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Antique Clocks

Collecting

Collecting Antique Clocks Cornelius Manley of Norwich and the Manley family of clockmakers

Cornelius Manley was one of the earliest clockmakers to work in Norwich city by whom any domestic clock is known to survive today. The very earliest known Norwich clock is a solitary lantern clock, which came to light at auction only in 2006, signed by Elias Browne, a goldsmith working from 1633 to 1660. However this clock is believed to have been made in London, perhaps by William Selwood, and simply retailed by Browne. So Cornelius Manley may well be the earliest clockmaker in Norwich, who actually made his own household clocks.

Very little was known about his life, though some of the Manley clockmakers were documented in the 1974 book 'Suffolk Clocks & Clockmakers' by the late Arthur Haggar and Leonard Miller. A single lantern clock of about 1700 by him has been housed for some years in the Bridewell Museum at Norwich. This is illustrated in the 1996 book 'Norfolk and Norwich Clocks & Clockmakers' by Clifford and Yvonne Bird, where some of these Manley family details were also published. They also record details of three watches by him and three longcase clocks, one of the latter signed 'Manley in Norwich'. A second lantern clock came to light just recently, very similar to the first one, though from its style perhaps dating to a few years earlier.

The Bridewell museum clock is the later of the two. Features which indicate this later date are: its chapter ring is a little broader than the other; it is signed on the chapter ring as opposed to in the upper dial centre; the broader chapter ring cuts more into the frame and fret than the other; and the fret is a later pattern of scrollwork compared to the slightly earlier dolphin pattern of the other; the hand is slightly later in style than the other. There is probably no more than ten years between the two clocks.

A little research revealed that Cornelius Manley lived in the parish of St. Peter Mancroft in Norwich with his wife, Penelope, by whom he had several children baptised there, who were: 1686 Jane, 1687 Cornelius, 1688 Penelope, 1690 an unnamed daughter, 1691/2 an unnamed son, 1693 Benjamin, 1695 Mary, and 1698 Daniel. Unfortunately all these children died in infancy except for Cornelius and Penelope, the two who were named after their parents. His marriage to Penelope has so far escaped detection, and so has his birth, though I am fairly sure of his parentage. It has been assumed that Cornelius senior died in 1722. That was probably a deduction based on the advertisement quoted below regarding his former house to be rented out, but it may be that he did not die at this time but simply moved house.

Cornelius junior married at Norwich Cathedral in 1716 to Elizabeth Barrell and died only two years later in 1718. His widow, Elizabeth, died in 1736. The evidence suggests that the clockmaker was Cornelius senior. Cornelius junior would have been working for barely eleven years, and the lantern clocks appear earlier than his working dates. As Cornelius junior died before his father, it would seem there was no male successor to the family business in Norwich.

Lantern clock of about 1690 signed above the dial centre 'Cor. Manley Norwich'
1. Lantern clock of about 1690 signed above the dial centre 'Cor. Manley Norwich', with original anchor escapement. This example has the chapter ring silvered. Click for closer view.

An advertisement in the Norwich Gazette of 1710 reads: "Lately lost between Loddon and Beccles, a silver pendulum watch with 3 motions, the Hours, Minutes and Seconds, a Silver Seal on it with 2 Seals, the Hands brass gilt, made by Cotton, London. Whosoever brings it to Mr. Cornelius Manley, Watchmaker in St. Peter Norwich, shall have a Guinea Reward". John Cotton was working from 1694 to 1697, but was probably dead by 1698, so the watch was maybe fifteen years old. Another advertisement in the same journal of 1711 reads: "Lost watch by one Taylor of Dublin to be taken to Mr. Manley or Mr. De Koe (De Caux) Watchmaker in Norwich".

In 1722 there was advertised in the Norwich Gazette "A very convenient dwelling house in St. Peter of Mancroft, right against the church, wherein Mr. Cornelius Manley formerly lived, to be let". Now Cornelius junior had died more than four years earlier in 1718, and the house can hardly have been empty that long, nor would the public memory reach so far back. So this residence in St. Peter's parish, occupied as late as (just before) 1722, must have been that of Cornelius senior, who had moved to a different location, or perhaps had died. Either way, this shows that Cornelius the watchmaker in St. Peter's was Cornelius senior. We do not know if Cornelius junior worked in the same trade, but if he did, then it is more than likely he worked for his father. In any event the son is hardly likely to have set up in business in opposition to his father in the same town.

There was a considerable family of clockmakers named Manley, and I feel sure that Cornelius belonged to that family, born in the early 1660s, the son of the first clockmaker of that surname, Daniel Manley senior. Daniel senior was born about 1636, was apprenticed in London through the Clockmakers' Company to Edmund Gilpin and was freed of his apprenticeship in 1660, just after the pendulum was introduced into clockwork in London by Ahasuerus Fromanteel, who himself was from Norwich and had moved to London about five years before Daniel was born. The family were almost certainly of Huguenot origin. Daniel Manley senior moved from London to work in Yarmouth in Norfolk, at what date is not known, but he was certainly there by 1686. Although he worked in Yarmouth, Daniel seems to have had his family home at Beccles, about thirteen miles south-west of Yarmouth and just across the border in Suffolk, where also he appears to have been settled by 1686. In 1693 a lost watch by him was advertised for, so we know he made watches. Another watch by Daniel Manley of Yarmouth numbered 227 has been recorded. A lantern clock and a longcase clock by him are also recorded. "Mr. Daniel Manley, watchmaker" was buried at Beccles on June 20th 1701.

The children of Daniel Manley senior appear to be, by deduction in order or seniority: Cornelius, John, Daniel junior, Elizabeth, and Caleb. The four sons became clockmakers. The daughter, Elizabeth, was married at Redisham in 1699 to John Utting, and their son, Thomas Utting became a clockmaker, no doubt apprenticed to one of his uncles. More of Thomas Utting later.

Of the sons, we already know that Cornelius was established in Norwich by 1686 after marrying about 1685 in an unknown location to Penelope. All the other children celebrated their marriages at Redisham church, clearly a favourite location with the family and situated about three miles south of Beccles. At least it was probably a favourite with Daniel senior, who lived till his death in 1701 at nearby Beccles and who would no doubt be footing the bill for the celebrations, which of course were probably held at the family home in Beccles. It might just be that the fact that Cornelius did not marry at what became the 'family church', where all his brothers and sister married, could imply some sort of break at that time between father and son, perhaps even a runaway marriage.

The second son, John Manley, was married at Redisham on 13th April 1686 to Hannah Keeble (one record says Keesle). He set up in business in Bury St. Edmunds, where he worked till his death. St. Mary's church register records: "Mr. John Manley watchmaker" buried 29th January 1721/22. John appears to have left a daughter but no son to succeed him. Two or three watches are known by him from records of those reported lost, one of 1697. The Ipswich Journal of 10th October 1743 records: 'Lost, large silver watch, the maker's name "Manley, Bury St. Edmunds", it moves with a pendulum, over which is a white glass in the form of a half-moon.'

The movement of the second clock from the left
2. The movement of the second clock from the left shows the standard anchor escapement layout. The hammer stop spring terminal is filed into a crocodile mouth, a typical feature done on many such clocks just for decoration. Click for closer view.

The third son, Daniel Manley junior, was married at Redisham in 1691 to Rose Adams. We know he worked in Yarmouth in 1714, so he probably took over the business of his late father on his death in 1701. Daniel junior was buried at Yarmouth 23rd October 1730; his widow, Rose, was buried 23rd August 1749. Only a month later, on 21st November 1730, Thomas Utting, nephew of Daniel Manley junior, advertised that he had taken over his uncle's old shop: 'At the Shop late Mr. Daniel Manley's, near the Bridge in Great Yarmouth, are sold all Sorts of New Clocks and Watches, as good as any are made in England .. by Thomas Utting, Watch-Maker.' So the Manley business continued at Yarmouth but under a different name.

Daniel Manley's fourth and youngest son, Caleb Manley, was married, at Redisham again, on 12th October 1704 to Elizabeth Wyatt. This of course was three years after the death of his father. A son, Caleb, was baptised there in 1705 but seems to have died young. His wife, Elizabeth, was perhaps not of strong constitution and she died in 1711. When Caleb Manley himself was buried at Beccles on 12th March 1739, he left no children to succeed him. A watch is recorded by him. Haggar and Miller record details of his will, dated on 16th October 1735 and proved on 3rd April 1740. In it he mentioned a niece, the daughter of his late brother, John Manley of Bury St. Edmunds, and left ten pounds to his nephew, Thomas Utting, who was the son of his sister, Elizabeth.

Now Thomas Utting had succeeded his uncle Daniel Manley junior, at Yarmouth in late 1730. Thomas had evidently been in business at Bungay in Suffolk before that, but had left there by March 1731/2, at which time the premises were taken over by clockmaker Richard Smith, who had moved from Harleston. In 1743 however Thomas Utting advertised that he was to take over the shop at Beccles, which presumably was the former shop of his other uncle, Caleb Manley. It is likely he took on this shop as well as the Yarmouth shop, as he would have been unlikely to make the same kind of living with premises just in such a small rural market town as Beccles compared with a thriving seaport with a massive transit population such as Yarmouth. In 1801 the population of Yarmouth was 14,000 and that of Beccles 2,700.

But when Caleb Manley died at Beccles, his shop was apparently taken over initially by John Gainsborough, a watchmaker from Sudbury and brother to the famous artist, Thomas Gainsborough. But John Gainsborough seems to have been an eccentric genius as well as a bit of a rogue and in 1743 had absconded taking his customers' clocks and watches in for repair with him. It was then that Thomas Utting took over the Beccles shop, presumably as a second branch shop, putting out with the help of a local dissenting minister a 'wanted' advertisement in the local paper for John Gainsborough. 'He is a spare thin person, about five feet nine inches high, with a large hooked nose, blink ey'd and with a long visage'. Haggar and Miller quote from an account of the day how Gainsborough experimented with inventions of all kinds, apparently making 'a cradle which would rock itself, a cuckoo which would sing all the year round, and a wheel which turned in a still bucket of water.' Gainsborough devoted himself to finding a timepiece for calculating longitude, and decided to go to the East Indies 'to prove his invention for the discovery of the longitude, and he had reached London on his way thither and he was taken ill and died. After his decease his house at Sudbury was found nearly filled with brass and tin models of every shape and form, most of them in an unfinished state'.

Thomas Utting became a successful maker of clocks, known through bracket clocks, watches, and numerous longcase clocks, which must have been his staple product. It seems that one longcase clock is known signed at Beccles, but most of his work is signed at Yarmouth, which shop was probably the source of much of his business. He was still living in 1775. He may have been the Thomas Utting of Great Yarmouth who died in 1795, a 'gentleman'. Although the Manley name died out in clockmaking in Norfolk and Suffolk in 1739, dynasty continued in Thomas Utting's name to last lasted some hundred and thirty years, from the 1660 to 1795.

Copyright © 2013 Brian Loomes

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