The AHS Women and Horology project
Su Fullwood and Geoff Allnutt
This project started in 2017 when watchmaker Geoff Allnutt came across a watch engraved with a woman’s name on the barrel bridge of the movement. Although recent research has suggested that many of the names on watches like these are in fact the first owners of the watch, this is not always the case. Some women’s names are backed by supporting evidence to be the maker, or at least the retailer, as with their male counterparts.
Geoff commissioned Su Fullwood, a freelance collections adviser, to use secondary sources to put together a list showing how widespread it was that women were associated with horology.
The initial list
This initial list used such publications as Brian Loomes, Watchmakers and Clockmakers of the World and local lists of clock and watchmakers, as well as more specialist books such as Philip Priestley, Watch Case Makers of England and Allen White, The Chain Makers.
The list included all references found to women who were associated with horology in some way, such as women who ran retail businesses, practicing watch and clockmakers, dial painters, case makers and tool makers. Most of these women, however, were those who worked in small businesses taking over the work after their husbands died, or who were working in watch and clock factories.
The original aim was only to collate names in secondary sources. However, due to the number of women and the range of individual circumstances discovered, it became clear that women practising a horological craft or business during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was not as rare as previously thought and certainly more diverse and complicated.
As in every other period, these businesspeople, craftspeople and entrepreneurs are largely hidden in history, with little written about them. Certainly, in the generalised historical books on horology, women rarely get more than a mention, despite their clear presence in the original documents.
Owing to the richness of these initial findings, the project was extended to a search of primary sources, including census returns, newspaper articles, wills, existing objects and photographs, in both private and public collections. This was done with the aim to gather as much information as possible about women and horology in a useable, accessible form so that we can further our knowledge of an area that has so far not been extensively investigated.
One fascinating example was an exchange of correspondence found in the Clerkenwell News of 1866 between a male 'watch jobber' and a female watchmaker, which is rich in detail about the structure of London's watchmaking trade as well as women's employment in Britain at the time. We've transcribed the letters here.
By bringing all of the information together in one place, the resource can be used to find out more about the involvement of women in horological businesses and making, from the seventeenth through to the twentieth century.
Call for contributions
As the project is still in its early stages, we are looking for help to uncover more information. Can you help? We have provided a link on this page to our spreadsheet of names, information and sources as it currently stands. If you have any information that is not already on the spreadsheet or can provide further details about the names already listed here, we would like to hear from you.
We are interested in any publications or research, objects, documents, photographs or other ephemeral items that mention women associated with horology in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Names and details will then be added to the spreadsheet and made available for further analysis and research. Updates on the project will be forthcoming.
We are excluding women who are listed as wives or daughters of watch and clockmakers unless there is evidence of further involvement. The reason for this is that there seems to be a distinction between those women who saw themselves as part of the business or as watch or clockmakers themselves and those who saw themselves mainly in a domestic spousal role. However, any name found and forwarded to the project, even if tenuous or obscure, will be checked further to verify.
At this stage, we are restricting the project to women’s names found in the United Kingdom, although in the future there will be further research about horology in other countries such as Switzerland, France, the United States and New Zealand.
To submit information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to 'Women And Horology', Antiquarian Horological Society, 4 Lovat Lane, London EC3R 8DT. All information will be checked and added to the spreadsheet with credit to the provider. Thank you in advance for your help.
Spreadsheet and explanatory notes
The latest version (18 June 2022) of the spreadsheet is available in two formats.
For a PDF version, which is easier to read, download here. (1MB)
For an Excel version that can be sorted and filtered, download here. (<1MB)
Please note that the spreadsheet is mainly compiled from secondary sources as per the bibliography below, with the aim to bring together the names of all women working in horology from 17th to the 20th centuries onto one list as far as possible. All these names will need to be checked and verified as the project progresses. Therefore at this stage there may be mistakes in the list or women found not to work in the horological field. Where names have been included and since found not to be relevant, they have not been taken out but instead annotated in the notes to show this. As more names are verified or discarded the spreadsheet will be updated.
There are also some primary sources included, but the research we are currently doing on the census returns and other documentary evidence is not yet included. The aim is to add them to the list in due course. The spreadsheet will be updated at intervals.
Where there has been a date associated with the name in the secondary sources it has been recorded under 'associated date'. It is not always clear what the date refers to in the publications but in most cases it is probably a directory entry or some other significant event such as a marriage year, death (of the husband) or date from a document. They have been included to give a rough idea of period in which the person was living or working.
Using the information
We are keen for the information gathered as part of the Women and Horology project to be used as widely as possible. In order for awareness of the project to grow, we ask that anybody using this information in a talk or publication gives an acknowledgement to the project. This may encourage others to contribute information in turn, building the resource still further.
Sources referenced in spreadsheet
AHS: Antiquarian Horological Society
Abbott, Henry: Abbott’s American Watchmaker: An Encyclopedia for the Horologist, Jeweller, Gold and Silversmith (1894)
Baillie, Granville Hugh: Watchmakers and Clockmakers of the World (1929)
Britten: Britten’s Old Clocks and Watches and their Makers, ninth edition (1982)
CC: Clockmakers’ Company Archives, Register of Apprentices 1631–1931
Dowler, Graham: Gloucestershire Clock and Watch Makers (1984)
Erickson, Amy Louise: Clockmakers, Milliners and Mistresses: Women Trading in the City of London Companies 1700–1750, available at www.geog.cam.ac.uk/research/projects/occupations/abstracts/paper16.pdf
Evans, Jeremy: List of Women in Horology from Newspapers and Contemporary Sources 18th Century (unpublished)
Fennell, Geradine: A List of Irish Watch and Clock Makers (1963)
Fullwood, Su: Watch and Clock Making in Midhurst 1700–Present (booklet produced by J E Allnutt & Son)
Fullwood, Su: Women in Horology (booklet produced by J E Allnutt & Son)
Loomes, Brian: Watchmakers and Clockmakers of the World, Complete 21st edition (2006)
Mather, Harold: Clock and Watch Makers of Nottinghamshire (1979)
Moore, A James: The Clockmakers of Somerset, 1650–1900 (1998)
NAWCC: National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, nawcc.org/index.php/resources
Newman, Sue: The Christchurch Fusee Chain Gang (2010)
Norgate, Martin: Directory of Hampshire Clockmakers (1993)
Nye, James: ‘Edmund Howard (1710–1798): A Quaker Clockmaker in Chelsea’, Antiquarian Horology 4/38, December 2017, available at www.ahsoc.org/publications/the-journal/sample-articles/
Parker, Paul: Clockmaking in the Vale of Clwyd (1993)
Pearson, Michael: Kent Clocks and Clockmakers (1997)
Penfold, John: Clockmakers of Cumberland (1977)
Priestley, Philip: Early Watch Case Makers of England 1631–1720 (2000)
Priestley, Philip: Watch Case Makers of England: A History and Register of Gold and Silver Watch Case Makers of England, 1720–1920 (1994)
Severs, David: Bedale’s Clockmakers (2010)
Severs, David: A Concise Guide to the Clockmakers of Northallerton and Their Clocks (2008)
Severs, David: Ripon’s Clockmakers (2013)
Shenton, Alan: Pocket Watches: 19th & 20th Century (1995)
Stuart, Susan: Biographical List of Clockmakers: North Lancashire and South Westmorland 1680–1900 (1996, addendum 1999)
Tyler, Eric: The Clockmakers of Hertfordshire (1997)
Tyler, Eric: The Clockmakers of Sussex (1986)
White, Ian: Watch and Clock Makers in the City of Bath (1996)
White, Allen: The Chain Makers: A History of the Watch Fusee Chain Industry (1967)
Wilbourn, A S H and Ellis, Roy: Lincolnshire Clock, Watch and Barometer Makers (2001)
Wood, Edward: Curiosities of Clocks And Watches From The Earliest Times (1866/1973)
Young, John: Wiltshire Watch and Clockmakers (3 volumes: 2004, 2006, 2012)