Friday, 14 September 2018

William Cribb

William Eardley Cribb was a maker of watches, chronometers and clocks of above-average quality.  His good reputation was especially justified by the excellent performance of his chronometers – such that, according to Mercer, he became a supplier to the Admiralty.  His was a business which could have grown and continued through successive generations, but, having had no children, it ceased with his death at the relatively early age of sixty*.

William had been born in London on Christmas Eve, 1814, and grew up at 58 Theobalds Road, Bloomsbury, between Chancery Lane and Russell Square.  From the early 1820s he lived and traded from premises on Southampton Row, successively at numbers 17, 30 and 146 – the latter nowadays being an Indian Restaurant.

Around 1853-55 Cribb developed his business by taking over that of Birchall & Appleton at 30 Southampton Row following Appleton’s death in September 1852.  The partners had consolidated their own good standing by acquiring in 1830 the business/premises of Robert Molyneux & Son – Molyneux having been especially notable for his work on auxiliary compensation for marine chronometers, as discussed in my article on James Eiffe.

The British Museum holds two examples of Cribb’s work.  One of these, with movement number 3715, circa-1860, features an escapement of the type known as Cole's Resilient – invented in 1830 by James Ferguson Cole.  This obviates the banking pins normally used to constrain movement of the lever by the utilisation of specific shaping of the escape wheel teeth and angularity of the pallets.

© Trustees of the British Museum

This is another of Cribb’s movements, number 3824, which is a free sprung chronometer, the quality of which appears first rate in this photograph, for which thanks are due to ‘radger’ who posts on the Watchuseek forum:


* I have seen a contention that Gibbs had a son named Arthur, but I have been unable to confirm this.  A person with this name is mentioned as an executor of William’s will, but he was an upholsterer born the same year (1814) – so was perhaps a cousin.  William’s estate amounted to ‘under £1,500,’ so his commercial success should probably be considered as having been moderate only.

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