Part 2 of a Series
The Business of Clockmaking
Deodatus became a clockmaker on his own in Newcastle in 1680 at the age of 23. He was the oldest of five sons. His father, a chaplain to the Earl of Carlisle, had died three years earlier. His French mother, Thomasine, moved to Newcastle from Brancepeth after her husband’s death, probably to be closer to Deodatus.
Clockmaking had taken a giant leap forward in technology in 1656 when a Dutch scientist, Christiaan Huygens, invented the pendulum clock in the Netherlands. The new clock reduced the loss of time from fifteen (15) minutes per day to just fifteen seconds.
Ahasuerus Fromanteel was one of the first manufacturers of the new pendulum clock in England. Ahasuerus and his sons created an international clockmaking business, one of the first such models. The Fromanteels had shops in London, Amsterdam and Newcastle. Producing the pendulum clocks was a very competitive business. Fromanteel advertised in the Commonwealth Mercury of Thursday 25 November 1658:
clocks that go exact and keep equaller time than any now made without this regulator (examined and proved before his Highness the Lord Protector by such doctors, whose knowledge and learning is without exception) and are not subject to alter by change of weather, as others are, and may be made to go a week, a month, or a year with once winding up, as well as those that are wound up every day, and keep time as well, and is very excellent for all House Clocks that go either with springs or weights; and also Steeple Clocks that are most subject to differ by change of weather. Made by Ahasuerus Fromanteel, who made the first that were in England. You may have them at his house on the Bankside, in Mosses Alley, Southwark and at the sign of the Mermaid, in Lothbury, near Bartholomew Lane end, London.
As a teenager, Deodatus had apprenticed at the Fromanteels’ shop in Newcastle. This positioned him for a lucrative career producing the cutting-edge clock technology for a demanding English market.
Hannah Anderson and Deodatus’s First Family
Hannah Anderson became Deodatus’s first wife. Her parents, William and Margaret, had acquired land in Newburn by lease from the Earl of Northumberland.
Deodatus and Hannah were married on December 11, 1684, and their first son was born the following year. They named their son, William. Both Deodatus and Hannah’s fathers were named William.
In 1687, their second son, Deodatus (II), was born and christened at All Saints’ Church in Newcastle. As an adult, this son would emigrate to Virginia in the New World, by way of Bermuda, taking his line of the family to America.
Two daughters were born to Deodatus and Hannah between 1689 and 1692. They named the girls Hannah and Mary. Church records show that baby Hannah’s French grandmother, Thomasine, stood as godmother at the child’s christening in Newcastle.
All Saints’ Church Steeple Clock
A decade after striking out on his own, Deodatus was a reputable and successful clockmaker. As a result of his professional standing, he was commissioned in 1691 to make a new clock for the steeple of the church of All Saints’ at Newcastle. This must have been a highly prestigious assignment for Deodatus. The churchwarden’s accounts show that Deodatus not only made the steeple clock, but was hired to keep the clock in running order at a salary of fifty shillings. Deodatus was still drawing the salary from All Saints’ Church in 1703, when he was paid an additional amount for making the clock strike.
Hannah gave birth to another daughter in 1695. They named her Ann.
Also in 1695, the lease on the land in Newburn that had belonged to Hannah’s parents was renewed in favor of Deodatus Threlkeld for an additional 21 years.
Deodatus and Hannah’s last child, a son named Joseph, was born in late 1697. This child may have died at birth or shortly after. Sadly, Deodatus’s wife, Hannah, died early in 1698, perhaps as a result of the birth. She and Deodatus had been married for fourteen years. Hannah had given birth to six children during her lifetime.
When the lease on the Newburn land came up for renewal, it reverted to Hannah’s sister, Tabitha, and Tabitha’s husband, William Softley.
The original All Saints’ Church in Newcastle no longer exists. It was pulled down at the end of the 18th century and replaced with a new church. St. Nicholas, another Gothic church of the time stands nearby and has survived to the present day.
Noma Bruton is a banker and amateur historian. She is the eighth great-granddaughter of Deodatus Threlkeld I.
Part 1 of a Series
Deodatus Threlkeld was a famous clockmaker who lived in Northumberland, England in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The home he built in Tritlington still stands and one of his clocks is held by the British Museum in London. Occasionally, examples of his work are found in antique shops, auctions or private collections.
Childhood in Brancepeth:
Deodatus’s father, William, was a member of the clergy. Records describe William as both a sub-rector in Brancepeth, Northumberland, and as Chaplain to the Earl of Carlisle¹. A sub-rector was an assistant to the rector of a parish.
Brancepeth is a village 5 miles southwest of the city of Durham, England. Brancepeth Castle and St. Brandon’s Church, which are both over 700 years old, are located in the village. St. Brandon’s may have been the church in which Deodatus’s father, William, served as assistant to the rector.
William may have been living or traveling in France during the late 1650s. William’s wife, Thomasine, is believed to have been French and he may have met and married her during that time. Thomasine’s last name has been lost. Deodatus, was the oldest of the couple’s five sons. His brothers were Henry, Israel, William and Ralph. Brother William was said to be a doctor of medicine. Most of Deodatus’s younger brothers appear to have been born in Brancepeth, England.
The Earl of Carlisle to which William most likely served as Chaplain was a man named Charles Howard. Howard was a military leader and politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1653 and 1660 and became Earl of Carlisle in 1661. He conformed to the Church of England in 1645.
In addition to being Earl of Carlisle, Charles Howard also held the titles of Baron Dacre of Gillesland and Viscount Howard of Morpeth. In 1661 he was made Vice-Admiral of Northumberland, Cumberland and Durham. In 1663 he was appointed ambassador to Russia, Sweden and Denmark, and in 1668 he carried the Garter to Charles XI of Sweden.
In 1667 Howard was made lieutenant-general of the forces and joint commander-in-chief of the four northernmost counties of England.
Young Deodatus, therefore, may have spent his childhood as the oldest son of the Chaplain to Charles Howard, Earl of Carlisle. Howard became Earl of Carlisle in 1661, when Deodatus would have been four years old. Association with the Earl of Carlisle would have made William a member of the clergy of the Church of England.
Apprentice to Fromanteel:
Deodatus began his life as a clockmaker when he was apprenticed to London-trained clockmaker Abraham Fromanteel, in Newcastle, when he was 14 years old. He remained Fromanteel’s apprentice until 1678 – when he was 21.
The Fromanteels were a family of clockmakers who were among the first to produce the newly invented pendulum clocks in England. Abraham Fromanteel was running the family’s shop in Newcastle when Deodatus began his apprenticeship there in 1671.
Deodatus’s father, William, died in Brancepeth in 1677 and Abraham Fromanteel was recalled by his family to their London operations the following year.
But Deodatus had been trained in crafting the latest technology – the pendulum clock – and he would spend his life and make his fortune as a highly respected English clockmaker.
He began his own business in Newcastle in 1680.
(Update: May 29, 2016): This article was updated to reflect the uncertainty of Thomasine Threlkeld’s birthplace. Likewise, the date and birthplace of Deodatus are unproven at this time.
¹History of the Berwickshire Naturalists’ Club (Scotland), Instituted September 22, 1831, The Club 1899, Volume 16, pages 72-73.
John Threadgill was twenty-four years old when he was enlisted as a Private into the American Revolutionary War. He joined Captain Richard Kidder Meade’s 6th Company, which was part of Colonel William Woodford’s 2nd Virginia Regiment.
Captain Meade’s Company was raised in October 1775 in the Southampton District, which was near John’s home in Brunswick County. John was one of 476 privates originally enlisted into the 2nd Virginia Regiment. He was enlisted to serve for one year.
John was born in 1750 somewhere around Brunswick and Sussex, Virginia. His father, who was also named John, had been one of the English Threadgill family members to migrate to the colony of Virginia. The Threadgill family was originally from the Northumberland area of England. John’s great-grandfather had been a famous clockmaker in England.
The Battle of Great Bridge
John’s service to his country was early in the war and was in what was known as the “Virginia line”. By John’s account, he participated in the Battle of Great Bridge on December 9, 1775.
Colonel Woodford’s regiment, along with a portion of the Culpepper Minute Battalion, fought and won the Battle of Great Bridge in what is now Chesapeake, Virginia. It was the first Patriot victory of the Revolutionary War and it’s significant because it proved the Patriot soldiers could fight and win against the perceived superior professional British forces. Colonel William Woodford, reporting on the 2nd Virginia Regiment’s service at the Battle of Great Bridge, wrote in a letter published in Purdie’s Virginia Gazette, December 15, 1775, “This was a second Bunker’s Hill affair, in miniature; with this difference, that we kept our post, and had only one man wounded in the hand.”
Losing the Battle of Great Bridge forced the British Royal Governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore, to give up the seaport town of Norfolk. A prosperous town of 6,000, Norfolk was an important port between New York and Charleston.
The Burning of Norfolk
In John’s application for a Revolutionary War soldier’s pension, he mentions that he was also present at the burning of Norfolk.
At the end of December 1775, Governor Dunmore’s forces and supporters had been driven into a fleet of British ships in the Norfolk harbor. On January 1, 1776, Dunmore began to bombard Norfolk with cannon fire. Three days later the city had been burned to the ground.
The burning of Norfolk was due as much to the Patriots participation in its destruction as to Dunmore’s shelling of the city. Norfolk had been a Loyalist stronghold and when Dunmore attacked, the Patriots contributed by burning and looting Loyalists properties.
Lord Dunmore was finally driven out of Virginia in August of 1776.
Declaration of Independence and Discharge
John Threadgill recalled he had been at the “Spring field Camps near Williamsburg, Virginia” at the time of the American Declaration of Independence.
The final military service John describes in his pension application was his participation as part of a guard that conveyed Scottish-Highlander prisoners of war to Cumberland County, North Carolina.
The 2nd Virginia Regiment had originally been raised for one year’s state service and John was discharged at the end of his one-year service period. There is no evidence that he was injured during the war. The 2nd Virginia Regiment went on to become part of the Continental Army.
John Threadgill served as part of the early Patriot force that ultimately drove the last royal governor, Lord Dunmore, out of Virginia for good. John helped prove, along with his fellow soldiers, that the Patriots could fight against the British.
After his discharge, John returned home to Brunswick, married a woman named Mary Cob and started a family.
Timeline of John Threadgill’s Revolutionary War Service
July 1775 – The Virginia Convention authorized the 2nd Virginia Regiment as a force of regular troops for the Commonwealth’s defense
September-October 1775 – John Threadgill was enlisted under the command of Captain Richard Kidder Meade, Major Alexander Spotswood, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Scott and Colonel William Woodford in the 2nd Virginia Regiment
December 9, 1775 – John participated in the Battle of Great Bridge
January 1-2, 1776 – John was present at the Burning of Norfolk, Virginia
July 4, 1776 – John was at the Spring field Camp near Williamsburg, Virginia at the time of the American Declaration of Independence
August 1776 – Lord Dunmore, last Royal Governor of Virginia was driven out of Virginia; returned to England
September 1776 – Lieutenant Colonel Charles Scott discharged John Threadgill from service
Sources: Transcription of American Revolutionary War Soldiers’ Pension Applications, transcribed by Will Graves, 12/10/2011