Yeovil Clockmakers

Yeovil Clockmakers

The watch & clock makers of Yeovil


There has been a strong tradition of clock and watch making in Yeovil, frequently a traditional craft passed from father to son. The earliest records of Yeovil horologists are found in the accounts of the Churchwardens of St John's church where an annual fee was paid for the maintenance of the church's tower clock.

Payments were made to John Hellyar almost yearly from 1694 until 1734 and he was noted as a clock and locksmith. In 1708, 1711 and 1713 Thomas Hewlett was paid for "Clock Maintenance" and from 1737 until 1741 John Hellyar's son, Robert, was paid annually for "Clock & Chimes Maintenance". George Beard took over in the 1740s followed for a few years by Benjamin Daymond, a "Clock & Bell Mender". Until the 1780s there were a few individual payments, including James Cardell, Francis Butts and James Kerly but generally between 1760 and 1784 the annual maintenance of the church clock and chimes went to Tristram Brimble.

The first mention of a specific clock and watch maker (as opposed to the previous maintainers of the church clock) was Benjamin Abraham in 1797. He died in the same year and his widow Elizabeth was also recorded as a clock and watch maker (see below and Gallery). From then on the church clock and chimes maintenance was taken on by John White Hancock (see below) until around 1840 by which time his sons, James and John Jnr, were more frequently employed on the church clock maintenance until the final record of the Churchwarden's accounts in 1856.

Below is a list of all known clock and watchmakers of Yeovil, many with links to the own webpages, often with examples of their work.


  • Abraham, H - of Yeovil, moved to Taunton by 1815

  • Abraham, L - fl 1787 - possibly Elizabeth (Liz / Lizzie ?) Abrahams below

  • Abraham, Elizabeth - fl late 18th century / early 19th century - see Gallery

  • Barnsby, John (c1779-1857) of Bond Street

  • Barnsby, John Hubert (1834-1917) - son of John

  • Barnsby, Thomas - fl 1846 - son of John

  • Barnsby, William

  • Francis Butts - fl 1758 and 1762 he was paid sums for "Drawing up", "Looking after" or "Winding up" the clock of St John's church.

  • Cheeseman, William - apprenticed to Robert Hellyer, Yeovil, on 24 June 1735 for seven years for a payment of 10 guineas.

  • Cockey, William - fl 1730-1761 - of Yeovil and Wincanton

  • Cockle, William Henry (1846-1929) - 3 Frederick Place

  • Cole, John

  • Cox, William - fl 1821-1851. Born 1821 Yeovil, apprenticed to his uncle James Hancock

  • Davies, H - fl 1861 - of Reckleford

  • Davies, J - fl 1853

  • Dobel, E- fl 1760 - known by one longcase clock with a 12" dial signed "E Dobel, Yeovil"

  • Dobel, John Tucker (1831-1894) - son of Robert

  • Dobel, Robert (1808-1868)

  • Dobel, Thomas - fl 1780

  • Dobell, Frederick (1843-1931) - son of Robert

  • Edwards, W - fl second half of 18th century - a mahogany longcase clock is known with a 12" dial signed W Edwards Yeovil. Engraved centre with coastal scene with a fort, cottage and ship.

  • Elliott, Thomas - fl 1883-1935 - of Middle Street

  • Fox, William Charles Bodham (1856-1931)

  • Hancock, GK - no record found other than the clock shown below.

  • Hancock, John White (c1761-1843)

  • Hancock, James (1791-1862) son of John White Hancock

  • Hancock, John - fl 1793-98 - son of John White Hancock

  • Hancock & Cox - fl 1855-1872 - of Middle Street

  • Hancock, Cox & Co - fl 1872-1894 - of Middle Street

  • Hancock & Son - fl early 19th century - of Wine Street

  • Harrison, John fl 1737 - notice in Sherborne Mercury noted him as "Late Workman to Mr Caly in the Strand, London". Nothing else is known.

  • Haselhurst, Samuel - fl 1875 of Silver Street - fl 1882 - of Middle Street

  • Hellier, Robert - fl 1735-1738 - took William Cheeseman, son of William, Yeoman, as an apprentice, see above.

  • Hicks, Frederick John - fl 1895-1919 - of Middle Street

  • Hicks, Frederick James - fl 1935 - of Middle Street

  • Hicks, SH - fl 1935 - of Wyndham Street

  • Hickson, J - fl 1861 - only known clock 15" diameter mahogany single fusee dial clock.

  • Hill, J - fl 1861-1866. In Middle Street in 1861, moved to Castle Cary by 1866.

  • Jackson, W - fl 18th century - only example is long case clock with 12" dial. See below.

  • Kerby, James - fl 1766

  • Knight, George - fl 1872-1882 - of Middle Street

  • Pearse, William - fl 1839-1848 at which time he moved to Wellington. Example below.

  • Pitcher, William - in 1804 he was apprenticed to William Sawkins, Watchmaker of Yeovil, (see below) for five years for £54 12s.

  • Purchase, Richard - fl 1898-1903

  • Robinson, Simon - fl mid-18th century. No written records found.

  • Rudder, JW - fl 1903 - of Middle Street

  • Sawkins, William - fl 1803-4

  • Sherriff, William John (1891-1972) - of Market Street

  • Sherriff, William James - presumed son of William John Sherriff - fl 1964

  • Shew, George - fl 1786 - known only from two pieces, shown below.

  • Sidwell, Charles David

  • Sime, William - fl 1892-1964 - of Middle Street - took over 116 Middle Street from Samuel Upsall (see below)

  • Thornhill, Thomas - fl 1861-1866 - of Middle Street

  • Upsall, Samuel - fl 1879-c1893 - of 116 Middle Street

  • Wheeler, James - fl 1706 - no further information

  • White, Clement (1876-1953)

  • Williams, John - fl 1875 - of Queen Street - no further information




A watch paper (for wrapping a watch in the shop?) made for Elizabeth Abraham and dating to the late 17th or very early 18th century.


Courtesy of Rachel Hassell

An advertisement seeking a clock and watch maker, placed by Elizabeth Abraham in the 23 March 1804 edition of the Dorchester & Sherborne Journal, Taunton & Somerset Herald.


The superb "Nelson" dial from a longcase clock by L Abraham of Yeovil. It is an eight day striking movement housed in a mahogany case standing 85" (216cm) tall. It is dated 1797.


A George IV (1820-1830) mahogany and brass inlaid bracket / table clock with repeat, made by Robert Dobel. Valued at around £2,000 (in 2017).


.... and in contrast is this rosewood single fusee drop dial wall clock signed by GK Hancock of Yeovil. No record of this maker has been found other than this clock but the design indicates he was working during the first quarter of the nineteenth century. He was probably related to other Yeovil members of the family.


The only known example of a clock by W Jackson of Yeovil, dating to the 18th century.


An Adam & Eve dial by William Pearse who was in Yeovil between 1839 and 1848. It is an eight day striking movement housed in a mahogany case standing 90" (229cm) tall. It has an automation of Adam and Eve above the dial.


A long case clock movement by George Shew dated 1786. It is a 30 hour posted movement, matted centre with crude engraved and hammered bird and tree decoration, signed "George Shew, Yeovill."


The following three photographs are courtesy of Mike Lee and show his long case clock made by George Shew of Yeovil. Mike says "It’s an eight day movement, a decorated brass dial with windmills etc. (probably imported to his workshop from Holland or Belgium) with second hand and moon phases. It keeps extremely good time (as good as most modern automatic watches) and has a fine chime as well."





In March 1787, George Shew, goldsmith, ironmonger and cutler was declared bankrupt.