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Brian & Joy Loomes

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Antique Clocks


Collecting Antique Clocks The Stripling family of clockmakers

The Stripling name is one we see on clocks now and then but a family we never quite know anything about. I have seen their clocks here and there over the years, "Stripling Barwell", "Stripling Lichfield", but was it one Stripling or several different ones, one family or several? Well, I didn't know so I thought it might be a good idea to try to find out.

The earliest clockmaking Striplings were located at Barwell in Leicestershire. The first clockmaker there seems to be Thomas, who was baptised on the 17th April 1707, the son of Francis Stripling. Francis had another child born there, Sarah, born in 1704. We can guess Francis was married not long before 1704, but I have been unable to locate the marriage. He seems to be the Francis Stripling born at Barwell in 1671, the son of another Thomas. The professions of the earliest Stripling generations there are unrecorded, but they may well have been blacksmiths. The fact that Striplings made clocks later at Lichfield seemed to imply that the clockmaking Striplings of Barwell moved shop to Lichfield, but things turned out differently.

Clocks have been recorded supposedly dating about 1775 signed by Francis Stripling at Barwell, who was assumed by the late John Daniell of Leicestershire Museum in his 1975 book 'Leicestershire Clockmakers' to be the son of Thomas. The late P. A. ('Pat') Hewitt in his 1992 booklet 'Leicestershire and Rutland Clockmakers' does not mention Francis at all. I knew both John Daniell and Pat Hewitt and the world of horological research is the poorer for their absence.

A Francis Stripling was married at Barwell in 1770 to Sarah Price and this might be the clockmaker and might also have been the son of Thomas. This Francis had a child baptised at Barwell in 1781 to a wife, who, according to the parish registers, was named Mary, but I wonder if this is a slip for Sarah. Anyway the long and short of it is that we know Francis Barwell was a clockmaker working there about 1770 to 1780.

Thomas Stripling of Barwell would have been apprenticed from about 1721 to about 1728, but we have no record of this, nor of any apprenticeship for Francis. Thomas was working as a clockmaker at Barwell and aged about 33 when he took as his own apprentice on the 1st August 1740, being John, the son of Thomas Lee, for a period of seven years at a premium of £15.00.

A marriage at Barwell on the 13th October 1755 between Thomas Stripling and Mary Sheepy, was presumably that of Thomas the clockmaker. A son, Thomas, was baptised to Thomas there in 1770. Pat Hewitt records his 'wife buried in Barwell churchyard 30th April 1755. Her grave can still be seen'. If this is correct then Thomas must have married a second time, to another lady named Mary, which seems a bit unlikely. Hewitt also records that Thomas died about 1775 but the whereabouts of his burial are unknown. His workshop at Barwell is said by John Daniell to have been behind the Blacksmith's Arms and to have been demolished about 1950.

It turns out that Thomas Stripling the Barwell clockmaker had moved to the adjacent village of Earl Shilton by November of 1775, when he signed his will, which was proved on the 6th February 1777. He is styled as a clockmaker and left his rented property to Barwell to his widow, Mary, after whose death it was to pass to his son. Francis, last heard of in 1781. Thomas's worldly wealth at the time was said to be under twenty pounds. That seems to be the end of the clockmaking line at Barwell, who hardly ended their lives in affluence.

A Thomas Stripling made clocks at Lichfield in Staffordshire from about 1760. This Thomas, Thomas (I), is reputed to have worked at Coventry before his move to Lichfield, where he supposedly took over the business of clockmaker John Hunt on his decease in 1761. I can find no evidence of his working at Coventry but it cannot be chance that Thomas Stripling was married at St. Mary's, Lichfield on the 31st July 1763 to Hannah Hunt. Not much is known about Lichfield clockmaker John Hunt, except that he worked in St. Chad's parish, where he was married in October 1760 to Elizabeth Stringer, but sadly died on the 22nd September 1761. His widow, Elizabeth, lived on till 1783. Hannah Hunt may have been related to him but cannot have been his widow or his daughter (unless by a previous marriage). Thomas and Hannah Stripling had two children baptised there: 31st Jan 1765 Thomas and in 1767 a second son named William.

longcase clock
The full clock by Thomas Stripling junior of Lichfield. Oak cases with mahogany crossbanding around the major panels in this way was typically found on many Midlands clocks in the late eighteenth century. Click for closer view

Initially it looked very much as if the Lichfield clockmaker was the Barwell clockmaker moving to a new location, but the evidence of Thomas of Barwell's will, proves otherwise. So it seems the Lichfield clockmaking family of Stripling were a quite separate group. At Lichfield Thomas took two apprentices: 31st May 1764 Charles Bailey for 7 years at a premium of £20 and 24th Jun 1765 Thomas Gilbert, for 7 years at the same premium. Thomas Gilbert is said to have been the nephew of Thomas Stripling, but I cannot confirm that. Thomas Stripling senior was buried in the Cathedral on the12th January 1775. His widow, Hannah, was still alive in 1798 and I am not sure when she died.

Thomas Stripling senior had two sons born at Lichfield, and when he died in 1775 the two boys were put out to apprenticeship in the trade as soon as was practical. Thomas was apprenticed in January 1780 to James Hartwell of Uttoxeter for four years at a premium of £50. This was an unusually short term, the normal spell being for seven years. Perhaps his mother wanted him back home to help in the business, which she kept running in the meantime.

After the death of Thomas, his widow, Hannah, supposedly carried on the business with 'nephew' Thomas Gilbert, rumour has it from 1775 till 1812 and supposedly trading as 'Stripling and Gilbert'. In 1776 they advertised for a journeyman clockmaker, though I know of no clocks bearing their joint names. This would make sense as her two sons, Thomas and William Stripling, would still be very young in 1775 when their father died, but it seems a bit strange to carry this on till as late as 1812. The Gilbert clockmakers are believed to have made a gradual move to start a business in Rugeley in Staffordshire in the late 1790s, and Thomas Gilbert, the former Stripling apprentice, is believed to have been buried there in 1810. Thomas Gilbert's son, Thomas Gilbert (II), succeeded him at Rugeley followed by another three or four generations. The move by Thomas Gilbert to Rugeley, followed by his death there in 1810, meant the end of the partnership, but by this time the two Stripling boys were old enough to run the business at Lichfield. From 1812 the two brothers, Thomas and William Stripling, are believed to have worked in partnership in Lichfield till at least 1842 - William died in 1843.

Thomas Stripling Junior was married in 1794 to Mary Gildart by whom he had four daughters:1796 Ann, 1798 Harriet, 1799 Charlotte, 1804 Emma. His wife, Mary, died in 1818, a memorial plate to her being installed in Lichfield Cathedral. It looked as if later in life he married again to Elizabeth Hickson. Certainly he had a wife Elizabeth in the 1841 census, and all four unmarried daughters by his previous wife lived with them. Eventually I found that on the 17th June 1823 Thomas Stripling from St. Mary's Lichfield was married at St. Olave Old Jewry, London, to Elizabeth Hickson.. At the age of 58 Thomas had embarked on a 'runaway' marriage in London.

Thomas Stripling junior made his will on the second of March 1846, a 'gentleman' of Lichfield. It is very brief. He left everything including sixteen shares in the Grand Union Navigation Canal in trust for two friends to administer and out of which his widow, Elizabeth, was to receive £150 a year, as long as she remained unmarried. After her death (or marriage) everything was to be shared equally between his four daughters, Anne, Harriet, Charlotte and Emma. A memorial on the south side of the choir marks Thomas's burial at Lichfield Cathedral in 1848, alongside that of his first wife, Mary, buried there some 29 years earlier in 1819. The will was proved in London on the 8th July 1848.

William Stripling, brother of Thomas Junior, was apprenticed 16th February 1781 (just a year after his brother, who was two years older) to the same master as his older brother, that is to James Hartwell of Uttoxeter for 7 years for £50. But the odd thing is that William served the full seven year period, while Thomas had done only four. William Stripling married about 1795 to Frances (perhaps Frances Bailey?), by whom he had four children:1796 William, 1798 Frances, 1801 John Bailey (died 1833), 1802 Fanny. His wife, Frances, died in 1807. William Stripling died in 1843, letters of administration being granted for William Stripling of Lichfield, Goldsmith. Clearly the Lichfield Striplings were financially successful, a sharp contrast to their poor country cousins at Barwell.

However a little of their personal tragedies becomes apparent from what can be found in the census records. William's daughter, Fanny, had married in June 1834 at Lichfield to John Whateley and they had a daughter, Fanny Victoria Whateley, born 1835, a son, William Stanhope Whateley, born 1839, and son John Thomas Whateley, baptised 31st March 1841. However oddly enough at the time of the 1841 census William Stripling, Jeweller, aged 73, was living in Bird Street, Lichfield, with his married daughter, Fanny Whateley aged 36, and her six month old son, John. There was no sign of Fanny's husband John Whateley, nor of children Fanny Victoria nor William. Yet sons William (a trainee commercial clerk) and John survived, as they were living with her still in Bird Street in the 1861 census, aged 22 and 20 respectively, and Fanny herself was then 59. Her unmarried sister-in-law Eliza Whateley, aged 52, was living there with her in 1861 and her widower brother-in-law, William Whateley, a retired commercial clerk aged 57, was visiting.

Then I found that in 1841 Fanny's two-year-old son, William, was staying with her spinster sister, at Repton in Derbyshire. The tragic picture unfolded that the first child, Fanny Victoria, had died, then husband John Whateley had died, leaving widowed Fanny in 1841 with a new-born baby and a two-year-old to care for and an elderly father, who may also have been in poor health. The two-year-old William had been taken into the care of her sister in law, Eliza, in 1841 till Fanny got over the bereavement. The baptism of young John was postponed till he was more than six months old, a very unusual event in those days of high infant death rates when children were baptised very young for fear they died un-baptised. The census of 1841 caught the family at just the right time to spot this series of tragedies, which may easily have gone un-noticed.

Thomas outlived his younger brother, William, by five years, surviving to the age of 83. With the deaths of Thomas junior and William the Stripling clockmakers became extinct. In fact the male Stripling line became extinct altogether - in the 1861 there were no Striplings at all living in Lichfield. But by that time anyway they had become elevated beyond the ranks of mere clockmakers, to the level of a 'jeweller', 'goldsmith' and a 'gentleman'.

A longer version of this article was published in Clocks Magazine.

Copyright © 2013 Brian Loomes

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