yeovil trades & traders

William Charles Bodham Fox

Watch & Clock Maker of Middle Street


William Charles Bodham Fox, known variously as William or Charles, but later known professionally as Charles Fox, was born in Yeovil in 1856, the son of leather glove finisher Edward Fox (b1813) and his glove sewer wife Elizabeth. In the 1861 census Edward and Elizabeth with their four children, including 7-year old William, were living in Park Street. In 1871 they were listed in Belmont Street and William, now listed as Charles, was aged 14 and gave his occupation as Watch & Clock Maker.

In 1876 at Holborn, London, Charles (using his name William Charles) married Frances Annie Dimond (b1858) of Yeovil. In the 1881 census William and Frances, together with their two-year old daughter Mabel were living at 89 Middle Street, Yeovil. William gave his occupation as 'Watchmaker employing 1 boy'.

A clock with four faces and a large bell for striking the hour and two smaller bells for striking the quarter hours, built by clockmaker James W Benson of London, was installed in 1864 in a tower designed by a local architect, Charles Benson, and built onto the Town Hall in High Street. However, the clock tower was found to be structurally unsafe and was taken down in 1887. In 1888 the Council decided to install a drum clock over the entrance to the Town Hall as a temporary measure. The new drum clock, photographed below, was supplied by Charles Fox (either made by him or putting his name on a clock with a movement made by others). In 1912 a new turret clock was built onto the Town Hall and Fox's drum clock was taken down and put into storage. In 1916 the movement was used in the clock that surmounts the newly-built Reckleford school  - where it remains to this day.

By 1891 Charles had moved to 8 High Street and he gave his occupation in the census simply as a Jeweller. Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser of 1898 listed the address as the premises of jeweller Charles Fox but Whitby's 1903 edition listed it as the premises of jewellers Munford & Son. From 1911 the premises were those of watchmaker and jeweller Clement White as they are today.


In the 1891 edition of 'Where to Buy' Charles Fox's business was given the following description -

Mr Charles Fox,
oldsmith, Jeweller, &C., High Street

The present is a busy age and time is valuable. In the old days when bustle or stir was produced only by the daily arrival of the old stage coach, it mattered little, perhaps, whether a man was an hour or so late in keeping an appointment; but with our splendid system of railways, our steam and our electricity, and our large commercial houses with modern business arrangements, every minute has its value. This revolution in our habits and surroundings is reflected in the great improvement in the manufacture of timepieces, and in this connection there is a characteristic modern business house in Yeovil, carried on by Mr Charles Fox, in High Street. The splendid double plate-glass frontage forms a handsome and exceedingly attractive feature.

Mr Fox has had a life-long experience as a watchmaker and jeweller, and although he has a staff of competent workmen under him, he is himself a thoroughly practical man and gives constant personal supervision to the details of the business.

The premises are in the centre of the principal part of the town, near the banks, the leading hotels and business houses and close to the Town Hall. Mr Fox had established a rapidly-increasing business, and about twelve months since the demands on his resources obliged him to remove to his present commanding position, where ample accommodation is at hand for every purpose. A very large and comprehensive assortment of watches, clocks, and timepieces of every description are in stock, including gold and silver hunting watches of best English make, marble and ormolu mantel timepieces,  alarums, and chimney clocks, gold and silver chains, bangles, brooches, pins, earrings and similar jewellery of the best quality and in the most artistic designs, and a specially fine assortment of guinea gold wedding, keeper and engagement rings, a large and choice selection of sterling silver presentation plate, richly embossed, and of the most varied and elaborate designs, consisting of cups, goblets, tankards, epergnes, tea and coffee services, salad bowls, etc., etc., such as is rarely seen out of London; a selection of eye-glasses and spectacles in various handsome mountings, and to suit every shade of vision (Mr Fox being sole agent for Harry Lawrence's improved spectacles and eye-glasses).

The unique facilities at his disposal, and the able staff of English and foreign workmen employed enables Mr Fox to execute all orders in making and repairing watches, timepieces, and jewellery on the shortest notice and in the most efficient manner, maintaining intact a large connection in the town and district in both counties.


In fact William / Charles had moved to Bournemouth, Hampshire, and the 1901 census listed him as a Jeweller & Shopkeeper living at 2 Richmond Hill with France and Mabel. The 1911 census listed Charles and Frances, together with a housekeeper, living at Parkfield, 74 Surrey Road, Bournemouth. Again Charles, now aged 54, listed his occupation as 'Jeweller (Shop Keeper)'.

William Charles Bodham Fox died in Bournemouth in 1931, aged 74. Frances moved back to Yeovil where she died in 1933, age 75.

Today, the Charles Fox website notes "Charles Fox Jewellers has been run by the same family for over 135 years, originally starting a business in Yeovil Charles Fox decided to move to the new booming Victorian seaside town of Bournemouth. Originally having three shops in the town the three were amalgamated to the current location approximately 100 years ago. Today the fourth and fifth generations of the family are still working together, in the recently extensively refitted store, on a daily basis."




An enlargement from an 1887 photograph of the Town Hall shows the temporary drum clock erected by the Council. The drum clock was made by William Charles Fox of Middle Street.

Thanks to Al Cobb for informing me that Council minutes note that a temporary drum clock was discussed in 1888 which resulted in this clock over the entrance to the Town Hall. It was later stored and the movement was used in the clock that surmounts the newly-built Reckleford school in 1916 - where it remains to this day (albeit not working at present).


Courtesy of Olly Ewens

This photograph is from a 1952 newspaper article and was taken on the occasion of the opening of Sidney Gardens in June 1898. The group, photographed with the Mayor, Mr John Vincent, has as its background the thatched bandstand given by Mr James Bazeley Petter to mark the opening. Standing (left to right) are: - E Benson, W Summers, J Kerby Whitby, Mr Brown, William Maynard, GH Gould, Edward Samuel Ewens, Henry Jesty (mace-bearer), William W Johnson, Charles J Hook, John Bazeley Petter (donor), W Armitage (Borough Surveyor), John Howe Farley, Walter J Nosworthy, William Beale Collins, Charles Fox. Sitting - Levi Beer, CW Pittard, Sidney Watts, Mrs Vincent, John Vincent (Mayor), Joseph Chaffey Moore, William Cox.


Charles Fox's advertisement in the book "Somerset Viewed Through A Camera" published in 1897 by Yeovil photographer Jarratt Beckett to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.


From my collection

A hand-coloured postcard of High Street dating to 1910, shortly after Charles Fox had left the premises of No 8 High Street seen at dead centre with the flag pole. Just to the left is seen Fox's drum clock on the Town Hall.


A full-page advertisement from Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser of 1892 - even though Fox had left Yeovil (unless someone else was minding the store?).