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Brian & Joy Loomes

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Antique Clocks


Collecting Antique Clocks Edward Hodges, one of Spalding's first two clockmakers

In 2008 a lantern clock of the 1680s came to light by a previously unrecorded clockmaker, William Reeve of Spalding, Lincolnshire. I wrote an article about this in Clocks Magazine for November 2008. Not only is that the only clock yet documented by Reeve, who proved to be the first recorded clockmaker in Spalding, but this clock turned out to be the oldest surviving domestic clock from the entire county of Lincolnshire.

We don't know when William Reeve first set up to work in Spalding, but the oldest date we can trace for him there was the 19th June 1685, when his first known child, William, was baptised by his wife, Elizabeth. William was last recorded there in July 1693, when his daughter, Hannah, was born, who sadly was buried only three days later. William himself died some time after July 1693 and before 25th May 1698, when his widow, Elizabeth, re-married there to William Roote. The Rootes had five children we know about between 1699 and 1706, after which they probably moved away.

Just recently a lantern clock of about 1690 was discovered, made by another previously-unrecorded clockmaker also from Spalding, named Edward Hodges. Once I knew the name it was not too difficult to look up Edward Hodges in the parish registers, where I found he had several children baptised by his wife Mary. These were: 19th March 1684/85 John; 24th April 1689 Mary; 23rd October 1691 Benjamin (buried 25th October); 24th March 1692/93 William. I found that a will was preserved in the Lincolnshire Archives for Edward Hodges of Spalding, clockmaker, proved in 1703, and they kindly provided a copy, now on my desk.

When Edward Hodges signed his will on the 21st July 1703 he was a very sick man, "being weake in body" as was the conventional phrase of the day. In fact he was dying, but he nevertheless attempted a flourish to his signature though it can be seen to have been written with a very uncertain hand. Within three months he was dead and buried, and the will was proved on the 15th October 1703. He left his working tools to his two sons, Edward (birth not traced) and John (born 1685), and everything else to his widow, Mary, the sole executrix. The implication is that his sons were to follow the same trade, though we have no evidence of this as they are not recorded as clockmakers, so far as we know.

The tools are interesting in themselves as they indicate the degree to which Edward carried out his own work in making both clocks and watches. Edward got "my bellows, anvil, hamers & all other my forging tools & a dividing plate for clockwork". John got "one engine to cut down clock wheels & ye other instruments belonging to ye said engine". Both Edward and John were to share equally "all my vices, little hamers, files & all other my instruments & tools belonging to or occupied about watchwork & clockwork, gunwork or any other work I have used to be imployed about". From the fact that he owned this equipment we can deduce that he was able to do his own clock and watch making, not just act as a retailer selling clocks or watches bought in from elsewhere.

During my research I discovered that on the 14th November 1714 one John Hodges was apprenticed through the Dyers' Company in London, being the son of Edward Hodges of Spalding 'gentleman, deceased', to serve Francis Chapman, then transferred on the 4th of November 1719 to Thomas Preston. Of course, the word 'gentleman' may have been used rather loosely to give the boy's background a bit of feigned status. A search of the Association Oath rolls of allegiance to the King in 1697 for the Dyers' Company showed that Edward Hodges was a signatory, which indicates that he was a member of that Company. This does not mean that he was a dyer by trade, but that for some reason he had become a member of that Company perhaps by right of patrimony because his father had been a member before him. Francis Chapman was also a signatory in 1697. The transfer in 1719 may have been because Chapman had died. The early records of the Dyers' Company are unfortunately lost, so we can deduce little more.

The fact that young John was bound as apprentice implies that he was not the son of Edward the clockmaker, because his son would have been automatically entitled to become a freeman of the Dyers' Company without apprenticeship by what was known as patrimony, that is by virtue of the fact that his father had been a freeman. This is further evidence by which we can deduce that John was Edward's grandson. In any event by 1714 the son John who was baptised to Edward Hodges in 1685 would have been thirty years old, far too old for an apprentice. The usual age for an apprentice was fourteen, which would set John's birth at about 1700. This implies that Edward the gentleman, dead by 1714, was not Edward the same person as clockmaker, who died in 1703, but perhaps an older son of the clockmaker - which is confirmed by the bequest in the clockmaker's will.

Front view of Edward Hodges clock
The clock signed ‘Edw: Hodges Spalding fecit’ as found. The alarm work and alarm disc were probably removed when converted from verge pendulum to anchor escapement. Date about 1690. Click for closer view.

We know Edward Hodges the clockmaker was resident in Spalding in 1697, yet evidently attended London by reasons of business. Perhaps he came there from London - certainly his lantern clock has all the marks of London styling of its day. The only marriage that I found that might fit his was the marriage of an Edward Hodges to Mary Chapman on the 20th July 1679 at St. Paul's Bedford. It seems very possible that Francis Chapman was a relative of Mary Chapman.

So the contest as to who was the first clockmaker, the first with surviving work that is, in Spalding and also in the entire county of Lincolnshire, is between William Reeve and Edward Hodges. It is a close call. Hodges was first recorded in March 1685, Reeve in June of that same year. Of course those are only the dates we know about and by 1685 either could have been there several years already. Of the two clocks, that by Reeve can be seen by its style to be clearly a decade or so earlier than Hodges's - 1680s against 1690s. Both were made with a short verge pendulum, though Hodges's was converted later to anchor escapement and long pendulum for greater accuracy, as very many were.

There were Hodges at Spalding from the beginning of the seventeenth century, when one Nathaniel Hodges was married there in 1604 to Mary Pike. Of course he may be completely unrelated to our Edward, in fact either of our two Edwards. On the other hand there was a fine clockmaker named Nathaniel Hodges, who worked in Wine Office Court in Fleet Street in London from at least 1681 to 1687, and probably as late as c.1700. He did not sign the 1697 oath roll of loyalty to the King, but that does not mean he was not there then, as some such as Quakers refused to sign oaths. Nathaniel might have been connected, either to Nathaniel of Spalding or to either of the two Edwards of Spalding, or all of them. We know that Edward Hodges senior had connections with London through the Dyers' Company in 1697 and no doubt at other times too. He can hardly have been unaware of his namesake (and possible relative?) working there in the very same trade, Nathaniel Hodges over in Wine Office Court.

John the apprentice of 1714 must have been the son of Edward Hodges junior, 'gentleman', who had inherited his father's tools in 1703 but was dead by 1714. John Hodges of the Dyers' Company, who we know was from the Spalding family, would have been free by 1721, and himself took apprentices between 1726 and 1734, including one William Hodges, the son of another William Hodges, a yeoman of Condover, Shropshire, presumably a relative. He may have been John Hodges the London clockmaker known to have been working in Clements Lane in 1729 and in Exchange Alley in 1738 - even though he was a member of the Dyers' Company. A further link with the clockmaking Hodges and the Dyers' Company is seen when one William Hodges, 'Dyer', (meaning of the Dyers' Company) had a son, William, apprenticed through the Clockmakers Company in 1739. But the further relationships between several later clockmakers in London named Hodges are so entangled as to be unfathomable.

The fact that William Reeve's clock was signed 'Windmills' in a hidden area behind the chapter ring shows that he had contact with London clockmakers, as does too the distinctly London style of the clock. Edward Hodges's clock is also in the distinct London style, and we know he had London connections - no such hidden engraved clues on that clock however. So for all that Edward Hodges could divide out and cut his wheels in his own workshop, he would have bought in the castings for his lantern clock frame and the frets from London. It also is likely that he could not engrave, and bought in his dial sheet and chapter ring pre-engraved from London. In fact by measuring the two clocks it was established that both have identical dimensions: pillar height 10 ¼ inches, plates 6 inches by 6 inches, chapter ring diameter 6 ¾ inches, chapter ring width 1 ½ inches. This is pretty conclusive evidence that they came from the same source, the same supplier of castings (almost certainly in London).

We can guess that Edward's son, Edward junior, the 'gentleman', was born about 1680. This we can deduce from the fact that his son, John, apprenticed in 1714 in the Dyers' Company, would have been 14 years old then and so born about 1700. And also from the fact that Edward was probably over 21 in 1703 when he inherited his father's tools. But I cannot trace his baptism. We therefore do not know where Edward Hodges senior, the maker of this clock, was living before he is first recorded at Spalding in 1685. It might be that he was already in Spalding then but that the parish registers fail to indicate that. Or it could be that he was in London, as his London associations might imply, but it is nigh on impossible to tie up anyone of that name in London with the man at Spalding, as the kind of records that would do that barely exist. But the search goes on anyway.

When my book 'Lantern Clocks' was published in August 2008 I included for the first time in print anywhere a list of every known maker of lantern clocks and any biographical details known about each. I had compiled these details over more than forty years of obsessive record keeping, the list of names being culled from all available horological literature, all available auction catalogues, my own first-hand experiences as a dealer and details sent me by helpful correspondents. And of course the list included names recorded by previous researchers, some of whom, such as Baillie and Britten, had documented such things as much as a century ago. There were in all about 1,000 clockmakers who were known to have made lantern clocks. We all know that such lists are never complete, as new ones are bound to come to light later. But I could not have imagined just how many have come to light later - one or two every week since the book went to press, some of the 'new' makers being totally unrecorded other than by the recent discovery of a single clock. This is surprising enough, even to someone like me, who has been recording clockmakers for donkeys' years.

But for a lantern clock to come to light by each of two such unrecorded makers, William Reeve and Edward Hodges, who both worked at the same backwater town as Spalding in Lincolnshire must have been in the 1680s, and who both worked there at the same time as each other I find absolutely astonishing. What could have drawn two such clockmakers to this place at the same time I cannot imagine. But for these two clockmakers both to be discovered within the past two years, working at the same place and at the same time, after over a hundred years of such records being compiled ...... well, it just proves how little we actually know about the history of clockmaking and how extraordinary discoveries can still be made today by anyone who troubles to look. And the chances of discovering something new are just as great for a beginner as the most hard-bitten expert.

Copyright © 2013 Brian Loomes

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