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Deodatus Threlkeld: Clockmaker in 17th Century England

St Brandons Church Brancepeth

St. Brandon’s Church in Brancepeth, England

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.

Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Carlisle in 1669

Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Carlisle in 1669

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.

Reference:

¹History of the Berwickshire Naturalists’ Club (Scotland), Instituted September 22, 1831, The Club 1899, Volume 16, pages 72-73.

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