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Horologist leaving London for the Continent around 1705 - why?

rstl99

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I wasn't sure if I should have posted this in Horological Misc or this forum, but thought I'd try here because there are very knowledgeable and insightful people frequenting this forum, so here goes...

As some of you know from the Misc forum, I've embarked some months ago on an ambitious project to document Henry Sully's life in more detail than has ever been done before. From his origins in backwater Somerset, through his apprenticeship with Gretton in London, then travels, life experiences, horological discoveries and ups and downs on the Continent (Netherlands for at least 4 years, then Germany, Vienna, and finally Paris where he lived the last 12 years of his life).

One mystery I am trying to make sense of is why would Sully leave London in the first place. After having slogged through a long apprenticeship with Gretton, spent a couple of years as a journeyman with him, made a bit of a reputation for his skills, then having been freed he possibly opened up shop for a couple of years, and took on an apprentice of his own. There is at least one watch I've seen in the literature signed Sully in London, so he produced some timepieces of his own for a short period.

Sully then leaves London and moves to The Hague and then Leiden in the Netherlands, where he seemed to mainly repair watches, and fathered 4 children in quick succession. Eventually he started to write, then made contacts with rich influential patrons who encouraged and financially supported him, especially after his move to Paris, and the more famous episodes of his life start there.

I'm thinking of a few possibilities to explain the move from London to the Netherlands.

1. He had met with Wren and Newton around 1703, as he was completing his apprenticeship, indicating to them his desire to make a "marine clock". Perhaps he was advised by one or both to go to the Netherlands and "follow in the footsteps of Huygens, try to learn from people who had known him and helped him build his own early attempts at a marine clock". He was probably also curious to find out how continental horological practices differed from those in England.

2. Perhaps London was not an easy place to establish yourself as a young watchmaker, especially at that time when there were so many illustrious and well-established makers who dominated the market (Tompion, Gretton, Quare, etc. etc.). London was also a busier and no doubt dirtier place, and possibly Sully felt that the Netherlands would be a better place to raise a young family. There may have been other financial reasons that made it tough to start a business in London at the time. Having come all the way to London from Somerset, Sully undoubtedly was unwilling to go back to his home county and start a business there. His ambitions and desire to make a mark for himself were too strong.

3. A recent historian suggested that perhaps Sully had left London for the Netherlands, to escape from personal debts. I'm not sure how much debt he could have gotten into in a couple of years after his apprenticeship, but I suppose it's a possibility.

I'd really look forward to your thoughts, especially on possibility number 2, based on your collective knowledge of the state of watch-clockmaking business dynamics in London at that time (around 1705-1710).

We may never know what really motivated Sully in this momentous decision in his life, but it's fun to try to think of possibilities.

Thank you.
--Robert
 
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novicetimekeeper

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Was he Catholic? Did he go to a Catholic area of the Netherlands?
 

rstl99

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No he was protestant. Converted to catholicism just before he died, so he could be buried in the catholic Church in Paris where he had installed his famous meridian/gnomon (Saint Sulpice).

Some writers over the years and centuries have claimed that Sully came from Huguenot parents but I found no evidence of this in the genealogical and historical record. I have seen presence of Sully's in England going back centuries before his birth, and some of his ancestors in Somerset predate the migration of Huguenots following the revocation of the edict of Nantes (1685). Likewise, there are also Sully's going back many centuries in France. They may well in fact be completely different families.

That claim of huguenot ancestry is an example of the kind of "fact" that gets replicated time and again about a certain person, without clear grounding in historical evidence. I'm trying to be mindful of this as I continue researching and writing my monograph on Sully.

Good guess though!
 

Jim DuBois

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There were a fair number of Huguenots departing England starting at least a century earlier but continued through the first 1/2 of the 18th century. The religious persecution of them finally ended in France by 1789.
 

rstl99

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Ok, a "pocket watch" connection to warrant having this thread located here. This if taken from a scanned issue of Antiquarian Horology in the early 70's (the exact issue date is lost in my mountain of facts at this moment), someone writing in that he had found this rare movement engraved "Henry Sully London" for a pittance, while vacationing somewhere in England. Probably made by Sully around 1705-07, in the brief period where he was established as a watchmaker in London.
The writer opined that in his opinion, the Sully watch was as fine as anything Tompion himself produced at the time. Maybe...
--Robert

sullywatch1.jpg sullywatch2.jpg
 

rstl99

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There were a fair number of Huguenots departing England starting at least a century earlier but continued through the first 1/2 of the 18th century. The religious persecution of them finally ended in France by 1789.
Jim, is that possibly a mis-write on your part, did you mean "Huguenots departing France"?
 

Jim DuBois

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Jim, is that possibly a mis-write on your part, did you mean "Huguenots departing France"?
They were also departing England en mass and some number came to America. Some fair number were "Quakers?"
"The first settlers of Philadelphia were mainly artisans, many of them belonging to the English gentry, who had sold their property and come to America to escape religious persecution. To this class belonged Peter Stretch. He soon became an important figure in the social, political and economic life of Philadelphia."
 

rstl99

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Interesting discussion Jim, but not very applicable to Sully in my opinion. When he died he was said to have converted from the Anglican religion to Catholicism. And he was baptized in the Anglican church of St. Mary's in Stogumber, Somerset.

His three children born in Leiden Netherlands were baptized at the Pieterskerk protestant church.

All that to say that there is no evidence of him being affiliated with the Quakers, nor that there was any religious reason for his leaving London to settle in the Netherlands.

Regards
--Robert
 

Rich Newman

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I think that Huygen's successful design for the balance spring began a huge steady increase in demand for watches. Those that were engaged in watchmaking in that last quarter of the 17th century and had the credentials and reputation (e.g. Fromanteel's, Tompion and others) made a lot of money. Within a short period of time, certainly by 1710 (in my view) the standard balance spring, verge, and fusee technology was widespread. We see many examples of what we think of today as "English" characteristics being made from Augsburg to Holland in big numbers, and Holland was in the forefront of technology across many disciplines. I think there was an oversupply. Imports were a big issue - - the word "London" on watches meant "Quality" so attracted a lot of makers and a lot of fakes. The guild is busy trying to benefit its members (that's why guilds existed) and keep competition out, and deny foreign patent/invention claims. I note also that reputable watchmakers in London were ordering finished and unfinished movements from Lancashire at this time (and no-doubt buying up deceased and bankrupt maker's parts). They were businessmen foremost and needed to squeeze every pence they could. Times were hard. Many went bankrupt during the first quarter of the 18th century. So, maybe Sully like those who immigrated to America also at this time, went with the idea of making money. They just could not make a lot of money in London anymore unless they had capital and connections. How many makers had the power to circumvent the spirit of the apprentice & journeymen rules and produce thousands of London watches? As we know, Tompion and a few others could. Just saying that we think about this time with romance and use words like "the golden age". I think for most watchmakers, it was subsistence living but at least a living. Very few died wealthy.
 

novicetimekeeper

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They were businessmen foremost and needed to squeeze every pence they could. Times were hard. Many went bankrupt during the first quarter of the 18th century. So, maybe Sully like those who immigrated to America also at this time, went with the idea of making money. They just could not make a lot of money in London anymore unless they had capital and connections. How many makers had the power to circumvent the spirit of the apprentice & journeymen rules and produce thousands of London watches? As we know, Tompion and a few others could. Just saying that we think about this time with romance and use words like "the golden age". I think for most watchmakers, it was subsistence living but at least a living. Very few died wealthy.
A former Master of the CC, sadly no longer with us, always said that one of the things that held up development of clocks (and watches) in the UK was a lack of customers. Other countries in Europe had more princes, more nobles, and as a result more competition among them to have the best and the latest. It may well be that was still the draw to leave London as late as 1705.
 

rstl99

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Those that were engaged in watchmaking in that last quarter of the 17th century and had the credentials and reputation (e.g. Fromanteel's, Tompion and others) made a lot of money. [...] Within a short period of time, certainly by 1710 (in my view) the standard balance spring, verge, and fusee technology was widespread. [...] I think there was an oversupply. Imports were a big issue [...] Times were hard. Many went bankrupt during the first quarter of the 18th century. So, maybe Sully like those who immigrated to America also at this time, went with the idea of making money. They just could not make a lot of money in London anymore unless they had capital and connections. How many makers had the power to circumvent the spirit of the apprentice & journeymen rules and produce thousands of London watches? As we know, Tompion and a few others could. Just saying that we think about this time with romance and use words like "the golden age". I think for most watchmakers, it was subsistence living but at least a living. Very few died wealthy.
Very good points you raised Rich. Yes, I suppose we think of the great names of the "Golden Age" and it's easy to forget the many many other makers who struggled to make ends meet, not to mention all the workers making the individual parts going into the watch movements, or the frame makers supplying movements to the big names, many of those lower on the manufacturing pyramid no doubt had an even harder go of it, the women making those tiny fusee chains, the women guilding the parts and ruining their health, etc. etc.
And I suppose that being a recognized maker by the CC did not necessarily guarantee success. As you point out Rich, "capital and connections" were necessary ingredients to establishing oneself for future success. So it seems that the second possible reason I raised in my original post (possibly in combination with some of the other ones) resonates with some of you, and offers possible reasons for Sully to seek "greener pastures", where being a trained English watchmaker would lend him increased status on the Continent, England being the recognized world leader in quality of watchmaking at the time. Sully was probably not the first or last English horologist to leave the UK for similar reasons. Some makers seem to have made a decent go of it in the provinces, not getting rich but living a comfortable life raising their families, being an upstanding member of their communities (some work I did on Colchester makers revealed that perspective to me in a clear way). But competition must have been very fierce around London, between the big players, and all the upcoming "wannabees".

A former Master of the CC, sadly no longer with us, always said that one of the things that held up development of clocks (and watches) in the UK was a lack of customers. Other countries in Europe had more princes, more nobles, and as a result more competition among them to have the best and the latest. It may well be that was still the draw to leave London as late as 1705.
Yes Nick that is a good point too too. Lots of royalty and levels of aristocracy on the Continent needing to be supplied with quality timepieces of all kinds. Although I suppose it must be remembered that England was exporting a lot of timepieces at the time, since their higher quality watches were sought after in the circles of discriminating customers on the Continent and beyond.

When Sully met Julien LeRoy around 1715, LeRoy recalls (writing in 1737):

A common friend, Mr. Blakey of London, skillful spring-maker, whom [Sully] had asked to introduce him to a known horloger, brought him to me, Rue des Petits Augustins. Since our first conversation we argued about the merits of English and French watches, but I felt I defended the weaker side: Parisian watches, especially the repeating ones, lagged behind those of London because they were only half as expensive, which prevented most if not all horlogers to produce works as finished and perfect in all regards, as they were capable of.
Through his writings and his leading up a couple of watchmaking schools/factories around Paris, a few years later, which involved him bringing over 60 or so English workers and their families, Sully greatly assisted the knowledge transfer between English-trained horologists and the French workers being trained and hired in the factories, which eventually helped France to raise its capabilities of producing fine watches, and compete better with England in years to come. LeRoy became one of the leaders in the French watchmaking resurgence, as we well know.

I'm sure that Sully could not predict any of this when he decided to move from London to the Netherlands 10 years before he met LeRoy in Paris, but he seems to have been an opportunity-seeker his whole life, and life seems to offer opportunities to well prepared and driven individuals like he was.
 
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Allan C. Purcell

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Hi Rich, A real good summary of the way things were at that period, many forget that Tompion spent a large part of his life in Europe, but little is known of what he was doing there. Though is wealth and contacts is what we see after he arrived in London.

I must say though the answer lays with Chamberlain page 119. A small quote from the Chamberlain book "It´s About Time"

" Sully´s gift of conversation not only won (Five languages) for him the ready appreciation of Prince Eugene but of the Duke dÁremberg and the Count de Bonneval. all of whom gave him the best of everything. They were attached to the army on the Rhine where, as horologist extraordinary, he had the care of their watches, and repaired those of several titled Germans, who knew his friends and paid their respects to his skill. The peace made between the Emperor of Austria and the King of France decided the Duke d´Aremberg to go to Paris. He wished to express his appreciation of M. Sully, and gave him a pension equivalent to 600 pounds and installed him an apartment at the Hotel dÁnsbac opposite the rue Saint Benoit, where he lived on his arrival from Germany."

A young and talented horologist in Europe, what else could Sully have wanted. The end though was very sad. I will leave that for others.

Allan.
 

rstl99

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Hi Allan, thanks for chiming into this thread, and for taking the time to type an excerpt from Chamberlain's 3 page summary of Sully's life, which was for me the impetus to try to flesh out his life more fully, as there was only so much that the Major could fit into that summary, based on documents available to him at the time.

I purposely left Sully's name out of the subject line because I wanted the focus to remain on the decision to leave London for the Continent, as a freshly trained young English horologist just after the turn of the century. There is obviously a lot more to say about Sully's life (my monograph is probably up to around 20-30 pages now, and I've yet to cover many of the well-known episodes around his last twelve years, spent mostly around Paris, so will have lots to write about that in due time). And yes there is some tragedy in how the course of his life ended, but there are many more dimensions to that than what has typically been portrayed in the few accounts of his life that have come down to us so far.

The leaving-London decision was one that I was particularly interested in (and hoped to be the focus of this thread), because it essentially set a trajectory for the rest of Sully's life, much different than if he had decided to set himself up as one of the several London watch-clockmakers, or go back to Somerset and ply his trade there. Obviously, his open-mindedness and wanderlust set him on a different path, and there was no looking back.

I have not read much about Tompion's life story, or that he had spent, as you suggest, "a large part of his life in Europe". I had however come across the fact that at one time he had a passport to travel to the Netherlands, so had made a note of that.

I suppose many English-speaking horological historians have painted a picture of London as a sort of "Mecca" for watch and clockmakers in that "golden age", because of the quality of the timepieces produced there, and their reputation of excellence around the world at the time. It was certainly an attractor to a lot of foreign horologists, and not only Huguenot refugees. But as Allan points out, for some English horologists (Sully being only one of probably many), continental Europe certainly had its attraction as well, so it wasn't just a one-way street. And as Nick pointed out, the continent (and beyond) represented a very large market of affluent horological enthusiasts and customers.

Regards,
--Robert
 
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rstl99

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I really find all this research fascinating Robert.
I wasn't actually looking for Sully but he is mentioned
What the history of England's clockmakers tells us about free enterprise and prosperity | American Enterprise Institute - AEI
So possibly they may have been lured out for their skills?
Dan
Hi Dan, yes this subject is indeed fascinating, and Sully's life story provides a window into very interesting social and trade dynamics between England and European nations insofar as horological practices are concerned, at that interesting juncture.

Interesting article you provided a link to. The statement about Sully is obviously simplified and in part incorrect and misleading, which is one reason I've decided to write his story once and for all, getting as close to the original historical sources as I can, and dispell once and for all the various myths and un-truths surrounding his life.

The famous English clockmaker and horologist Henry Sully (1680-1728) was imported to be clockmaker to the Duke of Orléans. But all of Sully’s efforts, even his importation of sixty skilled English craftsmen, could not overbalance the retarding forces in French society, and his workshops at Versailles and St. Germain were soon abandoned.

Sully was not "imported to be clockmaker to the Duke of Orléans", rather he spent many years living and working in the Netherlands, Germany and Austria (Vienna) before relocating to Paris and only after some time getting recognized because of presentations he made to the Science Academy, and influential patrons opening doors on his behalf.

Indeed, he was eventually approached by Scottish financier John Law, who had ingratiated himself to the Duke of Orléans (the regent at the time to the future Louis XV), and given free rein to apply some of his financial theories to the poor condition of the French economy that followed the death of Louis XIV (who had shall we say, a bit of an extravagant approach to life as a monarch). One of Law's ideas was to bring over English tradesmen and setup factories in France based on superior English knowledge in areas like steel-making, fabric making, and yes, watch and clockmaking. Following Sully's successes with the Academy, Sully entrusted him with setting up a watch/clock factory (and school) in Versailles, and this is where he went back to England and enticed 60 or so trained horological workers to come to France with their families, get housed and treated well, and work at the factory that Henry managed. That whole story is rather complex and will be one of the next sections in my ever-growing monograph, but indeed the factory only lasted a couple of years, and another one that Sully created suffered the same fate. England then devoted considerable money to repatriate those workers and their families.

So that is an example of horological workers being imported into a European country (France in this case). But coming back to Sully, there is no evidence whatsoever that his decision to leave London for the Netherlands as a young man had anything to do with something like that.

Robert
 

roughbarked

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His three children born in Leiden Netherlands were baptized at the Pieterskerk protestant church.



Regards
--Robert
This was the bit I was looking for. Don't know if others posted about it after this post you made. He could well have moved to the Nederlands because he found someone who knocked his clogs off.
 
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DeanT

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Where did he live in London before he left?
 

rstl99

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This was the bit I was looking for. Don't know if others posted about it after this post you made. He could well have moved to the Nederlands because he found someone who knocked his clogs off.
Yes that is an interesting thought. See the short list of facts below.

Where did he live in London before he left?
I don't know Dean, and am not so sure how to find that using online research only.

Here are the facts for Sully at this conjecture in his life, as I've been able to establish to date:

1694 - Oct 23 - Begins his apprenticeship with Charles Gretton on Fleet Street London
1702? - Completes his apprenticeship with Gretton (and hired as journeyman with him?)
1703 - Meets Wren, Newton and others and discusses plans for marine timekeeper
1705 - Becomes freeman of the Clockmaker's Company
1705 - Apr 2 - Takes in Samuel James as apprentice
1707 - Aug 20 - Christening in the Hague of Anna Sully, daughter of Henry Sully and Anna Horton
1708-1710 - Christening of three other children in Leiden, of Henry and Anna

In the two year period between Apr 1705 and Aug 1707, Sully evidently married Anna (or Anne) Horton, whom I presume was an English girl, abandoned his apprentice and practice in London, and fathered a child who was christened in The Hague.

I suppose it's possible that Anna Horton may in fact have been living in the Netherlands (there were no doubt several English families living there for various reasons), and may have met Sully while visiting family members in London (or while Sully had been traveling alone in the Netherlands for some reason, away from shop and apprentice), then enticed Sully to move to the Netherlands and marry her there. (I suppose this is the "knock his clogs off" scenario rather colourfully put forward by Rough...)

Or they may have met in London, married, and then decided to move to the Netherlands. In this scenario, Sully would have been the primary driver for the move, and it comes back to my original question. Why?

I have not found a marriage record for Henry and Anna, either in London or in the Netherlands, using online search tools at my disposal.

I should point out that Anna Horton sadly died sometime after giving birth to their fourth child, which means that young Henry found himself a widower with four very young children, trying to make a living as best he could, until he met and married a Parisian woman six years later, in 1716.

This family dimension or dynamic in Sully's life has never been mentioned by anyone who's written about him over the centuries, and is something I will try to weave into my monograph about his life, as I feel it explains some of his later decisions in life (to provide for several children). I feel that family is an important dimension in anyone's life, although I understand that many horological enthusiasts prefer to focus their attention primarily on the maker's credentials, professional contacts, horological inventions and timepieces.

So there we are. If anyone has suggestions on how to clarify what may have happened during those years 1705-1707, please feel free to suggest.

Regards,
--Robert
 
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John Matthews

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Or they may have met in London, married,
- there is also the possibility that although they meet in the UK, the young Sully didn't meet the expectations of the Horton family and, particularly if Anna became pregnant, a flight to the Netherlands might have been to escape the Horton family wrath.

Robert, as always your posts are most informative and reflect the quality of the research that you do.

I have an interest in Sully's patent of 1721, because of the use of the escapement in some of the 'Ormskirk' watches. Any information you can post on the escapement would be very much appreciated.

John
 

rstl99

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Hi John,
Indeed, you suggest another possible scenario for Sully's departure for the Netherlands...

I should point out another fact I've determined. At the christening for Sully's 3rd and 4th children, in Leiden, one of the witnesses is identified as "Jean Horton" (male, since the other witnesses are women). So that suggests a father or brother of wife Anna also residing in Leiden at the time, which provides some argument in favour of Sully having moved to the Netherlands to live with his wife (to-be?), whose family probably already was living there.

I will reply to you in a PM about the patent issue you raised.

Regards,
--Robert
 

eri231

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Sully never been at the war!!
Prince Eugene of Savoy had taken a liking to Sully and opened the doors of his library in Vienna to him. he also met the Duke of Aremberg his patron and the Count of Bonneval in this period Sully repaired the watches of the general and official. Following the peace the Duke of Aremberg brought Sully to Paris where he stayed at the Hotel d'Ansbach and a sum of 600 lire to live
regards enrico
 

rstl99

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This is 1708 and not sure where the information came from
A Sideways Look at Time
Yes, interesting how these things come up, isn't it?
It was Chamberlain who put this out, from whatever sources he used, when he wrote: "They [Eugene, d'Aremberg and Bonneval] were attached to the army on the Rhine where, as horologist extraordinary, he had the care of their watches, and repaired those of several titled Germans, who knew his friends and paid their respects to his skill."
 

rstl99

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Sully never been at the war!!
Prince Eugene of Savoy had taken a liking to Sully and opened the doors of his library in Vienna to him. he also met the Duke of Aremberg his patron and the Count of Bonneval in this period Sully repaired the watches of the general and official. Following the peace the Duke of Aremberg brought Sully to Paris where he stayed at the Hotel d'Ansbach and a sum of 600 lire to live
regards enrico
Yes Enrico, I think we need to rely on Julien LeRoy's telling of events, which you have summarized well. After all, he knew him well.

In researching and writing this monograph on Sully, I am purposely questioning and sometimes challenging some of the things that have been written (and often repeated) about him over the decades. There are many such inconsistencies and inaccuracies in what several people have written about him over the years, and hopefully I can help dispel or correct some of them. Though getting at the basic facts is not always easy, dealing with a horologist who died almost 300 years ago,

Well, I started this thread to discuss Sully's motivation and decision to leave London and establish himself in the Netherlands, and I'd rather leave it to that for now. Too many other rabbit holes to fall in, otherwise.

Regards,
Robert
 

D.th.munroe

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Yes sorry about those Robert,
I was looking for something older, I usually try to find the oldest, but the sort by "date published" doesn't work anymore
 

John Matthews

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Robert - you probably have these records of Sully's children ...

1708 0714 Henry Sully record.JPG 1708 0714 Henry Sully.JPG 1709 0721 Jean Sully record.JPG 1709 0721 Jean Sully.JPG

1710 1130 Henrietta Sullij record.JPG 1710 1130 Henrietta Sullij.JPG

I also found this property record ...

1709 Henrij Sullij.JPG

and this which might indicate that the 'Sully family' had an existing presence in the Netherlands ...

1682 0514 Catharina Sully.JPG

one of the witnesses is identified as "Jean Horton" (male, since the other witnesses are women)
I assume this is a reference to the 21 July 1709 record of Jean Sully's birth - but I didn't understand why you infer that there needs to be both male and female witnesses, could they not all be female?

The transcriber (probably American) was unable to decide whether the child 'Jean' was male or female, however, if I enhance the record ...

1709 0721 Jean Sully record.jpg

I can see that the entry begins 'Jean Fils ...' so we can be certain that Jean was a boy and therefore it seems reasonable that the witness was also male.

John
 

rstl99

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Thank you John, for sharing this information with the group here. Pretty impressive that you came up with that information just like that. It took me several hours poring through Hague and Leiden church records to find the baptismal records for Henry and Anna's 4 children.
You must have access to some very efficient genealogical research engine!

Nice to have that reference to a property record for Henry in Leiden.

Yes indeed Jean was a boy, and you have reached the same conclusion as I about Jean Horton being a male witness.

Just another family-related fact while we're on the subject: a reference to a 1729 legal document I found, to settle the estate of Henry, lists 5 surviving children. Three of the ones born in the Netherlands, and two additional ones, no doubt born out of his second marriage, with Parisian Angélique Potel. The indication is that poor young Jean, Henry's second son, did not survive. Childhood deaths, of course, were not uncommon in those times, but still this is a tragedy that would mark any man. As would have been the loss of his first wife, sometime after the birth of their fourth child.

Now if you feel inspired by genealogical research, and indeed do have access to a rather nifty search engine, it would be great if you could locate the record for Henry's marriage to Anna Horton (either in The Hague or London, I presume)... ;)

Cheers,
--Robert
 

rstl99

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The online record for the baptism of Henry's first child, born in the Hague, has a most interesting witness identified: Nicholas Massy. From the draft of my monograph:

Nicholas Massy (III) is another interesting figure to be associated with Sully at that time, in The Hague. He was the son of Nicholas (II), a French Huguenot refugee in London who had run a watchmaking business on Cranbourn Street until his death in 1698. Nicholas (III) settled in The Hague in 1700. Possibly, he might have known young Sully while he was apprenticed with Gretton, and encouraged him to join him in the Netherlands sometime after 1705. They must have been quite close, for Massy to agree to be a witness at the christening of Sully's first child. Nicholas Massy went on to win the second prize in 1720 by the Académie des Sciences de Paris, on the subject of marine navigation. The first prize was won by Jean-Pierre Crouzaz, a professor of philosophy and mathematics at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland.

Some research has suggested that Massy may have been a practicing clockmaker in Lausanne at that time. In 'The Marine Chronometer', Gould scribbled a note in the margin about Massy's writing on the subject, saying that "I have a copy, but have never had time to read it through. It appears to be devastatingly dull and I can read most things about byegone technology." Gould goes on to suggest that Massy's prize "may have served to re-awaken Sully's interest in the subject, for in 1721 he began the construction of a marine timekeeper upon a new principle".


As indicated in the excerpt above, I could see a possibility that Sully may have been drawn to relocate to the Hague on the invitation or advice of his fellow London horologist Massy.

Robert
 
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John Matthews

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Robert

Sorry, I am afraid I haven't been able to locate details of the marriage to Anna Horton - I thought I had cracked it with this ...

upload_2020-9-9_11-36-18.png

but alas 1757 hardly fits. This marriage taking place in Exeter. Probably a coincidence, or could there family connections have continued to later generations? ...

John
 

rstl99

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Thank you for looking John, my own research has not proved fruitful in this regard either. Maybe that information will come up in the future, or maybe some things about a person's history are meant never to be found, and we are meant to keep thinking and wondering. In any case, Sully's move to the Netherlands was a definitive step in his life, whatever the reasons for it were (and this thread has offered more than enough possibilities). His life would not have been the same had he decided to remain in London and run a watchmaking shop which would have been the more sensible thing to do. But Henry Sully was not that type of man, and horological history would not have evolved quite the same way had he taken that path, as his contributions (small or large depending on one's perspective) would likely not have been as noteworthy.

At least, through this thread (and later, through the monograph I am working on) horological enthusiasts will be aware of some personal aspects of Henry's life that I discovered (and John confirmed), that he was married twice, had six children. I feel that many of the future decisions and endeavours in his life have to be understood with the perspective of his need to provide for the family members who depended on him.

Thanks to all who have contributed ideas to this thread. It will help me to write a more interesting chapter on this part of Sully's life journey.

Regards,
--Robert
 
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rstl99

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(Conversation on this subject moved to this forum, from European Watches, as I felt it was a better fit here, for long term archival and reference purposes).
 

Rich Newman

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Robert, I was looking recently at Sabrier's, La Longitude en mer á l'heure de Louis Berthoud et Henri Motel, the book about Louis Berthoud and Henri Motel, and there is a very complementary description of Sully's work. I've attached a picture of that page in case you haven't seen it.

Sully.jpg
 

rstl99

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Hi Rich,
Thanks for thinking of sharing this from your reading. Indeed, it's a nice concise summary of some of the commonly known facts about Sully and his work. I have collected many many other facts from various sources, some of them contemporary, to weave together into a life story of Henry Sully when I finally have the time to do so. Unearthing new elements all the time, to help weave the (admittedly forever incomplete) tapestry of his life and work.

I disagree with the statement in that writeup, that Sully's marine clock (and watch) were "tested at sea without success". This is an oft-repeated erroneous summary of what in fact was a much more positive event, though flawed and incomplete. Some of the inherent technologies (escapement, temperature compensation, etc.) needed to make a reliable marine clock-watch, just weren't yet available to Sully in the 1720s, and would await Harrison and above all Pierre Le Roy to perfect them several decades later. Sully was just a little ahead of his time, and paved the way for those who came after (Le Roy and Berthoud in France).

By the way, an article I wrote for AHS will be published shortly in Antiquarian Horology, focusing on Sully's friendship with Julien Le Roy, and on their long collaboration and friendship during the last 14 years of Sully's life.

Cheers,
Robert
 
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