers in during the reign of George IV in the early 1820s.

20210716 001.jpg 20210716 002.jpg 20210716 003.jpg 20210716 004.jpg 20210716 005.jpg 20210716 006.jpg 20210716 007.jpg

John
 

Allan C. Purcell

NAWCC Member
Feb 9, 2013
2,945
1,199
113
Germany
Country
Region
A watch by Richard Hornby of Gerard Hornby & Son (HM 1817) has an escapement with right-angle English lever, single table roller without draw.
Hello John, thank you for the kind words. The watch you mention by Alan Treterne is on page 47 of "YOUR TIME". If you want the full story
please PM me.

Allan.
 

John Matthews

NAWCC Member
Sep 22, 2015
2,950
1,359
113
France
Country
Region
Allan - thanks, I had forgotten where I had seen the lever watch.

I assume it must be the same watch, although in the record of the talk Treherne says 1817, not 1818/19 as in 'Your Time' and they probably made more than one. So assuming it is the same watch, it is signed Hornby & Son - so why did Treherne ascribe it to Richard in the talk, rather than the partnership, I wonder? It also crossed my mind that there may be a lost story regarding the break-up of the partnership other than Richard's marriage a month before. Was the development of the single roller an element in that story?

John
 

Allan C. Purcell

NAWCC Member
Feb 9, 2013
2,945
1,199
113
Germany
Country
Region
John, if you remember there were two Richard Hornby´s working at roughly the same time. Richard 1 had five son´s, but I don´t think he made it either. There was a lot of conflict with Richard 2 and his father Gerrard, who made his will in 1815, and not a mention about his two sons. the reason for that, he had not told his sons how old they were. That behind him Richard started on his own in 1819. He was then 30 years old. The Hornby STR, the only one known was made in the late 1840s. No. 24333. It´s all on the board if you want to read. Attached is an early copy the AHS did not like at all, we did tone it down and added all the watch and chronometers from both Richards, but to no avail. Later there was far more on the two Richards.

Allan.
 

Attachments

Forum statistics

Threads
167,178
Messages
1,456,758
Members
87,348
Latest member
Criseldis
Encyclopedia Pages
1,057
Total wiki contributions
2,914
Last edit
E. Howard & Co. by Clint Geller