Monday, 12 August 2019

The Wild West . . . in South East London

If you ever have reason to start looking into the Frodsham horological dynasty you may, as I did, become excited to happen upon Edward, of that ilk.  Whilst most of the family, from William James (b.1778) through to Parkinson & Frodsham, (surviving to 1947), remained London-based, establishing and developing watchmaking businesses of great repute, this Edward was to be found in the 1870s in Wyoming, U.S.  Described as a jeweller by trade, he apparently had a fearsome temper and was good with a gun.  A succinct pen portrait goes like this: Imprisoned for having shot dead a man who had been having an affair with his wife.  On release was soon in a gunfight at Laramie, killed another man, was arrested, then bailed, moved to Leadville, killed again, for which he was arrested and put into jail, from which he was seized by vigilantes . . . and lynched by them!

Meanwhile, back in England, George Frodsham was in 1876, if a little less extravagantly, also flouting the Law: he was summoned for travelling 2nd Class on the Great Eastern Railway with a 3rd Class ticket.

But if George’ delinquency was mild in comparison with Edward’s, one of his fellow London watchmakers, Nathaniel Wegg, would have been quite at home in the gun-toting Wild West.  In 1885 Nat shot a man attempting to break into his watch/jewellery shop in Deptford.  A little reminiscent of Dirty Harry’s line, ‘you've got to ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, punk?,’ Nat shouted to the wounded burglar, ‘How did you like it? . . . I have another ready for you.’  And while at the movies, Nat’s approach reminds me of Paul Kersey in Michael Winner’s Death Wish, not only for his liking to be tooled-up, but also as a one man judicial operation, as illustrated by this report in the Kentish Mercury, 14 May 1881:

Wegg is certainly proving to be an interesting subject and my article on his life and business is nearing completion.  However, examples of his work are very hard to find.  So, if you have a Wegg watch – or a photograph/description of one – I’d be very grateful to hear from you.

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