Friday, 30 June 2017

Fathers and Sons - Again

My latest research project has disclosed yet another instance of an enterprising, industrious father who built a business and reputation over several decades, and a son who presided over the rapid decline of that business and the loss of the family’s wealth.  I don’t go looking for such sagas and must conclude that the scenario was not so uncommon in the English horology trades of the nineteenth century.  See also

With this maker – as with Ralph Gout, about whom I wrote in Antiquarian Horology, June 2016 – the son lacked the father’s craft skills as well as business acumen.  As a result it was under the father’s name that the business was carried on after his death.  This assured a maintenance of reputation for a while and demonstrates that the concept of a trusted, quality ‘Brand’ was as commercially important in Victorian times as it is today.

My new subject managed to get through a seven figure (in current value terms) legacy in just 11 years.  There are indications that this came about through overtrading with a reliance on high sales volumes with small profit margins, the carrying of excessive amounts of stock and a move to high-overheads premises.  There is however also a strand which is all too typical of late Victorian urban society – chronic ill health brought about by environmental factors.  The son contracted TB and was forced to relocate to the coast, where he nevertheless died decades short of his three-score-and-ten and no longer a well-known watchmaker/retailer and jeweller, but a humble boarding house keeper.

I am aiming to publish a substantial article on this watchmaking family in the autumn/winter.

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