Philipson Family History – the Philipson Clockmakers


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The Philipsons of Calgarth and Crooke

The Philipsons were an old Westmorland family, who claimed they were related to the Thirlwalls of Thirlwall Castle. The ruined castle still stands next to Hadrian’s wall on the Cumbria/Northumbria border. The story of how the first Philipson arrived at Hollinhow, near Staveley, is told by Thomas Machell in ‘Antiquary on Horseback’, written in the late 17th C. The Thirlwalls were involved in border disputes with their Scottish neighbours, and during an interlude when there was a pact between the two sides, a group of Scottish soldiers arrived at Thirlwall Castle searching for ammunition. When they were refused entry to a locked room, a fight ensued, during which a young Thirlwall killed one of the Scots. The young man was forced to flee and came to Hollinghow near Staveley in Kentdale, where a tanner needed capital to buy some hides. The young man provided half the money, and received half the subsequent profit. In this way, the Philipsons acquired their first wealth.

There is no evidence to support this story, although when Rowland Philipson and his brother Miles were knighted in 1581, they adopted the Thirlwall coat of arms. But this may have been because they needed to provide the heralds with details of their ancestry, and it was common for people to ‘borrow’ more distinguished relatives when this happened! What is certain is that there was a John Philipson in the Windermere area by the middle of the 14th C. This John Philipson lived at Frerefold and another John is recorded as renting land at ‘Calvegaritge’ forty yeas later. Later the name became Calgarth, the seat of the Philipsons until the line ended at the beginning of the 18th century. They also owned Hollinhall, (the former Hollinhow) and Thwatterden, or Crook, Hall.

In 1565 Christopher Philipson became the owner (rather than just the tenant) of Calgarth, and his sons Rowland and Miles shared the estate on his death. Rowland inherited Calgarth, while Miles’ portion of the estate included Crook Hall, Belle Isle on Windermere (then known as Long Holme or more simply the Island) and land at Abbot Hole (Abbot Hall) in Kendal. He married Barbara Sandys of Conishead, who was wealthy in her own right. But the Philipson who is best remembered today is his great-grandson, the notorious Robin the Devil, (click link) who rode into Kendal Church on horseback.

The Philipsons were the most important gentry family in Windermere. They were justices of the peace, and one, Sir Christopher Philipson, was MP for Westmorland. However, during the seventeenth century both major branches of the family became very short of money, and at the beginning of the eighteenth century both these lines died out.

During the Civil War the Philipsons, like other local gentry, were royalists and served as officers in the King’s army. Christopher of Calgarth, the heir at the time, was proud of the fact that in spite of his commission, he never left the county. (A poem he wrote, commemorating the failure of the Gunpowder Plot, can be found in a window in Windermere Church). John Philipson of Hollinhall, his brother and heir, had land sequestered as a result of his part in a royalist gathering at Tarneybanks near Kendal, while Miles’ grandson Hudleston (named after his mother, Mary Hudleston of Millom Castle) and his younger brother Robert (Robin the Devil), were dashing figures in the royalist army. There is an account of Hudleston’s exploits in Isaac Tullie’s contemporary account of the Siege of Carlisle, which reveals how much the Parliamentarians feared him.

This branch of the family was already in financial difficulties. Miles’ heir, another Robert, had died in 1599, leaving the estates in poor shape for his two-year-old son, Christopher. Christopher trained as a lawyer, but in 1623 was in prison for debt. He was lent the money for his release by a friend, and was next reported fighting for the king of Sweden. When he returned, he discovered his friend had taken possession of his estates, presumably because he had not repaid the loan. He died shortly afterwards, leaving his son Hudleston, still only a child, to struggle with debt. The estate was still encumbered when it was inherited by Hudleston’s heir, Christopher, who was knighted by Charles II in recognition of his father’s services to the Crown.

The senior, Calgarth, branch was no better. During the 17th century, one of the heirs, Robert, simply disappeared, leaving legal documents with a kinsman and was never heard of again. The last of the line, his son John, appears to have been a scoundrel possibly involved in fraud and embezzlement. At the beginning of the eighteenth century both men, John and Sir Christopher, died leaving daughters, who eventually sold the estates.

Our ancestor John Philipson was a poor man farming on Cartmel Fell at the beginning of the eighteenth century, who received help from the parish when his wife died and left him with three children and a sickly baby .Philipson is a very localised name, found in the area between Kendal and Windermere, so it is reasonable to assume that all the Philipsons who come from the area between Windermere and Kendal, are part of the same family, even if we do not know the connection.

John Philipson of Cartmel Fell b. ? d. ?1770

m. Margaret Park Dalton 1715 d.1736    Children: Margaret 1718-35 John I clockmaker 1726-?1788 William 1729-? Elizabeth 1731-? Park 1737-1751

The first ancestor we can be sure about is John Philipson, who is described as a yeoman of Hugill, near Staveley, in his marriage bond. He married Margaret Park at Dalton in 1715, and when his first children were born he was living at Spooner Close, on the shores of Windermere between Fell Foot and Bowness. He had five children: Margaret, born in 1718 , and died in 1735; John, born in 1726; William,1729; Elizabeth 1731, and Park 1737 . They were christened at Cartmel Fell chapel, and by the time the younger children were born the family had moved to Moor How, high on the Fell between the Winster Valley and Windermere. It seems likely that Margaret died in childbirth, as she was buried in February 1736 and Park was baptised in May 1737. (The discrepancies in date are probably because the year did not begin until April). By the time she died, the family were in difficulties, as the Churchwarden’s account books show the parish paid towards her funeral expenses and for clothes for the new baby. Later they paid for the nursing of ‘John Philipson’s ailing child’ between 1736 -1743,and finally for the apprenticeship of John’s son John to the clockmaker, Jonas Barber, of Winster. Apart from parish records there is one other document which relates to John and Margaret Philipson: this is a promissory note amongst the Pedder muniments, where John undertakes to repay to Margaret Sawrey of Finsthwaite the sum of 19s 11d if his wife should borrow it. What this means is not very clear.

There were three John Philipsons – the grandfather, John of Cartmel Fell, his son, John I the clockmaker, and the grandson, John II, another clockmaker – but only two dates of burials, both at Winster, in 1770 and 1788. We cannot be sure which John Philipson these refer to, but there is some evidence the first John Philipson died in 1770.

John Philipson I 1726-1788

m. Jane Garnet m.1749 d.1807

Children: John II clockmaker 1750-pre1799 Thomas farmer of Hawkshead 1752-1789 m. Ann Swainson 1775 Henry I clockmaker of Winster and Ulverston 1754-1834 Margaret b.1757 m.1781 Richard Burrow,farmer, of Arnside – children Mary b.1762 –1795 Jane b.1766

John Philipson I was apprenticed to Jonas Barber on the 30 May 1748, when he was twenty-two, and married Jane Garnet a year later at Kirkby Ireleth. His children were baptised at Winster and at some point he settled at Bryanhouses, where Jonas Barber worked, possibly living in the cottage next to the farm. The first Jonas Barber was a very fine clockmaker, and his clocks, which are all numbered, fetch high prices today. As the photograph shows, Bryanhouses is in a beautiful setting, but for many years there was doubt whether Jonas Barber could have produced such elegant clocks in the small, dark barn opposite the farmhouse, which was supposed to have been his workshop. Then, in the 1930s or 40s, a farmer repairing the barn was surprised when a large assortment of clock parts fell out of the wall, providing conclusive evidence that it was indeed Jonas Barber’s workshop.

John Philipson was a journeyman: that is, he made clocks for Jonas Barber but never had his own name on one. There is an exception to this, a musical clock made in Jonas Barber’s workshop and bearing one of his serial numbers, but made for the family, not for sale, in 1787. It could have been made by John or the son. This clock is now in Abbot’s Hall museum, Kendal. It has a mahogany case, plays eight tunes and is described by Brian Loomes as the finest clock movement ever made in Westmorland.

John’s wife, Jane, lived until 1807, when she died at Bellman Ground near Winster. She had at least one child, her son Henry, alive and living in Ulverston,but she died a pauper.


John Philipson II 1750 –pre-1799

m.Mary Jackson d.1795 Children: Mally b.1773 m.William Swainson 1796 Margaret b. 1774 m William Garnett 1801 – children Agnes b.1776 m Joseph Benson 1806 – children Jenny b.1778

John b.1784 ? tailor, Kendal,m.Elizabeth

Very little is known about John Phillipson II, John I’s son, although he must have worked for Jonas Barber as he is mentioned in his will. He died before 1795, because his widow, Mary, who died that year, appears in the Undermillbeck Overseers Accounts along with her mother-in-law. For a few years around the time of the birth of his first daughter, he lived at The Wood, a farmhouse further down the valley from Bryanhouses, belonging to the Birket family. By coincidence, some years later, Sarah Westgarth’s grandfather was living there with his family.

 Henry I clockmaker of Winster and Ulverston 1754-1834

m. 1. Anne Callan 1776, d.1787 Children: Thomas b.1778 d.1803 Ann b.1782 m John Todd at Blawith. Children.

2. Agnes Boow 1789 d. 1790 Children: John b.1790 mentioned in Jonas Barber’s will 1799.

3. Jane (Jenny) Godmond 1791 Children: Jenny b. 1791 d.1794 Henry II b. 1793 d.1866 clockmaker Jane b.1795 d.1835 Margaret b. 1797 m. Henry Crewdson Alice b.1800 d.1803 Agnes b.1802 d. after 1834 Elizabeth b.1810 d.1827 Mary b.1814

Henry Philipson I, John I’s third son and brother of John II, was the most important of the clockmakers because he was the first Philipson to have his own business and therefore have his own name on a clock. (The other Philipsons certainly made clocks mechanisms, but the clocks had Jonas Barber’s name on them). However, his clocks have a special value and interest because unusually, Jonas Barber numbered all his clocks, and Henry Philipson continued the Barber numbering after his death. The only known clock by his son James also follows this numbering. As Henry Philipson learned his skills from the Barbers, he naturally built clocks very similar in construction to theirs. For those interested in clocks, this means the Barber and Philipson clocks provide a unique illustration of the development of the northern long case clock. Henry married Anne Callan in 1776 in Kendal. Shortly after he was living at Birket Houses (the old buildings have since been replaced by a large country house), which is just a few hundred yards across the narrow Winster valley from Bryanhouses. The couple had two children, Thomas and Ann, but their mother died in 1787. Henry remarried Agnes Boow at Cartmel Fell Church in 1789, but she died in childbirth when their son John was born the following year. Henry’s last marriage was to Jane (Jenny) Godmond at Cartmel Fell in 1791. Her family were also living at Birket Houses. This marriage was very successful and produced ten children. By the time the first of these was born Henry was living at Hawkearth, where he was a tenant of Jonas Barber. The Philipsons and the Barbers were very close. Jonas’ sister Margaret Harrison, the wife of the curate of Winster, was godmother to three Philipsons – Henry, Ann and John. When the second Jonas Barber died, having outlived the rest of his family, Henry Philipson is named as his successor in the business in his will, inheriting all his clockmaking tools and raw materials. Sometime around 1803 when his daughter Ann was married at Blawith, Henry and his family moved to Ulverston, where they can be found in various trade directories of the time. In 1829 Henry had his business at 29 Fountain St with his son, Henry II. We can assume his son James was in the business, too, as soon as he was old enough. His daughters Jane and Mary carried out a dressmaking business from the shop. Our clock, numbered 1733, was probably made here for a well-to-do customer in 1818. (The last numbered clock, and the only one known to have been made by James Philipson, was no.1847 dated 1831). Henry made at least one sundial as well – it is still in position in the garden at Hill Top, Crosthwaite, and inscribed ‘H.Philipson 1817’. Henry died aged eighty in 1834.

 His son, Henry II, carried on the business in Soutergate. This son had married in 1820 and had four children, three of whom died before 1838. Nothing more was known about him. His biographers thought he must have died before 1863, because his wife was described as a widow, died at Canal Foot. Our family history is tied up with this little mystery. 

The Philipson Westgarths

Henry Phillipson II 1793 -1863

m. Elizabeth Askew 1820 Children: Henry b. 1821 d.1833 Betsey b.1823 Jane b.1827 d.1832  Priscilla b.1829 d.1838

Sarah Westgarth 1822-1910

Children: Henry 1844 –1919 m. 1. Mary Kitching Fawcett, Kendal d.1879 2.Margaret Maguire; Aquilla 1845-1895 m. Ann Butterfield Broughton m.1876; Priscilla 1847 m. Hector McRae children; Dorothy 1848 died before 1851; Hiram 1849 –1929 m. Fanny; George: 1851- 1919 m. 1. Alice Holden, Preston 1876 2. Victoria Gray, Tunkhannock Pennsylvania USA 3. Mary Ellen Tonkin Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania ; Phyllis 1853 d.infancy; James 1856-1857; Sarah Jane 1858-1859; Joseph 1861- m. Sarah Annie Bell

 Henry Philipson II was born at Winster in 1793, the son of Henry Philipson I and his third wife, Jane or Jenny Godmond. When his father died in 1834, Henry had already set up business independently in Soutergate. However, he did not continue in his own business for long. In 1820 Henry had married Elizabeth (Betty] Askew of Colton. They had four children, Henry, Betsey, Jane and Priscilla. But by the end of the 1830s both Henry’s parents and three of his children were dead. By the time of the 1841 census Henry had left his wife and was lodging at the Plough Inn in the north of Kendal. In the same census Betty Phillipson is described as a washerwoman, living alone in Soutergate, Ulverston. She died in 1863 at Canal Foot, aged 76. In the newspaper announcement of her death, she is described as the widow of Henry Philipson. In fact her husband died the same year, a pauper, in Ulverston workhouse – a fate she escaped.

In fact, Henry had left his wife, and in the 1841 census is lodging in Kendal. But soon after, he was living with a girl of about twenty, named Sarah Westgarth, because their son Henry was born in 1844 at 44 Entry Lane, Kendal, Henry had entered a relationship with a girl named Sarah Westgarth,

Sarah was born in 1822 in Underbarrow, and christened at the Methodist chapel at Bonningate. Her parents were George Westgarth, one of a well known family of wallers, and Sarah Singleton. George Westgarth was probably farming at Levensfold, at Underbarrow, at this time. Sarah’s grandfather had lived at the Wood like John Philipson, while her parents were married at Cartmel Fell chapel and farmed not far away. Several members of the Westgarth family appear to have undergone a conversion to Methodism early in the century, and both Sarah’s uncle and brother emigrated to the United States where they belonged to a small religious sect. Another uncle, Joseph, became a respected local farmer. In 1840, however, seventeen –year-old Sarah was sent to prison at Kendal for twelve months for stealing from her employer. The newspaper account says that she could not write, unlike the Philipsons, who appear to have been very literate.

Henry and Sarah were to have at least ten children, six of whom survived. The next we hear of them is when the second son, Aquilla, is born. The family were then living at Hannakin, Hawkshead, and when she registered the birth Sarah passed herself off as Henry’s wife, so Aquilla was always Aquilla Phillipson, except on his marriage certificate, where he signs himself ‘Aquilla Westgarth Phillipson. There is a great deal of confusion over which surname the children used. Priscilla, who was also born at Hannakin in 1847, was registered as Westgarth, and so was George, who was born in Cark in 1851. But on his marriage certificate in 1876 and in the 1881 census George calls himself Phillipson. In a complete reversal, Hiram, who was born in 1849 in Kendal, was registered as Phillipson but throughout his adult life called himself Westgarth. James, who was born when the family were living at Woolpack Yard, Kendal, in 1856 was registered as Westgarth but christened as Phillipson. Phyllis, who died as an infant, was also registered as Westgarth but given Phillipson as a second Christian name. But the most confusing case of all is that of the eldest son, Henry, who had children in Kendal called Phillipson and a second family in Wales called Westgarth.

The birthplaces of the children show that the growing family moved around until they finally settled in Kendal in the 1850s, although they moved lodgings in the town several times. In 1853 they were in Stramongate, in1856 when James was christened they were living in Woolpack Yard, and 1861 they were in Capper Lane, where Joseph, who was probably last of the family and the only younger member to survive, was born. Later the family lived in Peppercorn Lane, Kirkland, where the car park for Abbots Hall museum is now. It was very unsanitary, with a stench that came from the open drain running through the area to the Kent.

The 19th C. censuses of Kendal give a fascinating glimpse of the town. It was a bustling place full of shops and a range of industry, including foundries as well as the famous woollen mills. There was a busy wharf at the end of the now defunct canal, which transported goods and passengers south to Lancashire. Many of the Phillipsons’ neighbours were handloom weavers working from home, while Mary Kitching Fawcett, young Henry’s wife, was a hand in a woollen factory. George and Hiram, when they were about ten, were employed at the tobacco factory, though by 1871 Hiram had moved to the shoe factory, which still survives, and George became a turner. The yards along the main street and In Kirkland were crammed with itinerant workers, pedlars, labourers and shopkeepers. The town stood at a crossroads between the North-East, the industrial areas of south Lancashire and the route to Bradford and Leeds.

Life for these Phillipsons and their neighbours was extremely hard. Henry appeared in court in Kendal for pawning a watch he had been left with to repair. He was described as a respectable-looking man. He died in Ulverston workhouse in 1866, aged 73, and was given a pauper’s burial at St. Mary’s. The cause of death on the death certificate was haematuria.

Sarah was still only thirty nine, and she married a weaver named Benjamin Barnett – presumably otherwise she would have been destitute, and her youngest son was only three. The family was quite rough. Young Henry in particular appeared in court for drunkenness, and one occasion for attacking a neighbour with a meat cleaver whilst Sarah held the unfortunate neighbour’s hair.

By the end of the century, Benjamin Barnet was surviving on parish relief. By 1901 he had died. Sarah lived alone in two rooms at no 18 Peppercorn Lane. She died on the 14th March 1910, aged 84, of senile decay, in Highgate, Kendal. Strangely, she and her husband were buried In the unconsecrated section of Parkside Cemetery and a note suggests they were dissenters. At least one of her children, her daughter Priscilla, who had married a Scottish plasterer, Hector McRae, was with her when she died. But her older sons had dispersed. Her grandchildren did not know about her. Some grew up as Philipsons, and did not know about the Westgarths. Some grew up as Westgarths, and did not know about the Philipsons.


The Welsh Westgarths

Henry Phillipson Westgarth 1843 –1919

Married: 1. Mary Kitching Fawcett Kendal 1865 Died Kendal 187

Children: Priscilla b.1866 Kendal Sarah Ann b. 1868 Barrow chr Kendal 17.11.1876 m. John Thomas Porter June qr 1796 Bury Joseph H. b. 1869 Kendal

2. Margaret Maguire m. Pembroke 1886 b. Lancaster 1865 d.

Children Margaret b.?1884 m. Owen Lynch 1902 Ector b. 1886 Pembroke George Hiram b.1888 Pembroke m. Sarah Ann Childs 1913 d.1917 Belgium Alice Phillipson b.1890 m. Timothy Donovan Merthyr Tydfil 1910, John Phillipson b. Pembroke 1892 d. Narberth 1896 Priscilla b. 1893 m. Brindley Howell 1914 Aberbargoed Albert Phillipson b Narberth1894 Edward b. Llanelly 1898 m.Cardiff1919 d. Cardiff1949 Gladys b. 1901 Tredegar m. Robert Chapman 1923 d.Cardiff

Henry, the eldest son of Henry Phillipson and Sarah Westgarth, was born at 44, Entry Lane in Kendal on 30th April 1843. She described herself as Henry Phillipson’s wife on the birth certificate, and called her son Westgarth as a second given name. He is described as a labourer at the time of his marriage to Mary Kitching Fawcett in 1865. They had three children, but Mary died in 1878. Henry seems to have been often in trouble, particularly for drinking. By the time of the 1881 census he was living in a lodging house in Gloucester with a girl of seventeen, who was claiming to be his wife and was already pregnant. From Gloucester they moved to Neath where their first son, William, was born in September. They were very evasive about themselves on the child’s birth certificate, but four years later she and Henry got married, after the birth of their daughter, Margaret. A month after the wedding, a third child, Ector, was born. Other children were born.Although Henry was a labourer in the north, he must have learnt some watchmaking skills from his father, as he described himself as one later, and he is known to have maintained and repaired the public clock in Tredegar. Even so, the family seem to have struggled. He must have passed on this knowledge to his son William, who is described as a watchmaker on his death certificate. He must have been the very last of the Phillipson clockmakers.

The Barrow Phillipsons

Aquilla Phillipson  b. 2nd February 1845 Hannakin, Hawkshead d. August 1895 Barrow-in-Furness 

         m. Ann Butterfield b. 1856 Broughton-in-Furness  m. 1876 Broughton-in-Furness.Children: Mary b. Ulverston b.1876, Sarah b. Woodlands, W. 1881, George b. Workington 1883, Henry b. Workington 1885, Annie b. Barrow 1890 Elizabeth b. Barrow

Aquilla Phillipson was born at Hanakin, just outside Hawkshead, in 1845 and appears as a child of six in the 1851 census, living with his family at Cark. In 1861 he was boarding at 16,Cockle St Sedbergh at the house of a builder, William Freeman, and working as a railway labourer, presumably on the Carlisle –Settle line. In the 1871 census he is described as a stonemason, lodging at 225 Chapel St, Settle, so in the intervening ten years he may have served an apprenticeship. At the time of his marriage to Ann Butterfield of Broughton in 1876 he was living in Ulverston. He was thirty-one when he got married, although, as usual, he gave his age as less, perhaps because his bride was only twenty.

Mary, who was called after her maternal grandmother, was born later in1876 in Ulverston. There was a five year gap before the next daughter, Sarah, was born at Woodlands, Westmorland. (There is, of course, a Woodlands near Broughton, but that is in Lancashire. I have been unable to find Woodlands, Westmorland). It is clear from the birthplaces of his children as well as the censuses that his job necessitated moving about the local area. In 1881 the family were living at Beetham. The two boys, George and Henry, were born in Workington, but by 1891 they had moved to Barrow, first to Rawlinson St and then Worcester St. According to a family story, Aquilla worked on a house with a large bay window overlooking Schneider Square.

No doubt the family would have moved again, but in 1895 Aquilla died, aged fifty, leaving his wife to bring up a young family alone. The cause of death on the death certificate was pthisis pulmonalis, which is TB, though the family always assumed his illness was caused by dust inhaled in his job. Ann Phillipson, their mother, survived by becoming a washerwoman, going to the big houses in Barrow. When she got older and could no longer work because of rheumatism and arthritis, she applied for public assistance. A local conservative councillor, Mrs Ward, came to the house and asked why she needed help when she had furniture to sell, something the family never forgot at election times. Later she had a small pension after her elder son, George, was killed in Belgium in the war.

The daughters went into service, and both sons went to work in the shipyards. Henry, known as Harry, was clever, and his headmaster at Cambridge St School offered to pay for his keep so he could continue his education. However, his mother needed his earnings so he left school and became a rivetter in the shipyard. He married Annie Pelan, whose family were neighbours in Worcester St. Ethel Wharton, Henry’s daughter, remembers her grandmother as being a rather forbidding, but highly respectable old lady. She much preferred Auntie Maggie, Ann’s sister, who kept a shop at Green Road near Millom. Ann Phillipson went to live there after her youngest daughter, Elizabeth, got married, and her son Harry used to take his three children there on regular visits. After Maggie died Ann Phillipson went to stay her daughter Annie in Blackpool, and lived there for the rest of her life.

Aquilla and Ann’s son, George, died in the first world war. His brother Harry had children and grandchildren in Barrow.

 © Pauline Wharton