A rare and important cylinder pocket watch by Larcum Kendall
Larcum Kendall (1719-1790) was born in Charlbury, Oxfordshire on 21st September 1719. Though mostly now remembered for his work in creating the highly successful copy of Harrisons Longitude Timekeeper H4, Kendal was one of the most able watchmakers working in London in the 18th century. Despite a long life at the bench, very few watches and clocks are known to bear his name. This is not an indication of his lack of employment, however, but points to the fact that perhaps he did not have the ambition, or did not see the need, to seek retail orders. What is certain is that he was involved with the London watch trade at the highest level.
Kendall was apprenticed to John Jefferys, a repeating motion maker, for seven years on 7th April 1735 and it was Jefferys who was to bring Kendall into direct contact with John Harrison and provide what was probably the strongest influence on Kendall and his future work. Kendall is also known to have worked for George Graham for several years making cylinder escapements and seems to have continued in that role for the firm of Thomas Mudge and William Dutton after Grahams death in 1751.
It has been assumed that Jefferys played the principle role in helping Harrison produce H4 but new evidence only recently discovered, and yet to be published, has uncovered the fact that Jefferys died in 1754, before construction of H4 began. It is probable that the role of Harrisons main workman would have passed to Kendall at this time and is almost certainly the reason why Kendall was appointed as one of the practical experts to the Board of Longitude in 1765. Also on the Board of Longitude were Rev. William Ludlam, Fellow of St.Johns College, Cambridge, Rev. John Mitchell, F.R.D, Woodwardian Professor of Geology, Thomas Mudge and William Mathews of Fleet Street, watchmakers; and John Bird of the strand, instrument maker. All six alongside the Astronomer Royal, Nevil Maskelyne spent several days been shown the construction of H4, and on the 22nd of August, 1765 signed the certificate stating that all details had been declared by Harrison to their entire satisfaction
More significant is the fact that Kendall was given the signal honour of proving the worth of Harrisons designs by being commissioned to make a copy of H4 in 1766. K1 took three years to build and cost 450 guineas and was handed over to the Board of Longitude in January 1770. After the trails at Greenwich it was then assigned to Captain James Cook for his second voyage of discovery to the South Seas in 1772-75, where Cook and ships astronomer William Wales had high praise for the watch and for Kendall, and on his return in 1775 Cook wrote to the Secretary of the Admiralty, "Mr Kendall's watch has exceeded the expectations of its most zealous advocate..." K1 now resides at Greenwich and is a testimony to Kendalls skills of a watchmaker the back plate is signed Larcum Kendall LONDON and dated 1776 see figs 1 and 2
Despite the success of K1 Kendall made no further copies and, instead produced two simplified timekeepers K2 and K3.
K2 was handed over to the board of Longitude In March 1772, at a cost of 200 guineas, this time the dial was signed LARCUM KENDALL LONDON and on the back plate: Larcum Kendall 1771 London It is chiefly famous because it was with William Bligh on the Bounty in 1787 when, as a result of the mutiny, it was taken by Fletcher Christian to Pitcairn Island. It was found in 1808 by and American and was bought on Pitcairn from the last survivor of the mutiny and only returned to England in 1840.
K3 was completed in 1774 at a cost of 100 guineas, it is signed LARCUM KENDALL LONDON and on the back plate: Larcum Kendall 1774 London its style is vastly different from K1 and K2 as it has three small dial for hours, minutes and seconds and is fitted into a octagonal wooden case. It was on board HMS Discovery in 1776 with the Astronomer William Bayly.
Kendall produced a pocket chronometer, which is now in the Museum of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, Guildhall, London, which has an almost identical dial to this watch see fig== this watch is signed on the back plate L.Kendall London B+y and is in a silver pair case hallmarked for 1786, see Fig=== inside the case are watch papers printed Vulliamy & Sons, 74 Pall Mall, London this watch was presented to the Clockmakers Company in 1849 by B.L Vulliamy and was almost certainly purchased by his father Benjamin Vulliamy at the sale of Larcum Kendalls Workshop in December 1790 Lot 37. See Fig====
The sale of Kendalls workshop was held at Kendall premises at No.6 Furnivals Inn Court on the 23rd of December, many watch making tools and parts were sold and of note were was an unusual wheel cutting engine, and a curious foot lathe. ======= Lots 37-39 in the sale were of interest and are listed below:
37. A time keeper, complete in silver cases, by ditto scapement 36 guineas 38. A time keeper, with silver cases, by ditto, complete except the scapement 8 : 8: 0 39. A gold horizontal seconds watch, cappd and jeweld. by ditto 30 guineas
as stated earlier lot 37 was the watch bought by Vulliamy at a cost of 36 guineas, could this latest watch be lot 39, its price was certainly high enough to believe it was a high quality watch. It could even have been Kendalls own personal watch, made for his every day use. The sale must have been a fascinating place to be, with famous clock and watchmakers present, another important name at the auction was that of William Bayly Astronomer on Board Cooks ship Adventure 1772-75 and Discovery in 1776-80. Principal Astronomer on Cooks second voyage was William Wales.
William Wales was born in Yorkshire in 1734 in 1765 he was appointed by the Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne as one of four computers to work on calculations for the first Nautical Almanac, which was published in 1767 and he was also sent by the British government to Hudson bay to observe the transit of Venus in 1769. In 1772 he was proposed by Maskelyne to be astronomer on Cook's Resolution, where he was appointed to judge the effectiveness of K1. It seems to be pure co-incidence that the parents of John Harrison, and the parents of William Wales were married in the same parish of Wragby on the Nostell Priory estate in Yorkshire. On returning from South Seas in 1775 Wales became Master of the Royal Mathematical School at Christ's Hospital in London and in 1777 William Wales was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, the signatories included Captain James Cook, Daniel Solander and Nevil Maskelyne.
William Wales died in 1798 at the age of 64, in March the following year his Mathmatical Library, instruments, maps and original drawings by Hodges, were auctioned by Leigh and Sotheby, Booksellers of Covent Garden see Fig=== The auctions first 25 lots see Fig=== show us the instruments and effects that must have surrounded Wales, even a Copper Medal of Captain Cook lot3 and a Barometer by Bird lot 14 (John Bird was one of the six chosen along side Kendall on the Board of Longitude) The most significant lot and the highest price achieved on the day was lot 5, A Pocket Time-piece by Kendall, which sold for 20 guineas 9 shillings and 6 pence.
This fascinating insight into the past shows us how much esteem Wales held Kendals work. Was this watch made especially for William Wales, he returned from Cooks second voyage in 1775 with glowing reports of K1 having spent 3 long years at sea with the watch and seeing it on a daily basis.
The top plate of this watch certainly echoes that of K1 with the fine engraving and the full signature Larcum Kendall only seen on K1, 2 and 3. The other known examples of Kendalls work are signed L.Kendall see Figs== and ==.. The regulator dial was another feature that would have lent itself to been required for a more accurate display; needed when taking mathematical and astronomical observations, The dial is identical to that of the Clock makers Company Kendall, except from 2 holding screws, See fig==.
The date of 1776 is also of interest; the only known examples dated are K1, 2 and 3 whereas the other known Kendall watches have hallmarked cases. One example is stamped with B +u and signed L.Kendall and is pair cased with a tortoise-shell outer case, no in the Science Museum London, see Fig ===and the Guildhall watch is stamped B+y see Fig==, it is not entirely known what actual production numbers these codes refer to, but many 18th century instrument makers used serial numbering systems, John Arnold and B. L.Vulliamy to name a few. The date of 1776 was also the year that Wales became Master of the Mathematical School at Christs Hospital London and also the year that the man he will be always associated with John Harrison died.
Larcum Kendall died in London in1790 at the age of 71, for a man so involved with the story of longitude and watch making in the highest form, he has left us with very few examples of his work.