brag Late 18th Century Vale & Co Coventry Pocket Watch

John Matthews

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Is there a book on tool markings that help trace any of the 20-50 crafts people who worked at that time
Astral - if I understand your request, i.e. is there a book that will list all the people who may have worked on your watch? the answer is no.

Very, very few of the workers left their mark on the component of the watch that they made. You do sometimes, when the watch is dismantled for service/restoration, find maker's initials on the two main plates that support the escapement. Through research it may be possible to identify a short list of possible candidates, by matching the initials to listings of workers at the time. This is by referring to contemporary trade directories.

C18th trade directories are thin on the ground. Your watch was finished in Coventry, but it is probable that much of the initial work producing the plates and the escapement into an unfinished state, was performed in Lancashire, in and around Prescot. There is a trade directory for 1795 which you can find on this site. If you read through you will see many occupation descriptions of workers involved in the watch trade. Prescot was very much the industrial hub for watchmaking at this time and some of those listed may have worked on your watch.

In contrast the listing for Coventry are not so detailed and the occupation of those involved is simply described as watch & clock maker. It is not until we move to the Coventry directories of the C19th, when the industry in the town expanded, that we find more detailed descriptions. This does not mean that some of the workers were not performing the tasks described in the Prescot directory, but they would have been relatively few. Those that did were, in my opinion, likely to have been working almost exclusively for the dominant watch maker at the time, Vale & Co. Even in those cases they were probably working on movements that had started their life in Lancashire.

Here is the listing from a Coventry trade directory from the time your watch was finished.

1623413962352.png

and this from 1818 - when occupations were starting to be described in more detail ...

1623414055215.png

Hope that helps.

John
 
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Allan C. Purcell

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Astral, let's talk about your watch key. On the first photograph on post one, there looks to be a dirty piece of old string tied to the watch at one end and the key at the other. In fact, I believe this is a homemade watch chain, made of human hair. It was a fashion at the time your watch was made. (See photograph one below). The key looks very much like the keys made by local jewellers or even watchmakers of the same period. Finding another would be hard indeed. Watch keys come in every type and style you can imagine, there are of course those made for the wealthy that fetch now a fortune in their own right down to the chap at home who made them because he could. To make this short, the key you have and the hair chain COULD be original, but how to prove it is beyond me, all I can say is it's 50-50 .

zzz-13.jpg These were on sale not to long ago by Dr Crott. These are the keys for the upper 10,000.

zzz-14.JPG

These I just put together, the outer is a Hair Chain like the one on your watch, the inner one is for a gentleman's pocket watch, The round key with the amber button is homemade with a Swedish coin dated 1778. Have a look when you have time at the thread "Pocket Watch Key-Show me your Keys".

R/.

Allan
 

gmorse

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Hi Astral,

To expand on what John has posted, this is a list of the trades involved in watchmaking, published in the Rees Cyclopedia in 1819/20. There are several terms in it which may not be familiar now, but please ask if anything is obscure.

Regards,

Graham
 

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AstralGraham

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May 30, 2021
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Astral - if I understand your request, i.e. is there a book that will list all the people who may have worked on your watch? the answer is no.

Very, very few of the workers left their mark on the component of the watch that they made. You do sometimes, when the watch is dismantled for service/restoration, find maker's initials on the two main plates that support the escapement. Through research it may be possible to identify a short list of possible candidates, by matching the initials to listings of workers at the time. This is by referring to contemporary trade directories.

C18th trade directories are thin on the ground. Your watch was finished in Coventry, but it is probable that much of the initial work producing the plates and the escapement into an unfinished state, was performed in Lancashire, in and around Prescot. There is a trade directory for 1795 which you can find on this site. If you read through you will see many occupation descriptions of workers involved in the watch trade. Prescot was very much the industrial hub for watchmaking at this time and some of those listed may have worked on your watch.

In contrast the listing for Coventry are not so detailed and the occupation of those involved is simply described as watch & clock maker. It is not until we move to the Coventry directories of the C19th, when the industry in the town expanded, that we find more detailed descriptions. This does not mean that some of the workers were not performing the tasks described in the Prescot directory, but they would have been relatively few. Those that did were, in my opinion, likely to have been working almost exclusively for the dominant watch maker at the time, Vale & Co. Even in those cases they were probably working on movements that had started their life in Lancashire.

Here is the listing from a Coventry trade directory from the time your watch was finished.

View attachment 658455

and this from 1818 - when occupations were starting to be described in more detail ...

View attachment 658456

Hope that helps.

John
Thanks so very much John. I am so drivin and will be at our house in Windsor MO just 8 miles away from the Lewis Cemetery. Tha k you times a million. I’m checking those out now. Cheers and thanks!. .
 

AstralGraham

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May 30, 2021
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Ah
Astral, let's talk about your watch key. On the first photograph on post one, there looks to be a dirty piece of old string tied to the watch at one end and the key at the other. In fact, I believe this is a homemade watch chain, made of human hair. It was a fashion at the time your watch was made. (See photograph one below). The key looks very much like the keys made by local jewellers or even watchmakers of the same period. Finding another would be hard indeed. Watch keys come in every type and style you can imagine, there are of course those made for the wealthy that fetch now a fortune in their own right down to the chap at home who made them because he could. To make this short, the key you have and the hair chain COULD be original, but how to prove it is beyond me, all I can say is it's 50-50 .

View attachment 658457 These were on sale not to long ago by Dr Crott. These are the keys for the upper 10,000.

View attachment 658458

These I just put together, the outer is a Hair Chain like the one on your watch, the inner one is for a gentleman's pocket watch, The round key with the amber button is homemade with a Swedish coin dated 1778. Have a look when you have time at the thread "Pocket Watch Key-Show me your Keys".

R/.

Allan
ahhahaha! I love your keys! So beautiful. The thread is knitted in places - it came that way a bit like a rosary bu with 3-6 knobs. It has a flower and you have a key that looks l’immolât in size and shape on the second slide with just a head showing on a similar square shape. Thank you for showing me your key collection! W-O-W
 

AstralGraham

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May 30, 2021
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Hi Astral,

That is a beautiful watch! These watches are rarer than most common verge fusee watches. I have seen one other by Vale & Co of this design. I really appreciate you sharing it. I hope you will share some photos of the movement with us.

Unfortunately, I do have to tell you that it is likely not a watch owned by George Washington. It is well documented that George Washington did purchase a watch around 1790 but it was not English.

In 1788, George Washington requested that Gov. Morris procure him a pocket watch in Paris. Morris was very candid in his search for a reputable maker. Romilly was briefly considered but was thought of as too 'old school' and a 'rogue'. In the end, Washington purchased a virgule escapement by the inventor himself, Lepine. You can read the letter in the link below. There is also an old video of it being inspected and cleaned by the curators of the institute that owns it, but I can't seem to locate it.

Founders Online: To George Washington from Gouverneur Morris, 23 February 1789
To George Washington from Gouverneur Morris, 23 February 1789
founders.archives.gov
founders.archives.gov

Here is an interesting link to a record of Presidential watches:

Kind Regards,
Chris
Hi Chris,

Although this is quite earlier, I found this in some archives of an Invoice from Robert Cary & Company, who Betty & George later garnered purchases through.

I really appreciate all of your help.
 

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AstralGraham

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May 30, 2021
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I have not had much luck looking up "1798/99 and the maker's mark IH (unfortunately it appears to have been double stamped), is for John Hadley."

More to follow - I've ordered some old wills from a Colonial Records database through my graduate school: Johns Hopkins University.
 

gmorse

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Hi Astral,
I have not had much luck looking up "1798/99 and the maker's mark IH (unfortunately it appears to have been double stamped), is for John Hadley."
John was using the standard reference book for hallmarks in English watch cases, 'British Watchcase Gold & Silver Marks 1670 to 1970', by Philip T. Priestley. There are other references for gold and silver articles in general but this book is the only one dedicated to watch cases.

All silver and gold workers had to be registered in one or more of the UK assay offices, and they had to have a unique stamp, usually of their initials, which couldn't be used by more than one worker at a time, so there's a variety of shield shapes and fonts to differentiate the marks. John Hadley registered this particular mark at Goldsmith's Hall in London on August 9th 1817, which involved stamping his punch into a metal sheet and having his name and address details recorded in an associated ledger. These plates and ledgers have fortunately largely survived for London and many other assay offices around the country, and are the source for the extensive research by Philip Priestley for his book.

Three assay offices are most met with in English watch cases; London, Birmingham and Chester, others are much less common, (Liverpool, a major watchmaking centre, has never had its own assay office).

Regards,

Graham
 

Dr. Jon

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There is small chance of finding the people who built your watch. The Guildhall Library in London has the collected papers of the Clockmakers guild, which included many watchmakers.. These include the ledgers of several makers. If they have the ledger for Vale for the time you watch was made, it will have a page listing each trade a name or initials, what they were paid, and when. I have several 19th century watches and the work pages for them. As a bonus there is lot to see and do there if you visit the hall. Most of teh clocks and watches went to the Science Museum but I beleive the paper are still at the Guildhall Library,

Here is a sample.

page_s.jpg

This is from 1903 and came from a private source but it is the same type of information. The last two 5 shilling entries were a=for conversion from a full to a half hunter case. Each page has the serial number for the watch.

In this I am assuming this system was on place in the late 1700's, that the ledgers survived and that the Guildhall Library has them, but they are available for a lot of English watches,
 

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