Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Watkins and Hill

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c.1850 demonstration electric motor with crankshaft, made by Watkins & Hill. On display at the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford

of 5 Charing Cross, London

c1747 Firm founded by Francis Watkins, Senior (1723-1791)

1758-61 Agreement with John Dollond (1706–1761)

1758 Patent. 'A new invented Refracting Telescope, by which Objects are seen much clearer and distincter than by any before made, the Object Glass being made of Mediums of different refractive Qualities are so adapted as to correct the Errors arising from the different Refrangibility of Light, as well as to those which proceed from the spherical Surfaces of the Glasses. These Telescopes, will therefore be found of infinite Advantage to the Publick in general, but more particularly to the Navy, where good refracting Telescopes are of the utmost Importance. To be had of Mr. Francis Watkins, Optician, at Charing Cross and of Mr. John Dollond, in Denmark Court in the Strand. Mr. Watkins has also Reflecting Telescopes of all Sizes, finished to the greatest Perfection.'[1]

1763-74 Partnership of Francis Watkins with Addison Smith, his former pupil, as Watkins and Smith

1784 Francis Watkins retired and was succeeded by his nephews Jeremiah Watkins (c1758-1810) and Walter Watkins ( -1798)

After Walter's death in 1798 the business was continued by Jeremiah until his death in 1810.

1808 Listed as 'J. Watkins, optician, 5 Charing Cross.'[2]

1810 William Hill ( -1847), an employee, ran the business on behalf of Jeremiah's widow, Charlotte

1818 Jeremiah's son Francis Watkins, Junior became a partner and the firm traded as Watkins and Hill

1828 Book published. 'A Sketch of Electro Magnetism or Electro Dynamics with outlines of the patent solences Electricity and Magnetism. By Francis Watkins. Available from Watkins and Hill.[3]

1841 Listed as 'Watkins and Hill, opticians and philosophical instrument makers, 5 Charing Cross.'[4]

1847 Both partners died.

1851 Watkins and Hill exhibited at the 1851 Great Exhibition

1852 Listed as 'Watkins and Hill, opticians and philosophical instrument makers, 5 Charing Cross.'[5]

1854 Exhibited 'a large electro-magnetic apparatus illustrating the application of electricity as a motive power' at the Royal Polytechnic Institution[6].

1857 Company taken over by the brothers C. A. and F. H. Elliott, the sons of William Elliott, a mathematical instrument maker

1858 The premises at 5 Charing Cross were put up for lease by Elliot Brothers as the business was moving to new premises in the Strand. '...No. 5, Charing cross, consisting of a handsome double fronted shop with counting house and workshops in the rear, with back entrance, and three floors over; also, of the three floors of chambers or offices, with separate entrance in Charing cross. The premises are of the estimated value of £400 per annulas, and are held at the yearly rent of £215 for a term of 21 years from Christmas day, 1852...'[7]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. [1] Gazette Issue 9797 published on the 3 June 1758. Page 2 of 4
  2. 1808 Post Office Annual Directory
  3. Morning Chronicle - Thursday 11 September 1828
  4. 1841 Post Office London Directory
  5. 1852 Post Office London Directory
  6. Morning Chronicle - Friday 14 July 1854
  7. Morning Chronicle - Thursday 27 May 1858