THE SKELTON POCKET WATCH.
[The five watch photographs below have been kindly contributed by Julie Riddiough of Brotton, N Yorks. They were sent to
her by Janet Russell (nee Hanking), who is, it is believed, the Great Granddaughter of Edward Thompson, whose name was engraved on the
watch in 1896.]
During the Victorian age and for long after people took great pride in their dress. The photograph here of ironstone miner,
Frank Ward, who lived in Yeoman St, Skelton clearly illustrates this. The often uncaring scruffiness that prevails today seems to have
been introduced with the general downturn in public behaviour in the lax 1960s. For a male, a necessary accessory was the pocket watch, as
worn here by Frank.
The wrist watch, it is thought, was considered effeminate until it was widely used by Officers in the First World War and so it was the
pocket watch that was mass produced.
Waistcoats were especially tailored with a pocket to hold the watch and to prevent it being dropped it was secured to a buttonhole with a
Dowson's shops in Skelton High Street.
As with the watch below these chains were often further decorated with a silver or gold pendant that could be engraved with the
arms of a club or other organisation. Other objects could be attached, as in this case the winding key.
The key below bears the name "G [or C] DOWSON. SKELTON." and on the reverse "WATCHMAKER. & JEWELLER.".
The only Skelton tradespeople known to date with the name Dowson ran a Clothiers, Drapers shop at 149 High St and a Grocers at 153 High St.
These are recorded in the 1901 census when the owners were Thomas Dowson age 39, born Rosedale Abbey and his wife Eliza,age 40, born Eston,
N Yorks. Their son Gordon eventually took these over. They had two others in North Skelton at 27 and 28 Vaughan St, which appear in a
trade directory of 1937.
The two High St premises are either side of the entrance to Robinson St. After the Second War number 149 became an Electricity Showroom.
It can be seen as such first right on the photograph here. Today it is occupied by a Solicitor.
Dowsons shop, Vaughan St, North Skelton.
151 was a grocer's shop in the name of Annie Dowson, who was, I am told, the sister of Gordon Downson. It traded in the name of Dowson
up to around 1950 and continued as a grocers shop in other names until the 1960s.
155a High St was the shop's storeroom.
The Victorian shop front and bay window next door, as with many in the village, has now been removed and replaced on the cheap with PVC
doors and windows.
Owen Rooks, who has contributed much to this website in the past, has investigated the markings on the watch case, which are inverted in
the bottom photograph below. These reveal that:-
1. The uncrowned leopard's head indicates "made in London after 1822".
2. The "O" means made in 1869".
3. The lion rampant is the standard mark certifying the purity of the silver.
4. The letters are harder to distinguish but appear to be "SF", which was a mark registered in 1862 with the London Assay Office by a
Samuel Freeman, watch case maker, of Trafalgar St and later Hertford Tce, Coventry.
Owen adds that watch movements were not necessarily manufactured by the same firm that made the watch case. All this evidence clearly
shows that the watch case was not made locally and hardly likely that the movement was.
I am told by Alan Ward of Saltburn that the numbers and letters 944 6D9 W scratched under the owner's name would have been made by another
Jeweller when the watch was taken in for repair.
Without further evidence, it seems likely that the name on the watch key is that of Gordon Dowson and that it was bought in his draper's
shop in the early 1900s to replace the original. But that is just surmise.
Local tradesmen probably could have had small batches of keys made with their name on for the sales effect and these were of a standard
size that fitted most watches.
The engraving of the watch owner's name, "Edward Thompson, 1896" adds another mystery. The watch was a family heirloom that came down to
Janet Russell from her Grandfather, James Hanking.
He was born on May 7th, 1884 at 15 Grange Tce, Brotton to Edward and Ann Hanking. Both James and his father Edward were deputies in the
local ironstone mines.
[Brotton is a village just two miles from Skelton.] There is no record of the surname Thompson in her family, yet strangely on the census
of 1881 the family living at this same address were called Thompson. So Edward Hanking could be the Edward Thompson named on the watch and
for some reason used two different surnames. There is much evidence, too long to record every detail here, to suggest that this is so.
In early life Edward is registered in the 1851 to 1871 censuses as Thompson living in the Parish of Brampton, Cumberland and yet he is
married at Chesterfield, Derbys under the name of Hanking.
On the 1881 to 1911 censuses he is again recorded as living at Brotton, N Yorks under the surname
Thompson, yet his children are registered at birth as Hanking. Owen Rooks suggests that Hanking could have been his mother's name before
marriage. There is no evidence to show that he was born out of wedlock, so why he used the two surnames in later life remains a mystery.
If anyone has any connections to this family and can provide further information please contact this website.