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Clock by Porthouse of Penrith

This 30 hour long case clock 'marriage clock' was made around 1770 and has a brass dial with silvered chapter ring and plaque with the maker's name "John Porthouse. Penrith".

Another plaque is inscribed with the names of the original owners - "Jonah and Jane Smith". The clock was probably specially made for the couple on the occasion of their marriage. The oak case has been lacquered at a later date. Purchased with the help of the Friends of Penrith Museum, 1990.

History of Clockmaking in Penrith

The 18th century was the heyday of Cumbrian clockmaking. The clockmakers of Penrith and Wigton dominated the craft in the early years until they were gradually overtaken by those of Whitehaven and Carlisle. Nevertheless, Penrith did remain an important clockmaking centre throughout this period.

As in other places, the craft was largely in the hands of a few families, the art passing from one generation to the next. The early important makers were the Cheesbroughs and John Washington. Shortly afterwards came the Porthouses who for a century or so were pre-eminent in Penrith if not in the county. Other makers of importance were the Lough brothers, the Rawson family, the Wilkinson family, Martin Roper, Thomas and Margaret Stpehenson, William Matthews and the Yeates family.

The Porthouse Family

This family ranks high above the other Penrith makers and was undoubtedly among the top few in the county in both quantity and quality of production.

The first Porthouses arrived in Penrith sometime between 1706 and 1716 and their eldest son William was perhaps the premier clockmaker of the family. For 25 years from 1740 to 1765 he was in charge of the clock in St. Andrew's Church, mending the movement and supplying new chimes. William married Mary Nicholson in Penrith in 1725 and they had a large family of ten children, three of their sons, John, William, and George joining the family business.

John Porthouse, William's son, was born in Penrith in 1728 and died there in 1787. On his death the "Pacquet" spoke of him as "an eminent clockmaker and greatly respected by his acquaintances." John married a widow, Mrs Ann Nelson, in 1752 and had four children and one of them, John, also became a clockmaker.

The Porthouses worked first in Little Dockray and the last clockmaker, William (1785-1833), had his workshop in a small room which used to project over the footpath on the corner at the top of King Street.

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