Mar 25th, 2008 by Andy Funnell
In the first half of the 19th century, the railways were pushing the industrial revolution into the farthest reaches of the country. Until then, timekeeping had been left to the skies. The necessity for trains to run on time forced England into the modern age and a unique time zone. The whole country became punctual thanks to the station clock.
Parishes replaced the sun dial on their church tower with a mechanical clock. Upper class individuals equipped their homes with pendulum and carriage clocks and gentleman carried pocket watches chained to their lapel.
Every town in the country had at least one clockmaker/watchmaker as these timepieces were of course precision made by hand to last at least one lifetime and to keep perfect time, needed cleaning, repairs and maintenance.
This was the trade chosen by Edward Funnell. Eldest son of Charles, a shoemaker, and Eleanor of 4 Boyce’s Street, Brighthelmstone, now known as Brighton, he was baptized on the 28th April 1822. He would have completed several years of apprenticeship but we have as yet, no information on the master craftsman who trained him.
On the 19th of December 1842, Edward married Sarah Potter (7/433). He marries a second time to Caroline Waymark (7/414) at Saint Nicholas’ Church, Brighthelmstone, on the 19th of August 1850 (1). Caroline, born in Pevensey, “of full age”, was the daughter of George Waymark and Harriet Lamb (2), a bricklayer living at 53 Saint James’ Street. The witnesses to their marriage by banns, celebrated by Thomas Coombs, Curate, were Walter and Suzanne Slater.
Between these two marriages, four children were born in Brighton and recorded in the 1851 census along with wife, Caroline, 27: Sarah E. (aged 7), Edward H. (aged 5), Anne E. (aged 5) and Charles A. (aged 3). The family is living at 2 Clarence Street. This is probably the same address as Edward’s first business although recorded as 2, Clarence Place.
On these premises Edward developed a very special project. Five years in the making “The smallest watch in the World, 7/16 of an inch (11.1 millimeters) in diameter, 1/8 of an inch (3.2 millimeters) thick, 10 holes jeweled and 5 other ruby actions” was presented to the world at the Universal Exhibition held at the Crystal Palace in November 1851.
Edward’s entry was published in the Daily News, London, Friday, April 18, 1851:
The “Official Catalogue of the Great Exhibition of the works of All Nations, 1851“, Page 63, lists [exhibit] 26 FUNNELL, E. 2 Clarence Pl. Brighton.—Very small lever watch in Class 10 “Philosophical, Musical, Horological and Surgical Instruments“.
But even before this, the news had traveled afar. In January 1851, the Journal of Education for Upper Canada reported from Toronto that “Mr. Funnell, of Brighton, is constructing a watch smaller in circumference than a threepenny pièce for the Exhibition of 1851”.
Whilst visiting the Exhibition, Queen Victoria acquired a keyless pendant watch but helas, instead of “buying british” chose Patek Philippe & Co (3), opening the doors of all the royal courts of Europe to the genevan manufacturer.
Antoine LeCoultre (4) was awarded a gold medal in recognition of his collective works in the fields of precision and mechanization but it was only in 1929 (5) that Jaeger-Lecoultre managed to make a smaller watch than Edward.
Edward took his miniature watch and several carriage clocks to the 1855 Exposition Universelle in Paris and is said to have been awarded medals.
The New York Times carried a letter to the editor mentioning Edward’s work on the 30th of September 1888. The letter (see below) states that he made two watches, respectively the size of a threepenny and a twopenny piece. Unfortunately, it would seem that his feats of miniaturisation missed their just recognition in England.
However, Edward becomes a successful watch and clock maker. His small stature allows him to specialize in turret clock repair. He is recorded in 1854 at new premises in Trafalgar Street and again in 1856. Brighton is an ideal market with its population rising from 40.634 in 1831 to over 102.716 in 1891 and the middle classes arriving from London by train loads for holidays at the seaside since the completion of the station in 1840.
In 1861, the census indicates his occupation “Master watchmaker employing 2 men and 3 boys” and records his home address at 7, Grand Parade, Brighton. His three daughters by his second wife, Caroline, are also recorded: Caroline Isabelle, Ellen Victoria, and Louisa.
In 1862, his business moves again to 53 East Street and in 1867, he operates also from number 54. Folthorpe’s Brighton Directory records him at both 7 Grand Parade as a resident and at 54 Edward Street as a watchmaker.
During these years, Edward turns his attention to the railways and registers several patents. The Mechanics’ Magazine and Journal of Engineering, Agricultural Machinery July 10, 1863 (page 497) records:
Mr. E. Funnell, watchmaker […] has recently patented an entirely new description of self-acting night and day signals for railways, the principle being the indication of time and space between all passing trains, one of which is now and has been for some weeks been most satisfactorily tested, at the Lover’s-walk Junction, on the Brighton railway. A model may also be seen at the patentee’s, 53, East Street. Follows a description of his invention.
The number of this patent was listed page 585: 1767. E. Funnell, Brighton, watch and clockmaker, a self-acting electro-magnetic clock-work signal for railway purposes.
Prior to this, his patent had also been listed in other publications such as:
Newton’s London Journal of Arts, Sept 1st 1862 page 189
Civil Engineer and Architect’s Journal, Sept 1st 1862 page 294
Edward patented “A self-acting alarm which can be fixed on tenders, guards’ compartments or other parts of railway trains, to prevent collisions” 30th September 1861 – 2432 – Edward Funnell. This can be found pages 3 and 347 in Bennett Woodcrofts Patents Applied For And Patents Granted for the year 1861 (6).
The Chronological index of patents (6) applied for and patents granted – Page 197 – lists an application on the 29th November 1861 – 3007 – EDWARD FUNNELL, of 54, East Street, Brighton, in the County of Sussex, Watch and Clock Manufacturer, for an invention for — “A self-acting indicator signal for railways”. Provisional protection only.
It would seem that Edward’s inventions met with a certain success. The Minutes of Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers recording that “In 1864 Mr. Funnell made a series of signals (Fig. 65) for the Brighton railway. These were fixed between Brighton, Shoreham and Lancing” (7). Edward went so far as to have the patent for this invention deposed in France (8). It was approved in 1886.
The 1867 Kelly’s Directory (9) cites Mrs Funnell of 7, Grand Parade as a “Private Resident”.
Edward supplied many public clocks including those for the churches of Hurstpierpoint, Newick, Chailey and Winkleigh in Devon. He made numerous carriage clocks of very high quality and his works are still highly prized on the antique market.
Two examples of his work were auctionned in 1999. The first, signed Edw. Funnell, East Street, Brighton had a three train movement chiming on a series of gongs. It stood 55 cm (21.5″) high in an ebonised case with break-arch top and brass carrying handle. It sold for £1,127. The second, sold in June for £2,300, was described as a run-of-the-mill hefty ebonised table clock with ormolu mounts standing 70 cm (27.5″) high with a matching bracket. It had a twin fusee chiming movement and arches silvered dial.
The photo shows a recently auctionned gilt-brass giant westminster chiming and repeating carriage clock signed Edw. Funnell, Brighton dated around 1875. Its stands 25.5cm (10″) high with a 4 1/2 -inch enamel dial set within an engine turned gilt surround, three train fusee and chain movement with ratchet tooth lever escapement, maintaining power, chiming the quarters on four gongs and striking the hours on a further gong, gilt-brass fully glazed corniche-style case.
According to one source, Edward ceased his business in 1878, rather early retirement for the day. By this time, his family had moved to Devonshire Place, a prestigious Brighton address. He passed away aged 67 in the last quarter of 1889 (2b 132).
The index to wills records “Edward Funnell, late of 24 Devonshire Place and of 54 East Street, both in Brighton in the county of Sussex, watchmaker who died 1 December 1889 at 24 Devonshire Place was proved at Lewes by Caroline Funnell of 24 Devonshire Place, widow, the relict and Henry Kyzer of 17 Victoria Road, Brighton, watchmaker, the executors. Personal Estate £1,707 13s 10d“.
His widow, Caroline, and daughters Sarah and Caroline continued to run a lodging house at 24 Devonshire Place as attests the 1891 census. In 1901, this still seems to be the case. Louisa and Susannah are both Dressmakers living in Brighton. Caroline Isabelle dies (2b 119) in the last quarter of 1901 aged 49.
After Edward’s disparition, no other Funnell watchmakers are recorded in Brighton until the Kelly’s Directory of 1938: George Funnell at 2 Market Street and George Funnell and sons at 10 Heston Avenue, Patcham. However, the 1881 census finds a Charles FUNNELL, Lodger (Head), Unmarried, Male, aged 36, Watchmaker at 24 Albion Street, Brighton. Maybe Edward’s son from his first marriage. If only the census had noted his employer! In 1891, he is listed at 33 Albion Street, lodging with the Vernon family, occupation Clock Repairer (Em’ee) aged 44.
(1) Sarah may have died in the third quarter of 1849 according to BMD records.
(2) George Waymark married Harriet Lamb in Pevensey on the 11th of March 1811, “BOTP”. Witnesses were Thomas Welsh and John Christian (Sussex Marriage Index).
(3) Patek Philippe (Wikipedia)
(4) Antoine Lecoultre (Wikipedia)
(5) Jaeger Lecoultre smallest watch (Science Museum)
(6) From Google Books
(7) More patent references here and a full description of an invention here.
(8) Bulletin des lois de l’Empire Français, XIème série, Règne de Napoléon III, Empereur des Français. Premier semestre de 1866 contenant les lois et décrets d’intérêt public et général publiés depuis le 1er janvier au 30 juin 1866.
(Page 182) 11° Le brevet d’invention de quinze ans, dont la demande a été déposée, le 27 février 1864, au secrétariat de la préfecture du département de la Seine, par Funnell (Edward), horloger, représenté par le sieur Thenen, à Paris, rue de Dunkerque, n” 24, pour un appareil électro-magnétique servant à donner les signaux sur les chemins de fer.
(9) Kelly’s 1867 Directory for Brighton with Hove and Cliftonville
(10) Family History Library Film 1341255, PRO ref. RG11 Folio 1082 / 32A Page 4
Andy Grant and Jacqueline Pollard from the Sussex Lookup Exchange,
Karenlee, Pels and Roy G. from RootsChat Sussex Lookup Requests,
their help was invaluable in checking the facts of this article.
|Nehemiah ? (male)||10|
|Edward||Head||38||Master watchmaker employing 2 men and 3 boys||Brighton|
|Edward A.||Son||15||Watchmaker’s son||Brighton|
|RG9/594 15 page 23 – St Peters municipal ward|
|Edward||Head||49||Watchmaker employing 3 men||Brighton|
|7 Grand Parade, Brighton|
|Edward FUNNELL||Head||M||M||57||Watchmaker (Finisher)|
|Sarah E. FUNNELL||Daughter||U||F||36||Watchmakers Daughter|
|Caroline I. FUNNELL||Daughter||U||F||29||Watchmakers Daughter|
|Helen V. FUNNELL||Daughter||U||F||27||Seamstress (Dressmaker)|
|Louisa H. FUNNELL||Daughter||U||F||25||Seamstress (Shirtmaker)|
|Susannah FUNNELL||Daughter||U||F||19||Seamstress Dressmaker (D)|
|Emily H. GIBBS||Boarder||U||F||40||Annuitant|
|1341255 / RG11 / 1081 / 47 / 2|
|Caroline||Head||W||66||Lodging House Keeper||Pevensey|
|Commercial Directories||Address (Brighton)||Directory||Year||Page|
|Funnell Edward||Watch & Clock Maker||91 Trafalgar Street||Taylor||1854||246|
|Funnell Edward||Watch & Clock Maker||91 Trafalgar Street||Folthorpe||1856||25|
|Funnell Edward||Watch & Clock Maker||54 East Street||Folthorpe||1859||419|
|Funnell Edward||Watch & Clock Maker||53 East Street||Kelly||1867||1973|
|Funnell Edward||Watch & Clock Maker||54 East Street||Kelly||1867||1973|
|Funnell Edward||Watch & Clock Maker||54 East Street||Kelly||1871||2363|
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