Clocks and clockmakers

18s paid John Clockemaker for mending le chyme [1537-38]

Churchwardens' Accounts of Ashburton 1479-1580, Alison Hanham, Devon and Cornwall Record Society, Torquay 1970, p102

The following is a list of Ashburton clockmakers, taken from Devon Clocks and Clockmakers, Clive N. Ponsford, David and Charles, Newton Abbot 1985, p328. Many thanks to F & W. Media International Ltd.,, for permission to reproduce the data. I have added to it where I have additional information - I am now also adding watchmakers.

In alphabetical order:
Bidlake, Thomas

There are two Thomas Bidlakes who married in Ashburton in the 1700s. On both occasions Thomas said he was a bachelor.

Thomas Bidlake who married Douglas Saunders was a shoemaker - see Cordwainers and Shoemakers for more on this Thomas.

In November 1775 the other Thomas Bidlake married Ann Hurst. It seems likely that this Thomas was the clockmaker.

Parish records

Thomas and Ann had a child John baptized in 1777, Thomas baptized in March 1778 and Ann baptized in April 1781.
Parish records

Above and left: A grandfather clock engraved with the name T. Bidlake, Ashburton
Many thanks to the owner, who wishes to remain anonymous

26th May 1787 saw Emanuel Hart apprenticed to Thomas Bidlake, clockmaker, in the borough of Plymouth.
Registers of Duties Paid for Apprentices' Indentures 1710-1811

It seems likely that this was the Thomas who was in Ashburton.  

What is certain is that at some stage he moved to London. His sister Margaret Bidlake, a spinster from Plymouth, left a will that was proved in 1820. In it she leaves bequests to her nephew and niece Thomas and Ann Bidlake, the son and daughter of her brother Thomas Bidlake of the City of London, watchmaker.    

She also left bequests to John Bidlake Corser and Elizabeth Corser, the son and daughter of her sister Elizabeth, who was the wife of William Corser.
Ref PROB 11/1631/369

When Elizabeth Bidlake married William Corser/Corsar in 1783 in Plymouth St Andrew, a Thomas Bidlake was a witness.
Plymouth St Andrew parish records

The John Bidlake, son of Thomas, who was buried at Plymouth, Charles the Martyr, in 1784 may have been the John born to Thomas in Ashburton in 1777
Plymouth Charles the Martyr parish records

Margaret Bidlake of Plymouth was buried at Totnes in 1820, aged 80.
Totnes parish records

A birth date of circa 1740 fits with baptism of a Margt., daughter of John Bidlake in March 1740. A Thomas Bidlake, son of John, was baptised in Totnes in 1747, and an Elizabeth, daughter of John, was baptised in Totnes in 1751.
Totnes parish records

Thomas Bidlake Jnr.
In February 1792 Thomas Bidlake was bound as an apprentice to James Bidlake, watchmaker. He was freed in 1809.
Clockmakers Company Masters and Apprentices, transcribed from Atkins' list of 1931 on

In 1810 Thos. Bidlake was one of those elected to the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers
Samuel Elliott Atkins and William Henry Overall, Some Account of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers of the City of London,  privately printed, 1881, p110

Thomas Bidlake, born 1777/78 in Ashburton, was living in Albert Place, Kensington, London, in the 1851 census. With him on census night was his wife Elizabeth, 60, and his daughters Emma, 22, and Lavinia, 15. Thomas was a fundholder.
1851 census HO107, piece no. 1468, folio 65, p37



Burston, John

When John Burston married Ellen Deborah Whitmarsh at York Street Chapel, Plymouth, in 1876, he was described as being 'of Ashburton'.
Western Times 4 September 1876 p2 col3


The 1880s section of the Virtual museum has a receipt from John Burston, watch and clock maker, and jeweller. Mr Burston also sold 'Spectacles for all sights'. In the 1881 census John Burston is shown in East Street, but by 1891 was in St Lawrence Lane. Later he moved to Newton Abbot, having been at Ashburton for 18 years.

Boarding with John at the time of the 1881 census is 17 year old William G Argent, an apprentice born in Matfield, Kent. By 1911 William Grove Argent is a watchmaker in Kent, living there with his Ashburton born wife, Theresa Nankivell Argent.

1881 census RG11, piece no. 2161, folio 66, p8

Western Times 30 May 1902 p5 col6

1911 census RG14, piece no. 3999

A John Burston clock with an 18" dial. The large size, and the fact that it says 'Greenwich time' suggests to me that it was designed for commercial premises, possibly Burston's own. Before the coming of the railways different parts of the country had different time zones.

Left: Detail from the face of the clock
For sale privately in 2016. Many thanks to the vendor for allowing me to use this photograph

Chard, H W
H W Chard was Harold Walter Chard, a 14 year old jeweller's assistant on the 1911 census. At the time he was living in Honiton, where he was born.
1911 census RG14, piece no. 12538

He was on the electoral register for Honiton in 1922, but by 1923 was in Ashburton. He was still in Ashburton in 1929, but by 1931 had returned to Honiton.
Electoral registers 1832-1932, available through

Above: An advertisement in a Golden Lion promotional booklet, undated but probably the late 1920s
From my own collection


Conneybear, James
Above: Clockface by J Conneybear, Ashburton.
Many thanks to Steve Wood of Fusee World, for this image.

The Court for Relief of Insolvent debtors

At the Court house, Exeter:

James Conneybear, late of Ashburton and Withycombe in the Moor, Woollen manufacturer, formerly Clock and watch-maker London Gazette Issue 18258 13 June 1826, p1475

1844 James Conneybear, West Street, is listed as a watch and clockmaker in Pigot's Directory.

Pigot's Directory of Berks, Bucks etc., part 1, p152.

In 1849 the church clock and the old clock from the Shambles differed by about 20 or 30 minutes. This was because Mr. John Horton, who looked after the church clock, adjusted it to the time according to the old coaching days, whilst James Conneybear, in charge of the Shambles clock, set it to the new countrywide railway time. This in spite, said the Western Times, 'of the non-commencement of the Ashburton Railway.'

Western Times 7 April 1849 p5 col5

In 1850 Jas. Coneybear is listed as a watchmaker in White's Directory, still in West Street.
History, Gazetteer and Directory of Devonshire, William White, 1850, p468

The 1861 census shows a father and son, both named James Conneybear, and both clock and watchmakers. 61 year old widower James, in addition to his main profession, is a gunsmith and plumber employing one man. James jun., 34, is unmarried.

1876 A document held in the North Devon Record Office concerns the transfer of a mortgage in which Mary Wolton Conneybear, executor of James Conneybear, watchmaker of Ashburton deceased, is named. The mortgage, which concerns property in Ashburton, Chagford, Holne, Lydford and Dawlish, also names Susan Hannaford Conneybear and Eliza Conneybear, spinsters.

It seems likely that this is to do with the James Conneybear who died aged 54 in 1876, and although there is some discrepancy with the age, he may well be the James who was living with his father on the 1861 census.

Mary Wolton* Conneybear may be the Mary W. Conneybear who is living in West Street at the time of the 1891 census. Aged 50, she is single and living on her own means. ref 2378/5/6

*Other records connected with the Conneybear family suggest this might be Wotton, Wooton or Wootton.

Above: The memorial to the Conneybear family, in St. Andrew's Churchyard
My own photograph 2015


Conneybear, Samuel

Sam. Conibere, watch and clock-maker, appears in the Universal British Directory of Trade, Commerce and Manufacture, Vol 2, late 1700s

In 1790 a suit was filed in Chancery by Samuel Coneybear, described as a clockmaker of Ashburton 'and one of the second poor of Buckland in the Moor'. The suit alleged that profit from an estate had been withheld from Samuel and others entitled to it.

Report of the Commissioners Concerning Charities, vol 1, Exeter, 1826, p83

'A document, written on parchment, of which the following is an accurate copy, was produced to us by James Coneybear, of Ashburton, who stated, that it came into his possession on the death of his father, Samuel Coneybear, some years since, and that he had heard his father say, that it was found in the parish chest of Buckland.'

The Charities of the County of Devon, Selected from the Voluminous Reports of the Commissioners of Inquiry...which began the 58th year of the reign of George III and ended the 7th of Will. IV, Vol 1, London,  1839, p97


Dunsford, Martin

A clock from the Congregational Chapel, now in Ashburton Museum, was made by Martin Dunsford. Information from the museum states that it was presented to the Chapel in 1791 by Sir Robert Palk. For more on this see the Churches and Memorials page.


Ezekiel, Eleazer

The court for relief of insolvent debtors, at the court house, Exeter, March 1827.

'Formerly of Ashburton, jeweller, watchmaker and keeper of a public library, and later of Newton-Abbott, both in Devon, watchmaker.'

London Gazette, Jan-June 1827, p365.


Foster, James


Hamlyn, Thomas jnr.

Tho. Hamlyn jun., clock and watch-maker, appears in the Universal British Directory of Trade, Commerce and Manufacture, Vol 2, late 1700s.

Harding, Charles
Above: A wall clock by Charles Harding, Ashburton.
Many thanks to the owner, who wishes to remain anonymous
A Charles Harding was baptised on 3rd April 1768, at Plymouth St Andrew, the son of John and Mary Harding. It is possible, but not certain, that this is the Charles who is later 'of the parish' of Ashburton.

Plymouth parish records

Charles Harding, clock and watch-maker, Ashburton, appears in the Universal British Directory of Trade, Commerce and Manufacture, Vol 2, late 1700s.

In February 1792 Charles Harding and Mary Ann Eales married in Ashburton. Both were of the parish, and both signed the register.

A Charles Winchelsay Harding was baptised in Ashburton in May 1792, the son of Charles Harding and his wife Mary.

They had other children baptised in the town: Mary, 1796; Elizabeth, 1798; Ann Eales 1801; John, 1803; Thirsa, 1806 and William Walts, 1808.

In 1841 both Charles Snr. and Mary are approximately 70 years old - and were therefore born circa 1771. It is difficult to read Charles' occupation, but it looks like 'watch m'.

Charles Snr. died in 1844, aged 76

1841 census HO107, piece no 253, folio 18, p30

Parish records

Charles Harding, watchmaker of Ashburton, died on December 14th 1844.

Sherborne Mercury 21 December 1844 p4 col6

In 1847 there was an investigation in Sidmouth into the circumstances of a fire, where a Mr Denby lost property and goods. Charles Harding, watchmaker, proved that Mr Denby had owned a gold watch.

Western Times 25 December 1847, p7, col5

In the 1851 census Charles W Harding, born in Ashburton circa 1793, is married and living in Sidmouth. He is a watchmaker and clock worker master.

1851 census HO107, piece no 1864, folio 433, p15

80 year Mary Ann Harding is staying with her son-in-law in Wolborough, Newton Abbot in 1851. He is James Thomas, a watchmaker - Mary Ann puts down her occupation as 'formerly a watchmaker'.
1851 census HO107, piece no 1871, folio 545, p46

Mary Ann died in Ashburton in 1858, aged 87. She was described as the relict of the late Charles Harding, watchmaker.
Western Times 9 January 1858, p5 col3


Harding, John

A John Harding was baptised in 1803, the son of Charles and Mary Harding. It seems highly likely that this is the John Harding below.

John Harding married Elizabeth Husson in 1827.

When his son John (ii) was baptised in 1839, John is described as a watchmaker.

parish records

In the 1841 census John and his wife Elizabeth, living in East Street, have 6 children, of whom 2 year old John is the youngest. John Snr is a watchmaker.

1841 census HO107, piece no 253, folio 17, p28

1844 John Harding, East Street, is listed as a watch and clockmaker in Pigot's Directory.
Pigot's Directory of Berks, Bucks etc., part 1, p152.

In 1850 John Harding is listed as a watchmaker in White's Directory, still in East Street.

History, Gazetteer and Directory of Devonshire, William White, 1850, p468

By 1851 John is a 46 year old widower. He is described as a jeweller.

1851 census HO107, piece no 1871, folio 294, p16

A John Harding*, watchmaker, was fishing in the River Dart when he spotted a boy's cap floating in the river. This later turned out to belong to William Butchers, who had drowned.
Western Times 28 April 1855, p6 col6
*This could possibly be John Harding (ii)

When John died, aged 55, on January 1st 1860, he was described as 'a zealous friend to the liberal cause.'
Western Times 7 January 1860, p5 col4

John Harding, watchmaker, is listed in the Index to Death Duties for the year 1860. Edward Husson is the executor.

Index to Death Duty Registers 1796-1903, 1860

1868 When Thirza Harding died in Islington, London, in January, aged 31, she was described as the youngest daughter of the late J. Harding, of Ashburton, watchmaker.


Harding, John (ii)

John Harding, a watchmaker, married Anne Giles in May 1860. His father is John Harding, watchmaker.
Parish records

They were 'at North Street' when their son was born in January 1861
Western Morning News 8 January 1861, p3 col6

John Harding Jnr. is a 21 year old watchmaker later in 1861, living with his wife and son John C in East Street. His sister Thirza is with him on census night.
1861 census RG09, piece no. 1405, folio 33, p15

John Charles Harding was baptised in November 1863, with his father being described as a silversmith.
Parish records
This is probably the J C Harding from Ashburton who married Sally Down in the US.
See the Down and Beer family, under individual families.

The birth of John Harding*, mother's surname Giles, was registered in the Newton Abbot district in the December quarter of 1862
* A second John. There appears to be no death record for John C. In 1881 Charles Harding, aged 20 and born in Ashburton, is in the household of his uncle Henry Giles. Both Charles and his uncle are boot makers.
1881 census RG11, piece no 2161, folio 28 p12 - Accessed 07-04-2019

The 1920 US census states that John Harding immigrated to the US in 1881. Family members on this and other censuses confirm that this is a John C Harding.
US Census 1920, available through

The birth of a William Harding, mother's surname Giles, was registered in the Newton Abbot district in the June quarter of 1864

John and William Harding, sons of John and Ann, were baptised on the same day in April 1864. John Snr. was a silversmith.
Parish records

The birth of a Elizabeth Ann Harding, mother's surname Giles, was registered in the Newton Abbot district in the September quarter of 1865

The birth of a Thirza Harding, mother's surname Giles, was registered in the Newton Abbot district in the September quarter of 1867

Annie died, aged 30, in 1868.
Western Times 14 February 1868, p5 col2

A notice in April 1869 said that all persons owing or owed by the estate of John Harding, jeweller, 'late of Ashburton' were to put in their claims by April 30th to Messrs Giles and Sons, boot and shoemakers of Ashburton.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 21 April 1869, p2 col3


Harding, Richard


Hays and Parsons

Hays, Adrian

In 1877 Adrian Hays acquired a certificate of naturalization to become a British subject. The certificate says he was a subject of Baden in the empire of Germany; was 29 years old, married but with no living children. A jeweller, he was living in Ashburton.

Naturalization certificates and declarations, piece 007, no. 2227.

A. Hays made a clock for the Ashburton Mutual Improvement Association, established 1882

Seen in a private collection

The 1901 census shows Adrian Hays to be a naturalized British subject, born in Nussbach, Germany. He is a jeweller, ('gold' is written alongside), living in North Street.

1901 census RG13, pice no. 2053, folio 40, p11

Above: Adrian Hays with Joseph Fitze Baker (J F Baker is surely the one on the right - see the Baker family under Individual families). This photograph may have been taken at Hillcrest, the Baker family home - when the house was auctioned in 1946, it was advertised as having a separate annexe with billiard room.
Western Morning News 25 September 1946 p1 col5
Many thanks to Lerida Arnold for the above photograph and additional information.
Adrian Hays is shown as a watchmaker in North Street in Kelly's Directory for 1902

In the census of 1911 he describes himself as a jeweller. Aged 64, he is living with his wife and two daughters at 24, North Street.
Kelly's Directory for Devonshire, 1902, p32
1911 census RG14, piece no. 12727, schedule no.138

Left: A silver pocket watch by A Hays, hallmarked Chester 1885.
From a private collection


Hudge, William


Osborn, W. G.

In September 1884 Mr. J. E. Webber, the Relieving Officer of the poor law Union, was about to leave for another district. Those who had been on parish relief subscribed 2d each towards a clock for him, which was supplied by Mr. W. G. Osborn. The clock was a lever timepiece, with the inscription 'Presented to Mr. J. E. Webber as a token of affection, from Ashburton.'

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 19 September 1884 p7 col4

When Widecombe church clock was out of order, it was recommended that Mr Osborne, of Ashburton, should undertake any necessary repairs and maintain the clock for six months.

Western Times 4 May 1886, p3 col 4

The 1891 census shows 43 year old William Osborn living at 'Jewellers shop' with his wife Jane. Originally from Earlscote in Warwickshire, William is a watchmaker and jeweller.

William George Osborn is shown as a watchmaker in West Street in Kelly's Directory for 1902.
Kelly's Directory for Devonshire, 1902, p33

The funeral of Wm Geo Osborn took place in April 1920. A 'highly respected tradesman' who lived in East Street, he had been in poor health and had lost his eyesight.

Western Times 9 April 1920, p12 col1


Pearse, James


Perryman, John

The 1841 census shows John Perryman, aged circa 50, as a clockmaker in Cad Lane. The only other Perryman in the household is 13 year old Mary.

1841 census HO107, Piece 253, Enumeration District: 9, Folio 15, p24

1844 John Perryman, Cad Street, is listed as a watch and clockmaker in Pigot's Directory of Berks, Bucks etc., part 1, p152.

In 1850 John Perryman is listed as a watchmaker in White's Directory, living in Back Lane.

History, Gazetteer and Directory of Devonshire, William White, 1850, p468

The 1861 census shows 70 year old widower John Perryman living in North Street - this would give a birth year of circa 1791. He is a watchmaker.

A John Perryman aged 83 was buried in Ashburton on October 22nd, 1872 - giving a birth year of circa 1789.

Parish records.


Perryman, William.

William does not appear in Devon Clocks and Clockmakers.
The Devon Family History Society index of burials in Ashburton shows a William Perryman buried in October 1818, aged 64 (he was therefore born circa 1754).
The FamilySearch website shows a William and Mary Perriman - with an 'i' instead of a 'y' in their name -
as the parents of a John Perriman baptised 30 June 1790 in Ashburton.

Above and right: Longcase clock, the face engraved with the name Willm Perryman.
With many thanks to Mike Sellers for these photos.

It seems likely that William was the clockmaker whose work is pictured here, and that Mary was his wife. It  also seems likely that their son John (Perriman) baptised in 1790 is the John Perryman clockmaker shown in the previous entry.


Schwer, Leonard.

The 1871 census of Ashburton shows Leonard Schwer, a watchmaker and jeweller, in West Street. 32 years old, he was born in Baden, Germany.

1871 census RG10, piece no. 2080, folio 55, p22

A watch paper with L Schwer, Ashburton printed on it sold on the internet in 2016 (not in my possession)


Toker, ______


Waycott, Peter

'Peter lived at Ashburton in 1799 and made clocks then, or soon after. He had a machine for cutting the wheels. He was a "Jack of all trades", so made the clock cases, the works and painted the dials. His son Robert continued to manufacture until the forties...Peter had two brothers, William and Richard, who sailed from Dartmouth somewhere about the year of Waterloo. They went to Novia Scotia and made clocks there, many of which are to be found today.'
The writer also connects Peter Waycott to Holne, Staverton and Totnes, and his son Robert to Paignton and Torquay.
John Francis, Devon Notes and Queries, vol 9, p30

Records which might refer to Peter Waycott:
In October 1762 Peter the son of Peter Wycott was baptized at Staverton.
March 1795 saw the marriage of Peter Waycot, bachelor and sojourner in Ashburton, to Elizabeth Bond. He signed the register with a cross.
In 1801 Peter Waycot 'the elder' was buried at Ashburton.
Peter Waycott aged 72 was buried at Ashburton in October 1835
Parish records


                                                     'The destroyer amongst the clocks'
Headline in the Western Times 10 May 1879 p3 col3

In 1879 a Frederick Augustus Baker was charged in Exeter of obtaining money by false pretences. He pretended to be working for reputable clock repairers, sometimes by going to the back door of a house, finding out the name of the usual repairer, and then presenting himself at the front as his representative. It was claimed that every clock he looked at had a broken wheel, but by good fortune he always had one of the correct size to replace it. The clocks only worked for a short time after his attention - but long enough for him to be supplied with dinner in addition to his fee. 'The cases against him seemed to be almost as thick as primroses.'

Western Times 10 May 1879 p3 col3

He was said to be 28 when he served consecutive sentences of hard labour for several offences.
A Calendar of Prisoners tried at the General Quarter Sessions of the Peace, HO140, piece no.45

By 1880 Mr Baker was in the Ashburton area, and appeared at the Petty Sessional Court, again charged with obtaining money by false pretences. He had told Mr Wills of Lounston Farm, Ilsington, that he was a son of the late Mr Coneybear, an Ashburton watchmaker, and had taken on the businesses of Giles (late Harding) and Mr Hays. Mr Wills gave him a clock to repair, and said he would pay him when he came into Ashburton. However, when Mr Wills was away Baker asked the housekeeper for 3s 6d, which she paid.
Adrian Hays said that he did not know the prisoner.
During the course of the trial it was revealed that Baker had married five weeks previously. When his wife visited him at Ashburton police station she told the sergeant that she had not known him before their marriage, and she was unaware of his previous convictions. She had thought he was a respectable jeweller.

Baker seems to have been remanded in Exeter Prison, but in April was found not guilty of fraud, and was acquitted and discharged. Aged 38, he was described as a jeweller.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette Daily Telegrams 31 January 1880 p4 col2
A Calendar of Prisoners tried at the General Quarter Sessions of the Peace, HO140, piece no.49

Later the same year, in August 1880, Frederick was charged with assaulting and attempting to strangle his wife, Emma*. Described as an itinerant clock and watch repairer, he lived with Emma at No. 1 Court, East Street - they had been married seven months at the time. The offence, witnessed by Emma's sister, occurred when Baker had been drinking and the couple argued about moving north. Later the sister coaxed the defendant upstairs, but shortly afterwards she heard something being smashed, and when she investigated had to protect herself from shards of crockery which he threw down at her.
After a long discussion the bench declined the prosecution's request for a judicial separation, but fined Frederick 15s for the assault. He 'impudently' flung the money on the table, and he was warned about appearing before the court again.
Western Times 5 August 1880 p4 col1
*Frederick Augustus Baker married Emma Howard in the Newton Abbot registration district in the last quarter of 1879