Clockmaker’s Apprentice

(Part 2 of 5)

Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England (1670 – 1680)

Deodatus’s father, William, had been a clockmaker in London. But William was a member of the clergy in Startforth at the time of Deodatus’s birth and he and Thomasine baptized Deodatus in Startforth. At some point, William assumed the role of parish subrector in Brancepeth, a village about 25 miles south of Newcastle, and moved the family. William also served as Chaplain to the Earl of Carlisle.

The family settled into Brancepeth. Thought by many to be of French descent, Deodatus’s mother, Thomasine, raised the children.⁠1 Around 1670, young Deodatus became an apprentice to Abraham Fromanteel.

Life as an apprentice was often hard. Boys apprenticed around the age of 14 – mere children by today’s standards – to learn a trade. The adolescent boy left his family’s home and boarded with his “Master” for seven years. Deodatus left his family and village life and moved to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, a large and booming town of over 10,000 residents.

Keith Bates, in Clockmakers of Newcastle and Durham, describes the work of an apprentice:

The first job an apprentice was given when joining a clockmaker was that of hardening and polishing the rough cast brass… The hardening process is achieved by hammering the brass until the surface is hard, filing the hammer marks off with a coarse file, then progressively finer files, until the marks and scratches are removed, when finally it is stoned smooth.⁠2

Abraham Fromanteel was, himself, a young man when he set up his shop in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. Setting up a shop was not an expensive venture. All one needed was a space suitable for holding a workbench. Living quarters for the family and apprentice were usually attached⁠3. During the time of Deodatus’s apprenticeship, his father died in Brancepeth and Thomasine joined Deodatus in Newcastle. Tragedy struck Abraham in 1679. His wife, Priscilla, and their infant daughter, Mary, died. Deodatus, at the time of Priscilla’s death, was free from his apprenticeship but had, likely, stayed on with Abraham as a journeyman clockmaker in the business. After the deaths of his wife and baby daughter, Abraham returned to the family business in London. Deodatus was free to set up his own shop and take over as many of Abraham’s customers as possible.

1 W Hylton Dyer Longstaffe, “Stainton in the Street,” Archaeologia Aeliana 3 (2019): 99–103, https://doi.org/10.5284/1059388.

2 Bates, The Clockmakers of Northumberland and Durham, 14.

3 Bates, The Clockmakers of Northumberland and Durham, 12.

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