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 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).


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?).