SUNDAY SUPPLEMENT: The parish records at Croydon Minster reveal strong local connections to some of the most eminent horologists of the 18th to 20th Centuries, as DAVID MORGAN, pictured right, explains
Croydon has been the home to many who practised the art of horology. Daniel Quare, who invented a repeating watch movement in 1680, had his country home in Croydon, where he died in 1714.
The Thomas Wellers – with both father and son sharing the same name – were watch and clockmakers. Son Thomas Weller, who died in 1867, had No2 High Street as his work premises. His impressive ledger covering the last few years of his business life is now held in the Museum of Croydon.
Pasquale Catteneo had a watchmaker’s business at 107 High Street listed in the 1851 directory. John Doldorph made watches and clocks at the end of the 20th century from his workshop at 51 Church Street.
RJ Rudd, also from Croydon, who died in 1930, designed and built the first free pendulum clock. The pendulum swings for a whole minute without the control of the escapement. An escapement is a mechanical linkage in mechanical watches and clocks that gives impulses to the timekeeping element and periodically releases the gear train to move forward, advancing the clock’s hands. Rudd’s ideas were later used by William Shortt in a timepiece which was the basis of accurate timekeeping until the arrival of quartz clocks.
Another Croydon family’s name connected to this trade was Budgen. The 1866 Trade Directory for Croydon contained an advert for Thomas Weller in which he is described as the successor to John Budgen.
It is, though, with John’s father, William Budgen, that this tale begins.
William’s name appears in 1793 on a jury-qualified copy holder and freeholder list for Croydon as “a gent”, but with no profession next it. He had first appeared on such a list back in 1781 when he was described as a watchmaker. His name can be found in various sources, including buying land near Waddon Marsh in 1794 from Robert Osborn.
William Budgen died, aged 81, in 1816 and was buried in Croydon Parish Church graveyard. The parish records show that William was buried with his wife Anne, with three of their children who died before adulthood. Next to that grave in what we now know as Croydon Minster was buried another daughter, Ann, who had married John Moore, and who was interred with her son after they both died in 1820, she aged 40 and her son 11.
William Budgen’s will, which was written in 1814, described him as a “clock smith”. His wife Anne was still alive when the will was proved and, she, together with their daughter, Ann, were left incomes which would allow them to be comfortably off. From the will it can be seen that there was a surviving son, John. He was bequeathed properties in Croydon, Sanderstead and Nutfield.
John carried on his father’s line of work and he, in turn, became the principal watchmaker in Croydon, with premises at the south corner of Mint Walk. John grew to become a much-respected member of the local community, holding various parish offices. He was one of the trustees of the Elys Davy Almshouses.
When he retired, he moved to George Street to be closer to his friend William Inkpen, another stalwart of local business and of the Parish Church.
John Budgen died in 1869, a month after his wife Sarah, and a touching tribute was written about him: “He enjoyed his retirement for a few years, when, to use a figure of speech, the clock of life with all its delicate and complicated machinery, was abruptly stopped by the hand of Time”.
John and his wife were buried in St Peter’s, South Croydon; the graveyard of the Parish Church was closed for new burials from 1861.
A note in the Parish Church records at Croydon Minster show that back in 1780 William Budgen was given the job of erecting the chimes for the clock in the church tower.
When the mechanism for the clock was installed, it was necessary to wind it regularly to keep it working. Quite a job for the family firm.
These workings continued to function accurately until the disastrous fire of 1867. The heat of the blaze was so intense that the metal hands of this clock fused together. They were picked out of the rubble and debris and now hang on the wall in the church office.
The time of the fusing together of the hands was 11.50.
William Budgen had followed in his own father’s footsteps. Thomas Budgen also made timepieces in the town. He died in 1775 leaving a will in which he described himself as a clockmaker. From this document it can be seen that he had a wife, Sarah, and two sons, William and John. Properties in Croydon and Nutfield were to bring in rents which would support the family after his death.
Various Budgen clocks still appear in antique sales today. As to whether it was Thomas, William or John who made them depends on the fashion and the style to provide a date.
Back in 2014, Walwyn Antique Clocks in Kensington Church Street sold a George III mahogany bell top bracket clock made by Budgen and dated between 1780 and 1790. This particular table clock was probably made by William, who was a member of the Clockmakers’ Company from 1750 until his death.
As the clock, which has “Budgens of Croydon” inscribed on its very well-crafted backplate, was sold through an antiques dealer, the price paid is not known. But clocks of this kind can fetch between £5,000 to $18,000 at auction today, and appear to be especially sought-after by American collectors (historic links to the Revolutionary War probably add to their attraction).
I wonder how many Budgen clocks and watches are still in houses today in Croydon, some silent, some still chiming, but standing as testaments to skilled workmanship of old?
Previous articles by David Morgan:
- Canadian air force hero’s sacrifice to help save his D-Day crew
- Grimy Croydon collier who put the wind up an Archbishop
- The Victorian tax master who made Haling Cottage his home
- The church fire that consumed a thousand years of history
David Morgan is a former Croydon headteacher, now the volunteer education officer at Croydon Minster, who offers tours or illustrated talks on the history around the Minster for local community groups.
If you would like a group tour of Croydon Minster or want to book a school visit, then ring the Minster Office on 020 688 8104 or go to the website on www.croydonminster.org and use the contact page
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