I blogged about my new old clock the other day, and now time for a quick biography that I have put together of its creator!
Richard Savage was, by all the records we have, apparently the earliest domestic clockmaker in Shropshire. He was born on the 2nd August 1663 in Much Wenlock to William Savage, a tobacco pipe maker, and his wife Joan. The family was large – his parents had some dozen children between them – and for whatever reason Richard decided that his career should be one of clock-making. Perhaps his decision not to follow a similar path to his father was due to his father falling into debt regularly (a William Savage is constantly apparent in the Shropshire records as being called upon for debt during the interregnum – although there is nothing to say this is the same William Savage as Richard’s father).
How he learnt the trade of clockmaking is obscure, no records remain of an apprenticeship, but since no trace remains of any earlier clockmaker in the area it is likely he moved away for some years to learn the trade in the early 1680s. He must have finished this apprenticeship by 1686, when he married Elizabeth Price of Bridgenorth. It possible, though I conjecture this purely through my own happy speculation, that they met while Savage was an apprentice, since Myddleton records in his Chirk Castle Accounts that there was one Rowley living in Bridgenorth at least in 1686, a watchmaker from whom Savage could have learnt his trade. Another possibility for his apprenticeship is one Thomas Millington, a local man who worked in Shrewsbury and is recorded as a ‘Clock Mender’ as early as 1679 – Robert Weaver and John Walker were also apparently knowledgeable men who worked on repairing the town clock during this decade.
The earliest established date one of Savage’s clocks (something he rigorously engraved on his work) is 1692, when we know for sure that had returned to Much Wenlock and started up his clockmaking workshop. His early clocks are charming and very traditional, engraved with his name, the year, and commonly the name of the owner who commissioned it or who it was a gift for (several of his clocks appear to have been wedding gifts and are engraved as such).
His property in Much Wenlock seems to have been called Bridgcroft, recorded thankfully in a court record where one Elizabeth Knocke stole some plants from his garden; sadly no remnant of the place survives to our present time. It was here that on 15th September 1687 his son William was born, another son, Thomas, was born on 17th August 1690, and one Richard on an unrecorded date – there may have been further children of whom we have sadly no record.
The clock trade was clearly a successful one for Savage, and by the close of the 17th century he had moved to the county town of Shrewsbury, where his 13 year old son William was apprenticed to him in 1700. Thomas would follow this trend in 1703 aged 13, and apparently at some point the more obscure third son, Richard.
At the start of 1700 Richard may worked on Shrewsbury’s town clock, when record is made in 8th February 1700 of a payment of ‘7s 6d’ for fitting the town ‘engine’. The use of engine keeps the exact device unclear, so may have been related to some other mechanical piece within the town, but there certainly would have been a clock present that would need to be regularly maintained, since we have record of it as early as 1637. It may be that the town engine was not the same as the clock, however, since the Mayor’s accounts from the 1679 contain both the maintenance of the town clock and the town engine as separate articles.
Richard’s wife died on 7th March 1722, and after a few years, in 1726 he remarried one Margaret Jones – the commonality of whose name in those parts making her unhappily difficult to further research. This marriage lasted only two years, and this famous clockmaker of Shropshire died in 1728, probably being buried in Shrewsbury.
Adieu, dear Reader!