Prestige, Eydon ~ A Clockmaking Family History

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The following is an extract of a letter sent on the 1st June 1963 by Mrs. Dorothy Warren of Yardley Gobion, Northamptonshire to Mr. Dennis Mynard setting out details of the extensive research she had carried out into the Prestidge family. Mrs. Warren died in about 1990 and Dennis has graciously extended permission for his research to be published here.

Walter Prestige was born at Eydon, Northants, (about 15 miles west of Towcester) elder son of William Prestidge and Anne his wife, in 1749. Whether he was apprenticed I do not know, but it appears that by 1768 when he was nineteen he was living at Towcester. A John Hughes, watchmaker, was buried at Towcester in 1769, and Walter may have been working for him and succeeded to his business but this is conjecture. In 1771 he married Sarah Eales, and had Walter, Daniel. John and Joseph, of whom only Walter and Daniel survived infancy.

On 7th March 1774 the following advertisement appeared in the Northampton Mercury: "Wanted immediately a journeyman clock maker. One that is sober and a good workman may have, constant employment and as good wages as the country will afford, by applying to Walter Prestidge, Clock and Watch maker at Towcester".

Walter's wife Sarah died in 1792, and he did not re-marry; an Elizabeth Eales kept house for him till his death in 1821. He left her £5 for mourning and an annuity of £20 to be paid by his son Daniel out of messuages (dwelling house with outbuildings and adjoining lands) and cottages in Eydon and Towcester. His elder son Walter died in 1806 aged 33 according to an inscription on the gravestone of Walter senior, but there is no corresponding entry in Towcester Register Transcripts, so I am uncertain whether young Walter was a watchmaker or whether he lived at Towcester. Walter senior left "5/- only" to Elizabeth widow of my late son Walter. This bequest seems to conceal a lot of meaning, but it may be she had remarried and was well provided for anyway. No children of young Walter were baptised at Towcester, and none were mentioned in Walter senior's will, and young Walter is rather a mystery so far, but I may catch up with him somewhere sometime.

Walter senior died on 28th May 1821 and was buried in Towcester churchyard. The Northampton Mercury of 9th June had the following paragraph, "Lately at Towcester in the 72nd year of his age, Mr. Walter Prestidge watchmaker of the above place fifty -three years." Walter's will was brief; after the bequests to his daughter-in-law and housekeeper mentioned above, he left all the rest to his son Daniel.

The Mercury for 9th June had also the following advertisement:
"Daniel Prestidge (son and successor to Walter Prestidge) watch and clock-maker Towcester, respectfully informs the friends of his late father and the Public in General, that he continues the business in the same shop as usual, and humbly solicits the continuation of their support, assuring them that all orders shall be executed with punctuality on the most reasonable terms. N.B. Dealer in Jewellery (sic) and Gold, Silver, and Plated Goods."

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According to Pigot's Directory for 1824, 1830 and 1841, the shop was in the High Street. A John Pearson, and later Charles Pearson, also had a shop in the High Street.

Daniel Prestidge married at Towcester in 1800 Susanna Allen. She died childless in 1806, and he married soon afterwards Sarah (probably James, but the wedding is not recorded in Towcester Transcripts). They seem to have had one son Walter, baptised in 1809, who died aged 10 in 1819. Daniel appears in the directories as a watch and clockmaker down to l847, but in 1849 he is styled "Mr. Daniel Prestidge", so had presumably retired from business. In 1850 Charles Pearson was still in the High Street, and an Anthony Ruhrer appears, possibly as successor to Daniel.

Daniel died the 19th, buried the 22nd June 1850. The Mercury reported "At Towcester early on Wednesday morning June 19th Mr. Daniel Prestidge an old and much respected inhabitant of the Town after a long and painful affliction which he bore with much fortitude and resignation aged 75 years."

By his will, Daniel left his wife £50 in 14 days and £700 in six months time, all wines, liquors, fuel, household goods and furniture, gold and silver watches, chains and seals. clocks (except my china clock) books, pictures and prints, for life, and at her own disposal by her will. All real estate and residue of personal estate including the china clock to trustees to sell and pay income from proceeds to wife for life, and then the capital to various relations (totalling £540) and £5 each to the General Infirmary at Northampton, The Lunatic Asylum at Northampton. and the Church Missionary Society. Sarah did not long survive and died 23rd June 1851, aged 88. In her very long will she left her money and numerous pieces of furniture to her own relatives. The most interesting items were a portrait of the late Earl of Pomfret (I wonder where that is now?) a bracket clock, and the gold watch and chain worn by her late husband.

Walter Prestidge had a younger brother William who was also a clockmaker as well as a victualler and kept the Royal Oak at Eydon. He was born In 1754, married Dorcas Adderson in 1789, had sons Walter and Daniel, and died in 1808. He left 'The Royal Oak' to his widow for life, then to his Daniel, who was also a clockmaker. I have not followed his career any further.

A house next to 'The Royal Oak' was left to Walter, who had left Eydon and settled at Towcester as a cutler and gunsmith. He married twice and had nine children (including a Walter and a Daniel) and nephews with the same name, sons of his brother Daniel at Eydon. There were a few more Walters and Daniels at Eydon, the sons of various cousins. Walter, the cutler, died in 1849. His son Daniel, also a cutler, married at Towcester in 1851, Mary Pacey; but no children are entered in the register. and Daniel the cutler is not shewn in the directories, so I conclude he was living elsewhere, and I do not know what became of the other children.

There are gravestones in Towcester Churchyard for Walter, died 1821,and his son Walter, died 1806; for Daniel, died 1850, Sarah, died 1851, and their son Walter, died 1819. These stones have been moved from their original position and have been laid f1at with others, near the north-west of the church. There are still Prestidges living at Byfield near Eydon; one was in the same form at Towcester Grammar School as my son.

I cannot understand why your clock has "Prestage" as the name was certainly Prestidge and is uniformly so spelt, except in Pigot's Directory for 1824 when it was Prestage, but it was Prestidge in 1830 and afterwards. The family can be traced back to Eydon to the year 1572 when the spelling was Prestwich, but it soon changed to Prestidge, occasionally occurring as Pressidge, Presigde, and Prestridge. They occurred in several villages around Eydon but in no other part of Northants so far as I can trace. Some branches were Quakers and their deaths are entered in Eydon Register with the remark "reputed to have been buried after the Quaker custom" i.e. in unconsecrated ground, usually their own gardens. They are styled yeomen, stonemasons, maultsters and even gents.

Bailly's " Watchmakers and Clockmakers of the World", which simply listed names has Bartholomew Prestige 1704, free of the Clockmaker's Company; a Richard Prestridge 1699, and Walter of Towcester c.1806 (but is this Walter the father or son I wonder?). I hoped to find that Bartholomew and Richard were from Eydon, but have not been successful. Eydon register starts in 1539, but the transcripts at the Record office are not until 1707. There are a few extracts from the early register collected by someone years ago, which include a few Prestidge entries, the early ones I mentioned before, but after that it simply says "and other". It may be that a thorough search of the actual registers would reveal Bartholomew and Richard. There are some wills of the family going back to 1619 but the Christian names Bartholomew and Richard do not occur. There may be other wills at Somerset House but I shall have to leave them for the time being.

I have looked in all the clock books at the County Library but do not find the Prestidges mentioned (except in Bailey). It seems that there was a clockmaker in every town, but they did not always make the clocks which bear their names; there was always a good deal of altering and repairing etc.

I have always wanted a grandfather clock, but we cannot have one as our ceilings are too low. One man at Yardley (Gobion) years ago inherited a clock and had to dig a hole in the floor to stand the clock in; I don't feel disposed to go to those lengths.

Well, I hope this is of interest to you, it has certainly been a great pleasure to me to search for it.

—Dorothy Warren


  1. Towcester and Eydon Transcripts at the Northampton Record Office (N.R.O.)
  2. Wills proved in Archdeacon of Northampton's Court now at N.R.O.
  3. Wills proved in P.C.C. now at Somerset House.
  4. Pigots, Slater's and Kelly's Directories at Central Library, Northampton
  5. Northampton Mercury
  6. Index to marriage licences, N.R.O.
  7. Poll Books at County Library
  8. Story of Byfield by Poole at County Library
  9. Musters Beacons and subsidies ed. Joan Wake at County Library N.R.S. publication
  10. H.I. Longden's Parish Register Extracts at N.R.O.

(If you have further information on the Prestidge family or photos of their clocks that you would like to share, please contact us by e-mail.)

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