Charles Plaskett – Chronometer Maker to the Admirality


Charles Plaskett

Chronometer Maker to the Admirality

1825 – 1880

Charles Plaskett is my x4 Grt Grand Uncle

Charles Plaskett was born about 1825 in 18 Grove Street, Bath, Somerset, England. He was the youngest of 8 children by Reuben and Mary Plaskett. His father Reuben was a well-established Clock, Watch and Jeweller maker who learnt his trade from his late uncle Peter ‘of London’ Plaskett. Reuben in turn taught his trade to his five sons, all of which became noted makers in their own right. Charles on the other hand was that little more special and became direct successor to Reuben Plaskett he stuck by his father until his death on the 23th April 1854, which was probably the key reason that his father’s established business was left to him.

Charles spent his childhood in Bath, Somerset, a city which in Georgian times was very wealthy and very popular as a spa town, as a result the city underwent vast changes during this British period and as a result the Georgian city of Bath is pretty much what we see today. The Plaskett’s lived and worked from 18 Grove Street, Bath, directly under the cold shadow of Bath Prison. Which was directly across the road from them.

18 Grove Street, Bath
A drawing of the rear of 18 Grove Street, with the prison looming down in the background. Sourced from: Bath in time

By 1839 the family were recorded as having moved from Bath and had now set up home and their trade in London, England. The beautiful city of Bath had been exchanged for the dark, narrow streets of Whitechapel, and they resided in the parish of St Mary’s at 31 Raven Street. In the 1880’s Dr Charles Booth recorded this street as fairly comfortable, with good ordinary earnings, but it was still only a walk away from very poor and the lowest class and vicious semi-criminal.

In the 1880’s Dr Charles Booth recorded that Raven street was fairly comfortable, with good ordinary earnings, but it was still only a walk away from very poor and the lowest class and vicious semi-criminal.

Charles Plaskett married on the 14th January 1849 in Saint James Church, Clerkenwell, London, to Harriet Wilson the daughter of William Wilson a joiner by trade. Her father William and her sister Mary Ann Wilson both witnessed the marriage. For a short period Charles and Harriet both resided together in the Wilson Household, Bowling Green Lane until moving back into 31 Raven Street sometime in the fall of 1849, just before the birth of their child. Henry George Plaskett was born on the 24th November 1849, in the Parish of St Mary’s, Whitechapel. Life however, was about to shatter for Charles as the harsh realities of Victorian, London hit hard. On the 6th March 1850 the family rushed through a baptism in St Mary’s Church, as illness took hold. Henry George Plaskett died a few days later, he was 4 months old. 3 months later in June 1850, Harriet Plaskett died too. Charles had lost his son and wife all within a few months of each and only after a year of marriage.

I think it’s difficult for us today to imagine just how hard life was for our ancestors, death was a daily occurrence and excepted and familiar in everyday life.

The census of 1851 recorded half of the population of Britain as living in towns – the first society in human history to do so. Over the previous 70 years, the population of Britain had risen at an unprecedented rate, passing the levels reached in an earlier period of growth, in the early 14th century, when the population had been decimated by epidemics such as the Black Death.

‘… with death from sickness at a level not seen since the Black Death.’

But was there any reason for optimism? The towns offered a better chance of work and higher wages than the countryside, where many families were trapped in dire poverty and seasonal employment. On the other hand, the countryside was healthier. A baby born in a large town with a population of more than 100,000 in the 1820s might expect to live to 35 – in the 1830s, life expectancy was down to a miserable 29.

A comparison between a desperately unhealthy large town and a small market town shows the costs of migrating in search of work and prosperity. In 1851, a boy born in inner Liverpool had a life expectancy of only 26 years, compared with a boy born in the small market town of Okehampton, who could expect to live to 57.

Large towns were thus desperately unhealthy, with death from sickness at a level not seen since the Black Death. New epidemics were stalking the cities – cholera and typhoid were carried by polluted water, typhus was spread by lice, and ‘summer diarrhoea’ was caused by swarms of flies feeding on horse manure and human waste. The problem was easy to identify and difficult to solve. Too little was invested in the urban environment, in sewers, street paving and cleansing, and in pure water and decent housing.

As the decade continued, life for Charles Plaskett worsened, in 1854, within two months of each other he lost both his parents to old age and Bronchitis, and even though he succeeded his father Reuben Plaskett and took over the families business in Whitechapel, by the end of the decade with loss of business and mounting debt it was gone.

In 1860 Charles left London for good, hoping to leave behind his broken trade, his creditors and his sorrowful past. He took his knowledge and well-earned trade with him to the parish of St Mary’s, Cardiff, Glamorgan, Wales and began a new life there.

The 1861 census and trade directories records Charles as residing at 59 – 60 Bute Street, Cardiff, and his occupation was listed as a Chronometer Maker, which is the second time we see Chronometer’s mentioned as a trade in the Plaskett Family, his brother William had already started specialising in Marine Chronometers ten years previously.

By 1861 Charles was living as married to an Elizabeth, who was born in 1829, Falmouth, Cornwall, little is known about her except it’s likely she had Austrian ancestry because two boarders with the surname of Cingmas were also residing with them in Bute Street. An Esther Cingmas born in 1840, Falmouth, Cornwall and a Nicole Cingmas listed as being male and born in Austria in 1832. No relationship status is mentioned, only that they are boarders… Although I do believe a family connection exists here because of the similarities with the place of birth for both Elizabeth and Esther and because Esther was also the name given to the daughter of Charles and Elizabeth.

Esther Maud Plaskett daughter of Charles and Elizabeth was listed in the 1861 census as being born in Cardiff. At the time the census was taken on Sunday 7th April 1861 she was recorded as being 3 months and 12 days old, making her birth date 26 December 1860. The family also had a Joseph Simmons boarding with them whose occupation was listed as being an optician and they also employed a servant by the name of Mary Thomas, a local girl of 18 years.

Life seemed good for Charles and his new family, and between 1860-61 they must have been doing well, because Bute Street was an affluent area of which they held two premises there, numbers 59 and 60. All that changed though about March 1862, when an application for Bankruptcy was filed I would guess that his London creditors had caught up with him.

The London Gazette, published these articles:

The London Gazette, 14 March 1862

Charles Plaskett, of the Docks, Cardiff, in the county of Glamorgan, Jeweller and Watch and Chronometer Maker having been adjudged bankrupt under a Petition for adjudication of Bankruptcy, filed, in Her Majesty’s Court of Bankruptcy for the Bristol District, at Bristol, on the 12th day of March 1862. He is hereby required to surrender himself to Charles Orme, Esq., the Registrar of the said court, and the first meeting of creditors, to be held before the said Registrar, on the 1st of April next, at eleven o’clock in the forenoon precisely, at the said Court, at Bristol. Mr. Alfred John Acramati, of No. 19, St. Augustine’s place, Bristol, is the Official’ Assignee, and Mr. T. H. Jinsor ‘Cardiff, is the Solicitor acting in the bankruptcy.

The London Gazette, April 4 1862

Charles Plaskett, of the Docks, Cardiff, in the county of Glamorgan, Jeweller and Watch and Chronometer Maker, having been adjudged bankrupt under a Petition for adjudication of Bankruptcy, filed in Her Majesty’s Court of Bankruptcy for the Bristol District, on the 12th day of March, 1862, a public sitting, for the said bankrupt to pass his Last Examination and make application for his Discharge, will be held before Matthew Darenport Hill, Esq., the Commissioner of the said Court, on the 5th day of May next, at the said Court, at Bristol, at eleven o’clock in the forenoon precisely, the day last aforesaid being the day limited for the said bankrupt to surrender. Mr. Alfred John Acraman, of No. 19, St. Augustine’s-place, Bristol, is the Official Assignee, and Messrs. Clifton and Benson, of Bristol, are the Solicitors acting in the bankruptcy.

For the next two years Charles would see his new life fall apart, as everything he had was lost. On the 28 August 1863, He was sentenced to three months imprisonment. The following year in October 1864, his daughter Esther Maud died aged 4, his wife Elizabeth disappears from the records around this time and it’s difficult to say what actually became of her. I would guess she died sometime in 1863/4.

Charles Plaskett left Cardiff that year and moved hoping to start a new life in Bristol, Gloucestershire. Surprisingly it didn’t take long for him to start a new life, because in September 1864 he is recorded as having re-married. Charles married his third wife Eliza Hussey in Bristol, she is probably someone he already knew because she lived close by to Charles when he lived in London.

Charles Plaskett doesn’t appear in the 1871 census, but his last known address was listed as: 53 West street, Bristol, Gloucestershire. He is recorded as living here in the 1879 and the 1880 trade directory for Bristol. His third wife Eliza died aged 54 in March 1873, Clifton, Gloucestershire, sadly he had no more children.

Charles Plaskett continued working as a clock, watch and chronometer maker until his death in June 1880, he died in Barton Regis, Gloucestershire. His Chronometers can often be seen at big auction houses across the world including Bonhams, they have been known to reach a sale price of £5000.

My relationship to Charles Plaskett

Charles PLASKETT (1825 – 1880)

is my 4th great grand uncle

Reuben PLASKETT (1775 – 1854) Father of Charles

William PLASKETT (1820 – 1912) Son of Reuben

William Reubon PLASKETT (1844 – 1918) Son of William

Edmund Lionel PLASKETT (1881 – 1952) Son of William Reubon

Edmund Samuel PLASKETT (1906 – 1977) Son of Edmund Lionel

Joyce Margery PLASKETT (1934 – ) Daughter of Edmund Samuel

Christine Angela Deborah BEAN (1957 – ) Daughter of Joyce Margery

Stephen Robert KUTA (Me)

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