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Must see: Peter Litherland 1792 Rack Lever Patent.... The Actual Document!

aucaj

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This is the ACTUAL patent issued to Peter Litherland in 1792! The documents include the original Principal Letters Patent 1792 under seals of George III of Great Britain and Ireland and a handwritten certificate on watermarked paper from David Ewart, clerk to the Chancery of Scotland, addressed personally to Peter Litherland. The documents are still housed in their original leather patent boxes.

The patent was granted to Peter Litherland at the "Chancery of Scotland" on the 2nd March last ...sic...30th June, 1792". There are four "animal parchment" patent documents which detail as Latchford wrote "an entire escapement to be applied to watches... for sea or land...producing greater certainty of time than hither to invented being more simple and less likely to be out of repair...especially for ascertaining the longitude at sea at much less expense than those now used". These documents are the patent of "The Rack-Lever Escapement; a beating seconds & keyless winding work".

QUESTIONS:
Under British patent law, these documents would grant Litherland the right to the rack lever design and production for 14 years. So this would mean that no other watchmakers could produce a rack lever until 1806 without a written agreement with Litherland. One of the most famous and prolific rack lever watchmakers was Robert Roskell whose shop was next door to Litherland's.

1) When did Robert Roskell start producing rack levers?

2) If it was before 1806, did he have a written contract with Litherland to pay him royalties? Or did Roskell only start producing rack levers after expiration of Litherland's patent in 1806?

3) Did Litherland produce rack levers for retailers and other watchmakers during the period of his patent?

R/
Chris

Photos can be found here Full Lot Details (henry-aldridge.co.uk)
 
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Allan C. Purcell

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Robert Roskell did produce Rack Levers before 1806, many of them have Patent on the cock or LP (Litherland Patent). Wonderful photographs of the Patent, thank you for sharing.

Allan.
 
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tick talk

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Question: what is the back story here, how did you acquire this amazing document?
 

John Matthews

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The signature on the document in the next Lot (#157) attracted even more attention than the Litherland patent ...


John
 

aucaj

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Yes, I came across the auction of this important document while researching the origins of an interesting pocket watch. Litherland's copy of his patent sold for $5800 in 2018, accounting for commission and currency conversion. Since it was most likely bought by a private collector, I thought it would be important to post it to the NAWCC community. After all, it may be the only opportunity for any of us to see it now that it may spend the next several years or even decades in a private collection before it resurfaces.

However, I am also seeking to locate experts in Litherland and Roskell through the interest generated by this post. I have included a few general questions, and I have hopes that some members may post photos of Litherland rack levers that he produced for retailers and other shops.

In the near future, I will post my research into my particular pocket watch and its origins. I still have a lot of questions to answer. I would appreciate if any Litherland scholars would post or reach out to me in the meantime.

Thank you,
Chris
 

Allan C. Purcell

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Hi Chris, have a look at this, it just might help. You can see the early Roskell watches are very much like Litherlands, especially the watch cocks.

Good luck with your research.

Allan.
 

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aucaj

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Chris, An example of a Litherland rack lever, # 620… Unusual feature is it has a going barrel and 3 wheel train..Exact dating is difficult as it is housed in a gilt pair case, no hallmarks, which appears to be an original… interesting “side by side” dial..

View attachment 660389 View attachment 660390 View attachment 660391 View attachment 660392
Hi John,

That is a most unique and beautiful watch! I don't believe I have ever seen one exactly like it! It must have been a special request from the customer... maybe a doctor? Very interesting piece :)

Kind Regards,
Chris
 

Allan C. Purcell

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John, very pleased indeed you put this on the board, thank you, I think many of our members will be pleased to see this. I hate to say this, but the number 620 reads 680 or is it the photograph. No matter beautiful early Litherland.

Thanks again,

Allan.
 

gmorse

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Hi Chris,
That is a most unique and beautiful watch! I don't believe I have ever seen one exactly like it! It must have been a special request from the customer... maybe a doctor? Very interesting piece
Peter Litherland is said to have loved experimenting, (articles in AH of June 1962 by Vaudrey Mercer and March 2010 by David Evans), and didn't confine his inventiveness to watches, but also developed and patented a system for maintaining forte-pianos in tune, (having wooden frames they were notoriously prone to going out of tune).

Whilst this watch of John's is certainly unusual, it may not have been a special order; other watches by him have going barrels and the dial layout could be a piece of lateral thinking on his part.

Regards,

Graham
 

John Matthews

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John a lovely watch.

I checked the photographs of Litherland racks that I have. There are a few early ones that have a going barrel and as far as I can tell they are in the minority, often with a three wheel train, in gilt pair cases and appearing to have a superior finish - particularly the dials and hands. I believe your example probably dates from 1795-1800 and it may have an early one-way slide.

Are there any marks under the watch papers on the outer case or on the underside of the cap?

The signature the watch paper - George Border was active in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, from at least 1826 to 1860s in Northgate -

1826

1624700313182.png


Subsequently, in the 1880s Mrs Mary Ann Border occupied premises at 20 Northgate, daughter-in-law perhaps.

1882

1624701602042.png

John
 
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John Matthews

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Update - George Border in the 1868 directory ...

1624708424109.png

whether North Street and Northgate both refer to the same premises I don't know.

By 1872 he is not listed, but Mrs Border is, again at North Street.

1624708597843.png

in 1882 & 1885 the address reverts to Northgate and the last entry is in 1889 at an address in Market Street.

1624709578475.png

Perhaps George had a younger wife and she continued with the business, rather than my conjecture of daughter-in-law.

John
 

Allan C. Purcell

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Hi John, This could help with the dating, maybe. I am thinking of doing a file on Litherland, will let you know how I get on. If anyone has a Peter Litherland I would be pleased to see and file it.

Best wishes,

Allan.
 

Jerry Treiman

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This is not specifically Peter Litherland, but very shortly following - LItherland & Co., No.1625. The pair case carries a Chester hallmark for 1800.
Lith1625_fb.jpg Lith1625_m.jpg Lith1625_ibpc.jpg
 

Allan C. Purcell

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This is not specifically Peter Litherland, but very shortly following - Litherland & Co., No.1625. The paired case carries a Chester hallmark for 1800.
Hi Jerry, very nice early watch by Litherland. I have started the file, so could you please let me know the escape wheel teeth number and the case- maker. and is it a 3 wheel or 4?

Regards,

Allan.

PS: From what I have seen so far on these Litherland & Co, watches, they were all Litherland & Co. but must wait and see. I also think there are some made before the "Patent"
 

Lychnobius

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I too would like to thank Chris for bringing these precious documents to our attention.

I believe that some rack-levers signed for Joseph Johnson during the 1810s were actually made by Litherland Whiteside or Litherland Davies. Compare, below, the lettering and cock design of Litherland Whiteside no. 7207 (mine) with Keith Richmond's Joseph Johnson no. 145, the oldest non-verge movement so far known under the Johnson name. However, I cannot point to any example of this from Peter Litherland's own lifetime. Incidentally, no. 7207, which I described here in December 2016 (https://mb.nawcc.org/threads/litherland-whiteside-rack-lever-movement-1810.138653/), is still running.

Oliver Mundy.

litherland_7207_01.jpg johnson_145_richmond.jpg
 
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Allan C. Purcell

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eee-31.JPG eee-30.JPG

Another fine Rack lever, but though I sometimes think Litherland could have had something to do with it, I know it is very fine London work, but the Patent on the rear plate and the dust cap are the only connection. This pocket watch could have been made, or sold, by Thomas Dean of London (Cripplegate) 1817-1819. Later at St. Swithin´s Lane, 1819-44. The cock looks very much like those used by the Brockbanks.

Allan.
 

Jerry Treiman

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Hi Jerry, very nice early watch by Litherland. I have started the file, so could you please let me know the escape wheel teeth number and the case- maker. and is it a 3 wheel or 4? ...
Yes, Allan. It has a 4-wheel train with a 15-tooth escape wheel. The train folds back on itself so that the pallet fork is above the 4th wheel.

The case is marked "NL" in a rectangular cartouche.
inner casemarks.jpg outer casemarks.jpg

In another thread ...
... it was proposed that this might be Nicholas Lee although the mark is not an exact match (lacking a dot). Elsewhere John Matthews suggested it may be Nicholson Lee.

Litherland 1625 edge.jpg
 

Allan C. Purcell

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The case is marked "NL" in a rectangular cartouche.
Thank you, Jerry, all logged in. It seems to be making sense, I think when I start filling in Litherland & Whiteside, and Litherland & Davis there could be anomalies, must wait and see. Does anyone know what happened to the watches in the Royal household? I read somewhere two with going barrels were once there.

Allan
 

Allan C. Purcell

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While searching for watches by the three Litherland firms, there was little point unless I read Vaudrey Mercer´s article in the AHS June 1962, pages 316 to 323. At the end of the article, he publishes the Litherland Patents in plain English 1791 to 1800

Also in the article,
"I am most grateful to the many people who have helped me in my researches, and in particular to Mr Devereux of the Bootle and District Historical Society, who has very kindly given me three foolscap sheets of details concerning the Litherland´s, which he has extracted from the Liverpool Directories. These make fascinating reading, but fascinating though they may be, I am only going to give you a brief summary of these extracts as follows."

1796-Peter Litherland. watchmaker. 21 Mount Pleasent.

1800 & 1803-Peter Litherland, Watchmaker, 12 Commutation Row. (The 1803 entry being deleted by hand)

1804, December-Peter Litherland, died in Liverpool.

1800-1807-Litherland Whiteside & Co. Patent Lever watchmakers Ranelagh Street.

1810-1813- Litherherland, Whiteside & Co. Patent Lever watchmakers, Church Street.

1816-1829- Litherland, Davis & Co. Patent Lever watch manufacturers, Church Street.

1832-1835- Litherland Davis & Co. Chronometer & Watchmakers, Church Street.

r1837-1876-Litherland Davis & Co. Chronometer & Watchmakers, Bold Street

"In 1813 Litherland, Whiteside & Co, are described as watch manufacturers instead of watchmakers. This perhaps means that the firm
was now selling unsigned watches to enable other watch traders to put their names on the watches"

Allan.
 
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Allan C. Purcell

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1) When did Robert Roskell start producing rack levers?
HI Chris,

Robert Roskell did make Rack Levers, and the one below was made in c1798, his firm was only getting started then, and their products at that time were verge watches. There is also the small chance that Peter Litherland made the watch, though once Roskell got started he and his workforce and his dealers in America had sold 10,000 by 1810. The last Rack by Roskell I have on file was 39499 c1825/26. Between other lever watches.
The one below can be wound from front and rear, so John and Graham will be pleased to see it.

eee-32.JPG eee-34.JPG eee-36.JPG eee-37.JPG eee38.JPG

3 wheel train, with slide. 30 tooth escape wheel. Number 172.

So to move on to Peter Litherland and his friends, I have put together a start on their products, I hope you find it of us, and would be pleased to hear from members with Litherland products they have at home or in the bank, that are not listed, and comments on listed watches that could be wrong. In fact, one member sent me five more I had not found only five minutes ago, so there will be an update soon. Still working on the history.:rolleyes:

Have Fun

Allan.
 

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Ethan Lipsig

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At the risk of appearing jejeune, did Litherland invent the rack lever escapement or merely an improvement to it? Were there other patented rack lever improvements? I ask because the balance cock on my circa 1815 M.I. Tobias rack lever is marked "patented." If Litherland's patent protection lapsed in 1806, to what patent was my Tobias referring?
 

Allan C. Purcell

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Hi Ethan,
Let me start with saying there is nothing naive about your questions, I am working on them at this moment. Firstly I have yet to see a Rack leaver without the word patent. I also don´t know if the Litherland patents were carried on by others. but they still put patents on their watches. I take your Tobias was made after 1806? So has I said, still working on it. If you can get access to the AHS June 1962, Vaudrey Mercer talks about the improvements Peter Litherland used or set aside.

Regards,

Allan
 
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gmorse

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Hi Ethan,
...did Litherland invent the rack lever escapement or merely an improvement to it?
The rack lever had been invented in 1722 by the Abbé de Hautefeuille, and was described by Berthoud in 1786 in his "Essai sur L'horlogerie", and referenced in Rees (1819-20). However, I don't know whether any watches were actually produced to this patent, and it isn't clear whether Litherland would ever have seen Berthoud's book and of course couldn't have seen Rees. He seems to have worked from first principles in all his innovations.

Regards,

Graham
 
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Andrew Wilde

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At the risk of appearing jejeune, did Litherland invent the rack lever escapement or merely an improvement to it? Were there other patented rack lever improvements? I ask because the balance cock on my circa 1815 M.I. Tobias rack lever is marked "patented." If Litherland's patent protection lapsed in 1806, to what patent was my Tobias referring?
Hi Ethan,
The patent marking on your Tobias is almost certainly referring to the (by then) elapsed Litherland patent of 1792., but not because of any legal necessity to do so, due to the licensing agreement terms expiring with the patent. By 1815 I believe it was becoming recognised that having a "patent" type marking on a movement was a marketing advantage in some markets. It suggested something innovative or a significant improvement over whatever was normal and was to become very common on those movements that were destined for the American market. So I think it a hangover from the terms of the original licensing agreement, and was carried on because of a marketing advantage it gave.
 

Dr. Jon

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Abbé de Hautefeuille's invention of the rack lever is probably conjecture at best. We had a thread on this before. Daniels and Chamberlain both made this claim. In the thread we found these references were based on a letter he wrote in which he had made an invention, I beleive, to out do English makers. There is no known diagram of sample of this and no way that anyone could have built a watch from Abbé de Hautefeuille's published information.

My theory is that the rack was invented as a way to make the lever safe without using draw. It was trade of freedom for safety. Rack levers became popular when free levers got draw.
 
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John Matthews

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Jon,

My understanding is that Hautefeuille produced a paper in 1722 in which there is both a description and drawings of his ideas. The reference is Journal de Scavants 1722 pp.599-602. I have not gone back to the original reference but it is discussed by Tony Proctor in a short paper HJ October 2013. I believe it is of a different design to that patented by Peter Litherland and whether Litherland knew of the paper is not known.

To my knowledge there is no evidence that Hautefeuille produced a working escapement. Given the historical accounts of his personality, viz. identify a problem, establish & articulate a solution and then move onto the next problem - the absence of a working escapement seems to fit. However as you and others who are familiar with Chamberlain's It's About Time, are probably aware, that author presents a description of an early watch and conjectures that it might follow the design proposed in the 1722 paper.

For those who do not have a copy of Chamberlain

Chamberlain - rack lever 001.jpg

John
 

gmorse

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Hi John,
Given the historical accounts of his personality, viz. identify a problem, establish & articulate a solution and then move onto the next problem - the absence of a working escapement seems to fit.
Not dissimilar to Robert Hooke in that respect then!

Regards,

Graham
 

Dr. Jon

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I do not beleive Hautefeuille's paper included a diagram. I recall working it. I can read some French but not well but I do not recall a picture or diagram.

Chamberlain uses a diagram that was in Berthoud's book, written much later, but it was Chamberlain not Berthoud who identified the escapement as Hautefeuille's. Further, Chamberlain wrote that the Berthoud's illustration was earliest he found and his references include the original Hautefeuille article.

David Penney wrote a response to Chapiro's superb article on European levers Antiquarain Horology Vol 28 #1 pp 52-72."THE LEVER ESCAPEMENT THE UNEXPLAINED DIVERGENCE OF DEVELOPMENTS ON THE EUROPEAN CONTINENT AND IN ENGLAND "

Penney's letter raised several issues with Chapiro's article, including Hautefeuille's rack lever Antiquarian Horology,

Penney wrote in Volume 28 #2, June 2004, pp272-273.

"The escapement Abbe de Hautefeuille describes in 1722 is merely the most obvious way of adapting George
Graham's then new dead-beat clock escapement for use in watches; or is it a recoiling 'anchor' escapement as described by Baillie in his Historical Bibliography."

I read Penney's statement as questioning that Abbe de Hautefeuille's escapement was a rack lever.

The diagram from page 58-59 of Chamberlain makes no sense to me. The spring looks to me to apply tension along the radius of the lever pivot I do not see how it can drive a balance in that configuration. It could if it were rotated to bend around the pivot. Hook's strait balance spring has a diagram and it made mechanical sense, at least to me.

Even it it worked, it is the worst possible implementation of the lever, giving up freedom for the balance and having recoil.

I doubt Chamberlain would be so mistaken so I must be missing something he saw but I suggest that Litherland"s rack lever was largely original and a rational for what they "knew" then. In addition to being realizable, adressed the concern of levers requiring recoil to be reliable.
 

John Matthews

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Jon - I have not read the original paper.

This is what Proctor said in 2011 indicating the paper contained drawings.
1625289207951.png

John
 

Allan C. Purcell

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For what it's worth, I am quite convinced that Peter Litherland knew about Hautefuille´s Rack lever or at least the system, this would have been by word of mouth or correspondence. Reading Robert St-Louis´s present article in the AHS is just one example of free minds getting together to try and improve the Verge escapement. Watch and clockmakers were classed as scientists at that time, it would not surprise me to read that Sully talked to Le Roy about the new Cylinder escapement, it was after all Le Roy who was the first to build one in France, though I have read that he received one From England. There are plenty of these occasions, where you can in fact go back so far to Marco Polo and his travels and things he found that were unknown in the western world. Even the story of John Harrison has gaps, on how he first came to the idea of a perfect clock, I just do not believe he did not talk and write to others, and it´s here that history fails, the lack of the written word. The Upjohn diary is yet another example a little later, but you get to know more about how information and business travelled around Europe. Try to remember the story of the Light bulb,

Allan.
 
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Dr. Jon

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I agree that Litherland probably knew a lot about previous escapements. A lot of friction rest escapement were in use and it was a time of much experimentation.

I would love to question Proctor. I have looked at the original paper and and found no diagram. or reference to any in its text That proves little since I had only on-line references, my French is not that good and this was written in a much earlier form of the language. Many Google books do not include illustrations from the original.

More significantly Chamberlain also did not find any drawings, or at least that is what is written in his book. Chapiro also found no diagram.

Whether or not Litherland knew of Hautefuille, Litherland certainly knew of Berthoud and his book shows a rack lever. If Litherland relied on a previous version, it would have come from Berthoud.

Early in my engineering career I learned "Townsend's Law. Charlie Townsend was a brilliant engineer I was privileged to know and work with. His law is "Noting is new". Anything that appears novel has almost certainly been done before. The trick and key is to examine what is now available that was not avialable before is new and whether this will enable it to work when it did not before.

Litherland made a go of rack levers because he had a better system to work in and reason to make it. That was to retain the lever escapement while making it more reliable. The benefit of a rack lever over the other attached escapements is that the balance is removable without the watch running down. This facilitates adjusting the balance and checking he escapement separately.

When repairing, adjusting or diagnosing a watch, especially a fusee one, these is a real benefits. The cost was time keeping accuracy but then and in his era the lost accuracy was of little concern, they were not running railroads and there were few time references other than sundials.
 

Allan C. Purcell

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This First List, is that of Vaudrey Mercer. I have to rely on these early dates for Litherland & Whiteside, not having the early directories.

The second list is my search today (4th July 2021) in the Liverpool Directories. While searching for information on the Litherlands I keep seeing,

Peter Litherland 1756-1805. In the main watch dealers and auction houses.

fff-22.jpg Has Vaudrey Mercer said 1804.


1796-Peter Litherland. watchmaker. 21 Mount Pleasent.

1800 & 1803-Peter Litherland, Watchmaker, 12 Commutation Row. (The 1803 entry being deleted by hand)

1804, December-Peter Litherland, died in Liverpool.

1800-1807-Litherland Whiteside & Co. Patent Lever watchmakers Ranelagh Street.

1810-1813- Litherherland, Whiteside & Co. Patent Lever watchmakers, Church Street.

1816-1829- Litherland, Davis & Co. Patent Lever watch manufacturers, Church Street.

1832-1835- Litherland Davis & Co. Chronometer & Watchmakers, Church Street.

r1837-1876-Litherland Davis & Co. Chronometer & Watchmakers, Bold Street

"In 1813 Litherland, Whiteside & Co, are described as watch manufacturers instead of watchmakers. This perhaps means that the firm
was now selling unsigned watches to enable other watch traders to put their names on the watches"


GORES 1821.

Litherland, Davies and Co. patent-lever •watch-manufacturers, 70, Church-street

-Nathan Simmer, book-keeper, 15, Prescot-street

-Richard, watch-maker, inventor and patentee of the new chronometer, 62, Brownlow-hill.

Gores 1824

Litherland- Ann, Watch escapement manufacturer, 62, Brownlow Hill

Litherland, Davis & Co. Inventors, patentees, & manufacturers, of the lever watches, 70, Church Street

Gores 1825

Litherland Ann, Watchmaker, 75, Brownlow Hill

Litherland Davis, & Co., 72 Church street.

Gores 1827.

Litherland Ann, Watchmaker, 75, Brownlow Hill

Litherland Davis, & Co., 72 Church street.

Gores 1829.

Litherland-Ann Watchmaker, 81, Brownlow Hill-

Litherland, Davis & Co. Watchmakers, 70, Church Street.

Litherland- Richard Clock & Watchmaker, 71, Great Crosshall Street.

Gores, 1832.

Litherland-Ann, Watchmaker, 100, Brownlow Hill.

Litherland, Davis & Co, Chronometer and Watchmakers, 74, Church Street

Litherland Richard, Clock & Watchmaker, 71 Great Crosshall Street.

Gores 1843.

Litherland, Davis & Co., Chronometer & Watch & Clockmakers, 37, Bold Street.

Litherland Richard, Clockmaker, Mason Place, off Villars Street, Shop 38 Manchester Street.

Gores 1853.

Litherland, Davis & Co., Chronometer & Watch & Clockmakers, 37, Bold Street.

Litherland Richard, Clockmaker, Mason Place, off Villars Street, Shop 38 Manchester Street.

To be cont.......... :)Happy 4th. of July.
 

Ethan Lipsig

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Edidin's article in the latest NAWCC Bulletin has interesting information about rack lever production. See Log In.
 

Allan C. Purcell

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Found this in the Gores Directory of 1796.

LUherland Peter, Watch-maker, Mount Pleasant Street,
Litherland William, Gent. 89, Park Lane.

Could this William Litherland have been his brother, and did the brother have a son named Richard?



Ayron (Shellcot) Teed Mrs

Elizabeth, daughter of Peter Litherland married Daniel Williamson, an artist born 1786, died 20th May1863 at Warton.
They were married on 26th April 1806 Two sons were artists - John Williamson and Daniel Alexander Williamson (born 1823). There are paintings by Daniel Alexander Williamson in the Walker Art Gallery Liverpool. He used to paint with William Lindsay Windus (born 1822}, A daughter Eliza Williamson married Samuel Teed (born 1824). There are paintings (ArtUK) of Samuel Teed, and one of Mrs Teed (- Eliza) both painted by William Windus. Interesting that William Windus was married in the New Church (Swedenborgian). The Teeds were also part of that church

posted Aug 30, 2020, by Ayron (Shellcot) Teed Mrs

These then were the Teeds that had the original PATENT documents that started this thread. I wonder if the family kept a family tree, maybe one or two of our English members live next door to them.

To be cont.......

Allan.
 

Allan C. Purcell

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I have since found that Mrs Ayron (Shellcot) Teed lives in Australia, and she is really trying to find the family ancestors of the Shellcot part of the family, and from what I can find there is no family tree leading back to the Litherland ancestors. (Never say never)

https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Shellcot-11

I have to say this could be of help if our Australian members want to help.? The Teed Family that held the Litherland Patents were still in England in the 1960s. I think I will take a look from there.

To be cont.....
 

Allan C. Purcell

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Feb 9, 2013
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Thank you, John, all put in for the next update. Nice to see the number in the case, it was hard to read the original.

Regards,

Allan
 

Allan C. Purcell

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Feb 9, 2013
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John, I did mention I had enlarged your 548 or 1548. Below my photograph, I think your watch is much earlier, my opinion at the moment is the very early cock, and what I think is a scratch mark before the 5. Please take a look at 324 on Page 10 top left, and 794 on the left bottom photographs.

The other two you have sent are very pleasing, I did wonder if there were more of this calibre, it now appears they made quite a few. I will of course change 548 back to 1548 if you wish.

fff-31.jpeg

Best wishes,

Allan
 

John Pavlik

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Dec 30, 2001
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Allen,

You may be correct… I always assumed with the case number being 1548, that was also the movement number….but, this case may of been a recase at some later point and the case maker was mistaken, with only a quick glance at the serial number … The case is done in the typical English style, left hinge (gold) for the front bezel and fixed rear inner dome, but with an American mark… Leave it as you please in the listings …

Regards,
John
 

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