This article has been researched and written by Jill Adams who is a member of the Deddington and District History Society. We are extremely grateful for her permission to publish it on DOL.

If anyone has any further information on The Fardon family then we would very much like to know about it by e-mail


Look at the dial of an old longcase clock and you could be forgiven for thinking it was just the time it told. Very often the clockmaker responsible left clues on his time pieces apart from the dial and signature which had style and creative workmanship. Here was a  life story which deserves a second look helping us to see the man behind the clock and making it  possible to appreciate his work fully.

One such maker was John Fardon (2) of Deddington 1736-1786.

John Fardon (2) was born into a Quaker family of long tradition in North Oxfordshire. He was the only son of John and Mary nee Cox (his second wife). His birth was registered at the Banbury Monthly Meeting as 11th July 1736.

His father John (1) was a clockmaker in Deddington of some renown and was a member of a skilled number of craftsmen whose profession flourished until the middle of the 19th Century. John worked in Deddington during the earlier part of the eighteenth century and had been trained by Thomas Gilkes of Sibford. Indeed John remembers his master in his will of 1743. There is much interest in the Fardon family and fellow Quaker clockmakers in this area.

It is interesting to note that the posted movements so far inspected from surviving clocks by John Fardon (1) and his son John whilst very similar to the clocks by the other Quaker makers in particular the Gilkes family and William Green of Milton under Wychwood ; show that the top plate is cut out to accommodate the fly. Although the fly need not be cut out and other makers tended not to do so; a thirty hour clock by Thomas Gilkes of Sibford with the fly cut out has been inspected. The majority of anonymous hoop and Spike clocks carry this feature, suggesting that the Fardons at least were probably not responsible for the numerous unsigned clocks that have survived. Another feature which clocks produced by these makers had were brass dials with zig zag enraving in concentric circles. 

When John (1) died in 1744 his son John was only eight years old. He would have initially lived with his mother in the house on the corner of the Market Square and Hudson Street next to the Unicorn Public house and inherited it on reaching his twenty first birthday. His life and work did not always conform to the Quaker ways followed by his father and his style of workmanship evolved to reach perhaps a more sophisticated market towards the end of his career.

It has been written that John (2) was apprenticed in London but was working in Deddington by 1760. As yet I have found no written evidence for his training in London and can only give the following as a guide to his whereabouts!

On the 28th June 1750 John was nearly 14 years old and he was apprenticed to John May Clockmaker of Witney (another Quaker family) for £20. As yet no Apprenticeship Indenture has been found and I believe that if the training was not completed these Indentures were torn up and destroyed. The above entry can be found in the Apprenticeship Books in the National Archives. The Statute of Apprentices forbade anyone to enter a trade without first serving an Apprenticeship. With some modifications by subsequent Acts of Parliament it remained so until 1814.

It appears that John did not complete his training with John May in Witney as events occurred in his personal life which changed everything and perhaps affected his Quaker inheritance. Normally ' bound 'to his master during a period of seven years he was not entitled to a personal life so it came as a surprise to see in 1754 when he was nearly 18 years old he applied for a Marriage Licence dated 4th March 1754 and Bond to marry an Ann Nethercott. The Licence stated that they were both residents of Adderbury and that the marriage would take place in the Parish Church of St Mary. What was intriguing was the fact that John stated that he was 21 years and upwards. John was definitely not twenty one! If Ann was the daughter of John Nethercott, clockmaker and baptized 1736 in Long Compton ; she was not twenty one years and upwards either!

One wonders what the Quaker family and Friends made of such behaviour? His mother Mary must have been in despair and probably breathed a huge sigh of relief when this intended marriage did not take place in Adderbury in the Parish Church. It is now that John may have gone to London and again perhaps he managed to receive more training during the next two years. It was possible to transfer to another master and indeed to another Meeting. Certainly the style of clocks produced by John that are around today, adhere to the fashions in engraving for example available in London at that time.

The next recorded reference to John comes in the Banbury Monthly Meeting 5th January 1756 and his activities start to unravel. "John Fardon late of Deddington being now in London and under some pressure in relation to his marriage by proxy …requesteth a certificate from this meeting". This seems to imply that he intends to marry a Quaker girl immediately and requires the Meeting's approval which would normally be given when Friends were happy with the circumstances of both families and their Quaker rules and tradition upheld. This could happen over a period of two months (two Monthly Meetings).

The meeting on the 5th of January also recorded that Richard Gilkes and William Williams (both clockmakers of Adderbury) "are desired to make inquiry into his conversation and clearness as usual and give account to the next Monthly meeting". Friends used the word 'conversation' or sometimes the phrase 'orderly conversation' to mean some ones way of life and I suppose we might interpret this today as 'lifestyle'. "Clearness" meant being clear about the 'rightness' of some proposed action. Obviously Friends were concerned at this point into what John was getting up to in London! Whilst the Friends at the Banbury Meeting are deliberating about his proposed wedding in London; a marriage is supposed to have taken place on that very same day; 5th January 1756 at the Savoy Palace to Mary Grange. I have to say I have not seen this recorded in a Parish Register and no Licence has been produced to date. I am at this stage intending to find in London a marriage Licence or Allegation which would at least give the above date and John's intention to marry, in the absence of a Parish Register entry. John would have been 19 years old.

If this marriage did indeed take place then the Quakers in Oxfordshire were unaware of it at the time because at the next monthly meeting held at Bloxham on the 2nd day of the 3rd month 1756 the minute read "nothing appearing to obstruct John Fardon , had a certificate as desired. Directed to the monthly meeting at Gracious Street London". (Grace Church Street) This then was presumably the meeting that John and his future wife attended. So why did they go to the Savoy Palace to go through what was probably an illegal ceremony when there was apparently no impediment to their marriage at the Grace Church Street Meeting? Two questions spring to mind; did John complete his seven year apprenticeship? Was this the impediment which drove them to try to marry elsewhere?

Peter Fewson, a descendant of John's daughter Juliana, has a cousin Yewa Holiday who obtained information from the the Savoy Chapel (now the Queens Savoy Chapel) .She searched the registers and found that there were no signs of either Mary Grange's or John Fardon's names in the register. However there was a Minister performing illegal marriages in the Chapel at that time but as proceedings had by then started against him, which he is likely to have known about , did he record the ceremony in a false register only to pocket the probably inflated fee he might have charged for performing this marriage by proxy?

In 1755 John Wilkinson was Minister of the Savoy Chapel and the German Protestant Church. Papers discovered by Peter's cousin Jewa Holiday in the National Archives refer to John Wilkinson as to performing clandestine marriages and suggest that he should be stopped either by locking the door of the Chapel against him or proceeding against him in the proper Ecclesiastical Court. Date: 21st February 1755.

In the following year when John Fardon's possible illegal marriage took place, further papers relate to John Wilkinson: '' Representation of John Brooke present preacher at the Savoy that he understands that the Chapel and the rights of the minister there are to be seized because it is alleged that Mr Wilkinson 's ecclesiastical living is forfeited by the above crime. Prays that the matter might be reconsidered. Date: 21st July 1756.''

John Wilkinson was indeed convicted of performing illegal marriages and sentenced to transportation .However he died in Plymouth's gaol before he could be transported.

It is at the Monthly Meeting held at Adderbury on the 6th day of the 3rd month 1758 when next we hear from the Quakers. "John Fardon of Deddington hath been of very disorderly conversation to the reproach of our society" . John Harris and Simon Gilkes are desired to speak to him about it and make their report. At later meetings minutes are suspended or are to be continued and nothing is decided. At the Adderbury Meeting held on the 5th day of the 6th month Thomas Gilkes and Joseph Harris "are desired to visit John Fardon and bring their report to the next meeting". Indeed they do visit John but "do not meet with so much satisfaction that could be wished". At this point we do not know what the actual problem is and Friends still think it proper to continue the minutes for another month. Perhaps John has broken other Quaker rules for Friends do not seem to have his reputed marriage on their agenda.

More accusations are to follow and at the Sibford Monthly Meeting on the 4th day of the 9th month "Richard Gilkes, William Halford and William Williams are desired to speak to John Fardon and to let him know that Friends will not be dishonored with his bad conduct without reformation and bring their report to the next meeting." The next meeting took place at Adderbury and the three men reported that they had not had opportunity to visit John Fardon.

Finally at the Banbury Monthly Meeting held on the 4th day of the 12th month 1758 "There was testimony read and signed against John Fardon of Deddington to disown him". This measure meant termination of membership of the Society.

This was a serious outcome and very tough for John. He would have still been able to attend meetings for worship but not those concerning church affairs. The minutes do not record why John was disowned and in many ways this research throws up more questions than answers. However when reading his mother's will, it would seem her thinking and that of the Friends, might have concerned his relationship with his wife Mary Grange.

Mary Fardon, John's mother made her will in 1761. I am not sure where she was living in Deddington but it was probably not with her son and his family. Amongst a number of bequests she devises property "for the use and behalf of all and every the children which my son John Fardon shall leave by Mary Fardon his wife or reputed wife".

What telling words! Mary obviously did not believe that her son was formally married to Mary Grange. At this time three children were born to John and his 'reputed' wife. Although no birth or infant baptism has been found for any of the five children by John: the first two namely Thomas and John were baptised as adults in Deddington Church St Peter and St Paul. From those adult baptisms we can work out their birth dates as 1757 and c1758. The third child was Ann born 1760. Although their grandmother does not name these children (not uncommon at their early age) she does make provision for them. She makes further provision also for Mary by leaving 'what ready money and all and every my demands for money of what ever kind so ever I give unto Richard Gilkes clockmaker of Adderbury and Thomas Harris clockmaker of Deddington both in the said County of Oxford by them freely to be possessed in trust never the less for the use of and behalf of Mary Fardon wife of the said John Fardon'. She also leaves '£5 a year and every year to be paid to Mary by her Executors so long as the money shall last and be disposed of as she the said Mary shall see proper'. The will was proved 11th October 1764.

Even though John has been disowned the Friends such as Richard Gilkes and Thomas Harris are there to help the family and to oversee their well being financially and otherwise. However Thomas Harris by this time has established himself in Deddington as a real rival to John in their clockmaking trade. John's absences from Deddington may have contributed to the success of Thomas's business.

The three remaining children all girls supposedly born to John and Mary were: Firstly Ann born in 1760. She married William Harris on 15th July 1779 in Deddington Church by Licence. "Ann Fardon, a minor of 19 years with the consent of both parents to William Harris both of this Parish". The marriage was witnessed by William Malins and Richard Wilkes. There was Mary born in 1765 baptised in Deddington Parish Church as an adult in 1781. She died in 1813 aged 48 years apparently unmarried. Then there was Juliana. Locating the birth of Juliana was one of my starting points in the research which was for a descendant and to date we have no real evidence that she was their daughter but the search for that proof does go on. No infant or adult baptism has been found. She was married to Edward South on 3rd December 1789 at St Giles Church Oxford by Banns. Edward was from Deddington but worked as Victualler in Banbury. Juliana died in 1802 and was buried in Deddington St Peter and St Paul. No age at death was given in the burial register. Her descendants are very keen to find more details about her.

The most devastating revelation to John's marital state comes after his mother's death and is probably something that she had always suspected.

John's marriage was back on the Quaker agenda at a monthly meeting in Witney 18th day of the 7th month 1763 where they are discussing John Fardons wife and the "minute is continued". This discussion continues at two more meetings until at the Banbury monthly meeting on 5th day of 12th month 1763, frustration seems to have set in! "The minute respecting John Fardon's wife was considered and left to Rich'd Gilkes to communicate to Thomas Wagstaffe that the indulgence of this meeting is; she belongs to the meeting she belongs to before her marriage." It appears that there is some dispute as to which meeting Mary attended meaning that it would have been their responsibility towards her marriage intentions.

Minutes are continued for the first two months of 1764 and Richard Gilkes and Thomas Harris were asked to "inspect into the affair". At Adderbury's monthly meeting on 5th day of the 3rd month 1764 their concerns are made clear. "It appearing to this meeting that John Fardon and wife were married at the Savoy which being contary to the rules of our society. Rich'd Gilkes and Thomas Harris are desired to visit the wife (he being disowned sometime ago for other misconduct yet since his said marriage ) and bring report to the next meeting of y ' situation they find her in" What was the "other misconduct" that John was disowned for?

At the Shutford meeting on the 2nd day of the 7th month 1764 Thomas Harris reports that they had visited John Fardon's wife "hoping there may be some probability of amendment, the minute is continued for the present".

I imagine that although not recorded in the Quaker minutes; Thomas Harris continued in the next few years to visit Mary to try and find the truth of what happened and eventually all the visits, enquiries and inspections must have paid off.

The Banbury Monthly Meeting on the 3rd day of the 8th month 1767 brought to the Friends attention publicly. "Mary Grange reputed wife of John Fardon of Deddington declared to Thomas Harris they were never married who reported the same to this meeting so Friends desire a Testimony to be brought to our next meeting to disown her for the same".

Does this mean that John and Mary did go through a clandestine ceremony at the Savoy Palace in London? This was one of several popular places to marry in the eighteenth century but had become illegal after 1754 and perhaps it was that event that caused Mary to finally confess to the Quakers. It is though something of a mystery.

At Sibford the next month the minute respecting Mary Grange is continued. It takes another four months before the Testimony was read and signed which was at the Shutford Meeting and it was also ordered to be read in Adderbury and returned to the Clerk. Richard Gilkes was desired to inform Friends at Grace Church Street in London of the proceedings. I did not find the Testimony read at Adderbury mentioned in the records but it was read in the next months meeting in Banbury in December 1767.Mention of this correspondence from Richard Gilkes to the meeting in Grace Church Street is probably lost as the property was sadly destroyed by fire in 1821 along with their records of that period.

Where was John in all this enquiry and what happened to Mary? Beeson states that John advertises on the 9th May 1772 for a Journeyman and on 11th October 1773 he notified that he had lost his apprentice Thomas Edwards. At this period John seems to be working fairly consistently in Deddington.

On the 26th June 1772 John Fardon married Sarah Cox in Deddington Parish Church by Licence. John signed the register and Sarah made her mark.

By November 1786 John was not well and made his Will dated 24th November ''being desirous to settle my worldly affairs whilst I have strength and capacity to do so''. He continued as was quite common, to ''commend my soul into the hands of Almighty God my heavenly Father'' and asks for ''full and free pardon and forgiveness of all my sins and to inherit everlasting life''.

The Will mentions his widow Sarah and his children Thomas, John, Ann and Juliana along with his friend John Hitchman. There is no mention of a daughter Mary Fardon. His son Thomas Fardon and John Hitchman are to value and appraise all his stock in trade and utensils in business in case his son John '' shall be desirous to continue in and carry on all or any part of the trade or business I now follow''. He wishes Thomas and John Hitchman'' to sell and deliver the same or any part thereof unto my said son John Fardon at a price or sum that they shall value and appraise……''

John died in Deddington but he was buried in the Adderbury Meeting House burial ground on the 10th December aged 50 years. The Quakers have obviously been able to accept him even after his  'disorderly conversation', his marital problems and the fact that he eventually married out of 'unity with us'. That phrase is often found in Monthly Minutes and refers to a marriage taken by a priest in another denomination.

Sarah, mentioned in John's Will, did not live very much longer. She died in early September 1787 and was buried in Deddington Parish Church on the 6th September.

What was the fate of Mary Grange? I imagined that she remained with her young children from the disownment in 1767and perhaps when John married Sarah Cox in 1772 went to live wherever her family had originated from. Remarkably she appears to have remained in Deddington until her death in 1784 on the 29th January. Her burial certificate found in the Friends burial register states she is "of Deddington" but "not a member of our society". Mary was laid to rest in the Adderbury Meeting House graveyard on 1st February.

Like John she was not denied the Quaker burial for it was their birthright both being born into Quaker families. Her life must have been a struggle but one hopes that the legacy that Mary Fardon left did help her and the children with their difficulties.

In the same way as researching and recording John's private life from surviving documents; we can only discuss his career on the clocks that survive also. Some of his clocks are described by C.F.C Beeson in his book 'Clockmaking in Oxfordshire' and examples can be viewed in the Museum of the History of Science in Broad Street Oxford.

I am fortunate to be able to quote from a local source. This person is currently conducting a survey of Quaker clockmakers and their surviving work from North Oxfordshire. He states he has only seen three clocks by John (2) since beginning his survey and two of those are happily ticking away in Deddington. The other is mentioned in Dr Beeson's book and is in the Museum in Oxford.

The two in Deddington, one in a pine case, the other in oak are both 'birdcage' or posted movement, single hander and similar engraved polished centers probably made during the 1760s or early 1770s. Both movements are typical of the Quaker style of this area but strangely with no 'hoop and spike' which one might have expected. A hoop and spike clock was designed to hang on a wall or in a case depending upon the customer's wishes, These are always thirty hour clocks which require daily winding. Their particular style of workmanship, notably the thirty hour hoop and spike with zig zag dial was developed and maintained by the early Quaker makers of the area such as Thomas Gilkes of Sibford.

Beeson also tells us that his Watchpaper referred to John (2) being 'from London' perhaps trying to profit from his rather brief London background although the earlier clocks show no particular sign of this. Watchpapers were small circular pieces of paper printed with the makers details, advertising his services inserted in the watch case by the maker or any subsequent repairer. This gave an interesting chronological history of the piece if left inside the case. Other country clockmakers do sometimes refer to their London background and go as far as to engrave the dials with this information. Presumably this carried some weight with potential customers.

To date, a clock attributed to John (2) has not been seen with the traditional Quaker zig zag dial engraving and this may be the result of some training in London. Here he would have seen fashionable designs which influenced him more than the local style. One of the clocks mentioned is a ten inch square dial engraved with a pagoda; chinoiserie being the height of fashion when this clock was produced. It is signed John Fardon Deddington within foliate scrolls surrounded by the pagoda. The other clock seen in Deddington again a ten inch square dial, is signed Fardon Deddington also within foliate scrolls surrounded with a basket of fruit. This was a common subject for the engravers at this time. Although the earlier ring and zig zag dials were engraved by the makers themselves, John's dials were most probably produced by a professional engraver and not by him. These dials needed no specialist engravers skills to produce.

In his book Beeson describes two other John Fardon (2) clocks which are in private collections both signed In Deddington c 1760 and c 1770.

I do hope there are more clocks by John (2) that are still around and that this piece of on going research might reveal them to us. It seems clear that although his life was turbulent at times his work remained constant and reflected the fashions of the period and his legacy was passed to Thomas and John his two sons who continued in the trade rather successfully and will be discussed in the future.


Oxford Archives

The Religious Society of Friends

Tim Marshall

Peter Fewson

Will of John Fardon 1786  by permission of the Warden and Fellows of New College Oxford

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