Family History – Philipson clockmakers

I’m a  local historian as well as an author of novels, and it all came about because my mother wanted to know more about her grandfather, Aquilla, who had died before she was born. Family history is just like detective work – painstakingly searching the records, finding new clues, having hunches – and it turned out to be fascinating. I discovered my mother’s family, the Philipsons – we spell it Phillipson – were well known clockmakers, who had already been written about by clock experts. They had started out working for a famous maker of grandfather clocks, Jonas Barber of Winster, and eventually inherited his business. But there was a mystery – the last Philipson clockmaker had disappeared. My research came up with the answer – at the age of about forty, Henry Philipson junior had left his wife and was living with a young woman half his age in Kendal.  They had several children, of whom Aquilla was one, and, it must be admitted, they were a rough lot. The eldest son appeared in court after attacking a neighbour with a meat cleaver, and like father like son, because after being widowed, he too ran off with a young woman, this time a girl of sixteen. But through my research, I found interesting new relations, and between us we have now brought four Philipson grandfather clocks back into the family.  What’s more, we’ve all turned out rather well, in spite of the disreputable episodes in our past, producing university graduates back in the fifties, when it wasn’t so easy to get into university, especially if you were working class.  What that illustrates to me is what I already believed – the problem for the poor is that they’re poor. With the right opportunities, poor children can achieve as much as anybody. Above is a picture of our Philipson clock.


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