Sunday, 30 August 2015

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Wigton’s first clockmakers revealed

A priceless collection of rare 17th-century clocks made by Wigton’s first clockmakers has been revealed.

Wigton clocks photo
Lee Borrett

Believed to be the only complete collection, it features timepieces by all six of the clockmaking pioneers in the area.

The clocks are examples of some of the earliest rural clockmaking in England, according to enthusiast Lee Borrett, who owns the unique hoard.

“Their true value is one of not money, but they are historically valuable to Cumbria,” he said. “They are truly important to the beginnings of clockmaking in the Cumbrian region.

“It is a one-off, complete collection.”

The craft in Wigton, now known as The Wigton School of Clockmaking, is traced back to John Sanderson.

He was a Quaker living on the settlement of Low Tiffinthwaite which was founded in 1653.

Sanderson returned to Wigton from Yorkshire in 1691 where it was believed he was apprenticed to Quaker clockmaker John Ogden of Bowbridge.

Sanderson married Elizabeth Pearson, the granddaughter of William Pearson who set up the Tiffinthwaite settlement on land at his farm. Pearson was inspired by a visit from Quaker founder George Fox in 1653 when he preached at the market cross in Wigton.

Sanderson’s first clocks date from the late 1690s.

“It’s a shame that very few people realise what was going on in Wigton at that time,” said Mr Borrett.

“Early clockmaking in the area came from the Tiffinthwaite site.”

Sanderson was followed by Richard Sill and John Ismay, of Oulton. The other makers connected with the Wigton School – Henry Sheppard, Joseph Calvert, of Longthwaite; and Redge Buckell, of Skelton – were working in the early 1700s.

Mr Borrett, of Kent, first became interested in the Wigton clocks 15 years ago after being charmed by the clock’s distinctive religious inscriptions.

“I now have nine made by the six different makers,” he said. “I think they were being made by the Quakers for their own use because of the religious verses on them.

“They all represent the very beginnings of clockmaking in the Wigton area.”

Many of Sanderson’s clocks include the religious inscription ‘Remember man, that die thou must, and after that, to judgement just’.

Mr Borrett said: “Every one of these clocks has come out of the same workshop with similar features to their iron and brass movements, but at the same time each example is different and unique in its own right.”

He is keen to ensure that the Wigton clockmaking legacy remains intact.

“I am not only hoping to add to the collection, but my main aim now is to keep them all together,” he added.

If anyone has any information about the Wigton School or its clocks, please get in touch with Mr Borrett through



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