James Douglass

The history of James Douglass, the clock-maker is complicated by the fact there must have been a succession of clock-makers of the same name. The Douglass whose clocks are shown in the Museum is recorded in local directories as having worked in Chertsey between 1768 and 1791, from premises in Guildford Street.

Despite the recorded dates, the six ‘Chertsey’ clocks on display here were all except one made earlier, between 1720 and 1765. The first known written reference to Douglass is 1745 when he was working in London. As a number of his clocks made in Chertsey are earlier than this date, it is likely that he lived in the town prior to going to London.

Douglass used a variety of case styles, from relatively modest oak cases to ones with highly ornamental ‘japanned’ decoration. He is known to have used very fine clock movements from the South of England and much additional non-functional ornamentation. This may explain why he went bankrupt in 1791!

Local directories again list the name ‘Douglass’ in 1770. It is likely that this is his son, who continued to work in Chertsey until at least 1832. This is clearly too long a period for only one generation of Douglass clockmaker. Later in 1839 a James Douglass is recorded in the Egham directories.

In a small town the size of 18th century Chertsey, it is doubtful that a clockmaker could have made a living only by the sale and repair of clocks and watches. Clockmakers usually sold other items of brass and hardware, and performed additional services like cleaning guns and mending pewter.