Thomas Russell & The Early English Watchmaking Trade

Thomas Russell ‘s identify is synonymous with the Lancashire watch making trade and he’s an icon for watch purists and fans around the globe. However how he got here to turn into a watchmaker and why Lancashire performed such an necessary function within the watchmaking trade is an interesting story.

Within the 17th century farmers and agricultural staff who wanted to complement their revenue in the course of the winter months undertook a lot of the work of watchmaking. In and round Lancashire this was notably necessary and the proximity of metalworking, the supply of high-quality metallic instruments and the port of Liverpool aided the expansion of the trade. By the 18th century watch elements had been being sub-contracted to small farms and cottages all through the area.

One other issue within the progress of this cottage trade had been the numerous decrease overheads that the farmers loved as part-time staff in their very own houses. Elsewhere wages had been the most important contributor to the entire value of watch manufacturing with the price of uncooked supplies, aside from gold and silver used within the making of pricy circumstances, comparatively small.

One commentator notes that, “From Prescott to Liverpool, eight miles because the crow flies, the countryside was dotted with the cottages of spring makers, wheel cutters, chain makers, case makers, dial makers – each speciality that went into the making of a watch.” By the tip of the 18th century between 150,000 and 200,000 watches a 12 months had been being produced by this method, satisfying the nationwide want for correct timekeeping as the economic revolution took maintain.

The Lancashire sub-contracting system allowed the manufacturing of watch actions at such low costs that by the tip of the 18th century, the Lancashire producers had been supplying many of the nice watch corporations in London, Coventry and Liverpool. All that these corporations wanted to do was to make or supply their very own case and dial, after which assemble the watch.

Thomas Russell joined this hive of exercise in 1848 when he moved his enterprise as a watch producer to Slater Avenue in Liverpool. The town was a significant seafaring port and the manufacture of ships’ clocks and chronometers grew to become an necessary income stream for the enterprise.

Thomas Russell’s father, additionally named Thomas Russell (1780-1830), the founding father of this watchmaking dynasty, was born in Eskdale a small village in Cumberland. He served his time in watchmaking in New St. Broughton-in-Furness Lancashire beneath William Bellman, he then served his journeyman time with William Wakefield in Market St Lancaster the place he later began a enterprise of his personal in the identical avenue.

He had two sons; one named Thomas was married to Mary in 1831. Additionally they had two sons, Thomas Robert (1833-1894) born in Lancaster and Alfred Holgate Russell (1840-1893). In about 1840 the household moved to Halifax establishing a watchmaking enterprise in Lord St. It was right here that Alfred was born.

By 1848 the household had moved as soon as extra and information present that Thomas Russell was a watch producer with premises at 20 or 22 Slater Avenue, Liverpool and later at quantity 32 in the identical avenue. It was right here that Thomas Russell grew to become arguably Liverpool ‘s most interesting watchmaker and the enterprise produced high quality watches and clocks, together with the celebrated Russell Hunter pocket watch. Thomas Senior and his oldest son Thomas Robert had been granted a Royal Warrant by Queen Victoria indicating their fast progress in watch manufacturing.

Round 1859, Thomas handed over management of the enterprise to his sons Thomas Robert and Alfred Holgate and the corporate modified its identify to Thomas Russell & Son. Following Thomas Russell’s loss of life in 1867 the enterprise was divided into two; the commerce aspect continued beneath the identical identify and was run by Alfred and Thomas ran Russells Restricted. The retail enterprise grew to become importers of Swiss watches and music containers.

By 1877 the corporate had moved the enterprise as soon as extra, this time to Cathedral Works, 12 Church Avenue, Liverpool, with extra places of work at Piccadilly in London and Toronto, Canada. It was now often called the Russell Watch and Chronometer Manufactory and was listed in 1880 as “watch and chronometer producers and machine made keyless lever and jewellery retailers” and moreover, “by Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen and HRM the Duke of Edinburgh and the Admiralty”.

After Queen Victoria’s loss of life, Thomas Russell nonetheless signed their watches “Makers to Queen Victoria” regardless that formally the warrant had ceased with the Queens loss of life. This was tolerated for a time earlier than they eliminated this from their watches.

Following the deaths of Thomas Robert and Alfred Holgate, Alfred’s son Bernard Holgate Russell and his cousin Thos Townsend Russell took over the corporate and the identify of the enterprise was modified in 1894 to Russells Restricted. From this date it seems that they continued as retail jewellers with a number of branches in Liverpool and, by the early 1900’s, Manchester and Llandudno as nicely.

Bernard married and had a son Thomas Graham (1906-1999). In 1915 Bernard and Thos Townsend Russell invited Joseph Wright to turn into a fellow director of Thos Russell & Son. Joseph had intensive commerce information, travelled extensively and had enterprise contacts in Switzerland and dealing expertise with the well-known American Illinois Watch Case Co.

The sons of those administrators all appeared to have labored in and run the enterprise in later years. Throughout WW2 Joseph Wright saved the agency going regardless of wartime shortages of supplies and males till the sons returned from the struggle. In about 1994 each the retail Liverpool Russells Ltd and the workshops and places of work at 12 Church Avenue closed their doorways for the final time.