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Percy Webster

© The Antique Collector, January 1939, and reproduced in Antiquarian Horology, Vol 23 No 3 p260

by Barbara Chapman
Percy Webster & his son Malcolm were two of Leverstock Green's more prominent residents during the first part of the twentieth century;  Percy moving to Leverstock Green sometime in 1906 and living at Sibley's Orchard, and his son Malcolm purchasing The Red Lion Inn and turning it into his private residence St. Michael's End in 1927.  Both father & son were expert horologists and dealers in antiques  not just clocks, though that was their speciality, but also in silver, gold, jewellery and other bijouterie.  Both men were Masters of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, Percy in 1927 & Malcolm in 1948.
Percy Webster 
(seated centre) 
in his regalia as 
Master of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers.
© The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers
The first documentary record we have of Percy Webster in Leverstock Green was when he attended the annual Easter vestry of Holy Trinity on April 1st 1907.  From then until his death in November 1938 his name, and the name of other members of his family frequently appeared in local press reports concerning Leverstock Green.  Both Percy & Malcolm were regular churchgoers and prominent members of the church as their names appeared regularly as attending vestry meetings, probably indicating that either or both were on the PCC or acted as sidesman.

We also know that Percy was a Manager of Leverstock Green School, as on 16th Feb. 1920, Mr. Ford the Headmaster noted in the log book that: -

 " Mr. P. Webster (Manager) & Mr. Lyn Harding visited this morning re memorial".   

Local Football was also one of Percy's enthusiasms and on 1 May 1909 a Leverstock Green Football Club dinner was held at the Leather Bottle at the invitation of Percy Webster.  Over 30 were present and it was presided over by Mr. T H Ford, the school headmaster.  A long write-up of the event appeared in the Gazette.  As well as supporting and encouraging the village Football Club, Percy Webster also inaugurated a local football competition for which he donated a cup. In August 1921 the Gazette noted:


"The annual meeting of the Webster Cup competition was held at the Leather Bottle Leverstock Green on Friday evening last when Mr A Ford supported by Mr J Dell the Hon sec presided over a good number of club representatives

There were 18 entries this year for the local football trophy donated by Percy Webster of Sibleys Orchard, including the Leverstock Green team". [Gazette 20 August 1921]

 The Webster Cup is still played for and presented  today.  

Additional material on the Webster Cup will be added once known.

Percy Webster was also one of the committee dedicated to raising money for, and ultimately seeing the opening of, the original Parish Room, the Websters even opening their gardens at Sibley's Orchard for a garden party to raise funds for the proposed hall.  This garden fete was held on Wednesday 14th July 1909 and residents were charged the princely sum of 6d (2.5p, worth about  £1.45 today) for admission. The fete was reported in the following week's Gazette as follows: 


The village of Leverstock Green has for many years had a keen struggle to maintain its various institutions, and it has had to deprive itself of many necessities for the social welfare of the villagers, through the very small proportion of the population who are in a position to render financial and other assistance.   But in the words of a popular song "Things are beginning to hum!", and progress in regard to the Parish Room Fund the cricket and football clubs, and other organisations has been very marked since Mr. Webster and his family came to reside at Sibley's Orchard.  There is no place in the village where meetings can be held except in an inconvenient schoolroom, and a committee has been struggling with a fund for the provision of a Parish Room for five or six years.  Such a social centre is now well in sight, for plans have been prepared, a fair sum is in hand, a site has practically been secured, and the whole scheme generally is being entered into by an enthusiastic and enterprising committee.  But a large amount is still required, and with the object of helping the fund, Mr. Webster kindly placed his grounds at the disposal of a garden fete for Wednesday.  Few indeed would ever dream that there was such a charming spot within a stone's throw of the church, and the large attendance appreciated to the full extent the opportunity of enjoying themselves amidst such charming surroundings.  The well-kept lawns, flower garden and grounds were looking their best, and made an ideal spot for such a function.  There was but a small uniform charge made for admission, but with the numerous attractions, which were well patronised, it is hoped that a substantial profit will be the result. Those mainly responsible for the arrangements, in addition to Mr. Percy Webster and his family were Messrs W. Dell, WW Sears, H. Cooper, A. Seabrook, J. Hallett, W. Wright, W.C. Child, and Rev. A. Durrant.  All worked most assiduously on the day and were assisted by many friends.  A capital entertainment was given by from a decorated platform on the lawn, the contributions including some splendid songs, drills and sketches by the children of the village school under the tutilage of Mrs. Ford; songs by Miss Olive Seabrook and Mr. A.W.Lloyd; an amusing duet in costume, by Messrs H.Lavers and A M Durrant, a dance by Miss Smuthwaite and comic songs by Mr. W. Green.  A hat trimming competition, organised by Miss May Bailey, was a great success, there being 12 competitors.  The judges were Messrs. H. Lavers, and A M Durrant and the prizes (given by Mr. Webster) were won by Mrs. Evans and Miss Bailey.  Some excellent side-show attractions were splendidly arranged and ably managed as follows:  Mysterious Golliwog, Miss Child; Fine Art Exhibition, Miss Woodman; Palmist, Miss H. Balderson; Ice cream stall Miss Bailey; Refreshments, Mrs. Cox Mrs. Umfreville and Mrs. Webster assisted by Misses Phyllis and Doris Cox, Millicent Cook, Violet Moxsy, Doris Umfreville and Isobel Webster.  At dusk the grounds were prettily illuminated, and the Hemel Hempstead string band played selections for dancing, there being a large crowd present.  The fete was a delightful one in every respect, thanks mainly to the generous support and enthusiasm of Mr. & Mrs. P. Webster and family.   [Gazette 17 July 1909 p.8]

At Christmas 1915 Mr Percy Webster reported at a meeting of the Parish Room committee, 

"That he and the Vicar acting on a resolution of the committee had completed the purchase of a splendid site of half an acre between the Church and the Vicarage, the purchaser's covenanting with the vendor that the site should only be used for the purpose of a parish room, club or institute for Leverstock Green.

 In addition he one of the few initial contributors to the fund to build on the newly acquired site, promising £10 (worth around £500 in 2003) By January 1922, with the target still unmet he was promising yet more "We stated last week that £200 had been raised during the past year towards the liquidation of the debt on the Parish Hall.  We are now informed that about £60 was very generously contributed by Mr. P Webster."  [Gazette 14 January 1922]  

In the year 2002 this would have be worth about £2,200.00. According to the Office for National Statistics composite price index, today's prices in 2020 are 5,619.82% higher than average prices since 1922. The British pound experienced an average inflation rate of 4.22% per year during this period, causing the real value of a pound to decrease. In other words, £60 in 1922 is equivalent in purchasing power to about £3,431.89 in 2020, a difference of £3,371.89 over 98 years.  

In 1938, following the death of his father, Malcolm Webster, who followed his father in so many things, was subsequently elected as trustee of the Leverstock Green Parish Room Trust.

In 1913, Malcolm Webster, together with Herbert Cescinsky, published what was to become what was considered by many to be  the "bible" for Horologists: English Domestic Clocks.  Until about 1970 this was considered THE definitive work on the subject, but with modern research some of the statements are now considered unreliable.  However, a search on the web for copies of the book elicits the following information: 

"The best account of the main types of clocks made since the middle of the 17th century."

"Co-author Webster, this survey of English domestic clocks features 407 quality black/white illus that depict clock hands, dials and long-case clock corners as well as the clocks themselves, discusses the regulation & mechanisms of the clocks, Chippendale & Sheraton clock cases, lacquered cases of long clocks, brass lantern or birdcage clocks, the development of dials and hands, etc, index."

"Cescinsky, Herbert and Webster, Malcolm R. ENGLISH DOMESTIC CLOCKS. 2000. 11" x 8 1/2", 354 pages, over 400 black and white illustrations. One of the classic works on British clockmaking."
"354pp  407 illus  2000  Reprint Covers all the early lantern, bracket and longcase styles showing spandrels, hands etc as well as full length view.  The restorers' and dealers' bible!"

The Antiques Collector's Club, who currently produce a reprint of the book (see right - in red cover) says:   
·"This book, written by experts who were themselves keen collectors, is one of the classic works on British clock making. 
·It is the best account of the development of the main types of cocks since the middle of the17th century. 
·There is in-depth coverage on the types of clocks available to collectors, and a lucid explanation just how clocks work, the results of the introduction of the pendulum and the subsequent development of grandfathers, bracket and lantern clocks. 
·'English Domestic Clocks' is an ideal companion for anybody interested in the subject, whether a serious collector, or indeed anyone wishing to further their knowledge on this subject."

In 1915, sadly Percy's wife Elizabeth died.  In her memory he donated a crucifix to Holy Trinity which bore the Latin inscription (composed by the Rev. Durrant):  "A.M.D.G. et piam memoriam E.E.W. qui obit A.S. MCMXV  Hanc Crucem in usem ecclesiae Sancte Trinitatis de Leverstock Green.  Dedicavit conjux superstes."   Loosely translated that reads "To the Greater Glory of God and in sacred memory of Elizabeth E. Webster who died 1915.  Dedicated by her husband for use in the church of Holy Trinity Leverstock Green"  

 It has until recently been supposed that this crucifix had been made in the late 17th century from ebony and silver, as the Centenary booklet of 1949 referred to it as "a fine example of a late 17th century silver & ebony crucifix".  However recent examination of the crucifix shows the cross to be made of mahogany painted black and the hallmarks on the silver figure of Christ show it to have been made in London in 1881.   I conclude therefore that a printing error must have occurred in the 1949 booklet which has subsequently been repeated, and that the original text should have been "a fine example of a copy of a late 17th century silver & ebony crucifix". Unlike today when desktop publishing makes printing of such booklets easy and relatively inexpensive, the glossy booklet produced for the centenary in 1949 would have been too costly to reprint, once the error was spotted.  A silver skull (as was typical of the 17th century) was originally placed beneath the feet of Christ, but this was regrettably stolen in the 1960's.  The Crucifix is not currently in use at Holy Trinity.

Photographs © Barbara Chapman, November 2002
On the 8th October 1927, the Gazette reported that the Red Lion Inn, along the Leverstock Green/St. Albans Road was for sale.  A week later the Gazette reported that the cottage, previously known as the Red Lion Inn in Leverstock Green had been sold prior to auction.  In Kelley's Directory for 1929 (and subsequent issues), Malcolm Webster is noted as being resident at St. Michael's End, the new and present name for what had been the Red Lion Inn.  As the Gazette also carried a report of Malcolm's wedding in December 1927, I conclude that the cottage was bought by Malcolm for him and his wife.

                    WEDDING OF MR. M R WEBSTER

"A wedding of local interest was solemnized at St. Andrew's church, Edinburgh between Malcolm Robert, eldest son of Mr. Percy Webster Leverstock Green, and Annie daughter of the late Mr. David J Girdwood and niece of Mr. John Girdwood, Edinburgh" 

continued below........

    The rest of the entire column was given over to a list of the presents and whom they were from!  These presents included cheques, gold dollars, sovereigns, antiques from the small to pieces of furniture, a great deal of silver ware, and just about everything a young couple of means could want when setting up home down to a handkerchief!  The Rev. Durrant gave the couple a prayer book.  The Webster family generally gave cheques, and the maids from Sibley's orchard an ebony box.  Amongst the list of givers were numerous titles, indicating that the couple moved amongst the "county set" etc.  The groom gave his bride a ruby and diamond ring from the Russian State Jewel collection - it must be remembered that the Webster's were highly respected London clockmakers/antique dealers by trade, who moved in exalted circles, and were quite wealthy. [Gazette 3/12/1927]

On 16th November 1938 Percy Webster died.  

"We very deeply regret to record the death, which occurred early on Thursday, of Mr. Percy Webster of Sibleys Orchard Leverstock Green.
Aged 76 years Mr. Webster was regarded as the best authority on old clocks in the world and he had one of the finest collections.  Included amongst them was a clock which once belonged to Queen Elizabeth, and one which had once been the property of Mary Queen of Scots.  He also possessed one of the oldest clocks in the world - one that was made on the 13th century.
Mr. Webster's interest in antiques and especially in old clocks began at an early age and he was the pioneer of old clock collecting.
His association with Leverstock Green began in 1906 when he came with his wife to take up residence there.  He interested himself in the village and its activities, and at the time of his death was a school manager.
The deepest sympathy will be expressed to the bereaved family - his wife having predeceased him 23 years previously.
The funeral is yet to be arranged" [Gazette 18th November 1938- NB this would have gone to press the previous day, and the funeral actually took place on Sunday 18th]]

His obituary in The Times read as follows:

Mr. Percy Webster, an authority on clocks who died on November 16th at the age of 76, was almost to the last active in business, although he had been exceedingly frail for some years.  He retained his knowledge and vigour of mind to the end.  His position in the antique trade was unique.  He had carried on business in Great Portland Street for many years, removing to the present premises in Queen Street Mayfair, about three months ago.  Although he dealt in many things, silver, jewellery, furniture, works of art, and bijouterie, in all of which he had profound knowledge, his name is associated with old clocks.  It says much for his reputation as a clock expert on the market for the past 30 years, in sale rooms or collections, at least 90 percent passed through Percy Webster's hands at some time or another.  He served his year as Master of the Clockmaker's Company, thus showing that his reputation was official as well as national.
Only those who knew him in private life could appreciate the fact that Percy Webster was much more than a dealer with exceptional knowledge.  He had nominally retired for years, to his home in Leverstock Green, where he had fitted up a fully equipped workshop, complete with lathes and other appliances, and here he copied Joseph Knibb, who in his later life lived at Hislope, an obscure village in Buckinghamshire, yet continued to make clocks.  Like Knibb, Percy Webster showed that real craftsmen never retire  until they die.  If anything ancient, like a skull watch or a Gothic clock, came into Great Portland Street with a part missing or ignorantly replaced, then the business could wait, as far as he was concerned.  He had to retire to his home workshop until the part had been replaced in the proper manner.  He was a craftsmen first, and a dealer a long way after.  His death has left a gap which cannot be filled in these days of machine production; he was the last and perhaps the finest of the old master craftsmen.
His knowledge was equal to his craftsmanship.  He exemplified the little known fact that only he who can make can know.  Like all real experts, he began with a love for the late; Yorkshire clocks were his stock in trade in the St. John's Wood days, years and years ago, and he worked backwards.   His collection of clocks and watches at Leverstock Green  which was both large and choice  assembled in his later years, contained nothing after Queen Anne and went back to the iron clocks of the fifteenth century, which by the way, no one but Webster really understood.  Not only the trade, but the world accepted his opinions as final.  All that erudition lies buried with Percy Webster in Leverstock Green. The loss is not his, it is ours, and it is irreplaceable. [S383]

St. Michael's End, previously known as The Red Lion Inn - note the Red Lion motif still over the porch.  The oldest part of the building dates back to the 17th century.

Photograph ©  Roy Wood
Percy G. Dawson, writing in Antiquarian Horology,, Summer 1980 stated that:

IN VIEW of recent references to the late  Percy Webster in Antiquarian Horology I thought it might be of interest to tell something of what I know about him. I know nothing about his origins although I remember Mr. Stanley Shapland, of High Holborn, telling me on one occasion that Percy Webster had been apprenticed with them and had slept on their counter! I understood that he had been in business at one time in London Road, Swiss Cottage, London, but by the time that my father commenced in business restoring clock cases in I90I, Webster was already established at 37 Great Portland Street then known as Portland Road.
Our business was from I905, in Warren Street, which was not far from the Webster premises in Great Portland Street, and during the period between the wars it was our habit to take a large hand-truck or small horse-drawn van to number 37 to collect clock cases of all kinds or deliver them.  
The Webster premises were at the corner of Little Portland Street and three floors were used almost exclusively for the display of old clocks. I remember that one room was reserved for musical bracket clocks, which gives some indication of the size of their stock. 

Click on cartouche for  an enlarged version.
©Antiquarian Horology, reproduced here with their kind permission  
  The basement contained in addition to a store room the workshop where the clockmaker, Hinton, worked.  Here many important and complicated clocks were restored or reconstructed with great skill.  At this period, however, the depth of knowledge of early clocks was not what it is today and consequently not all of Hinton's work is acceptable today; indeed, some of it undoubtedly has obscured evidence of interesting early features and clues to primitive mechanisms.  It is also true that at this period the general attitude towards restoration was very different to what it is today with the result that many of the clocks that were restored at that time were " improved " in ways that were quite acceptable at the time and in no way considered unethical.  While some of these " improvements " can be identified today, others, unfortunately, are being accepted as original features.

Percy Webster was an astute businessman, with a keen and perceptive eye who made few purchasing mistakes, with the result that his shop soon became the Mecca for all who were interested in antiquarian horology.  He had his agents scouring the country for interesting items, one very successful one being John Murray.  He handled many important specimens of all periods and during his lifetime gained a unique reputation for his judgement and knowledge.  Many of the clocks in the Wetherfield Collection had passed through his hands and most of the Iden Collection had been purchased from him.  When the Wetherfield Collection was sold in I927 for the then amazing sum of £30,000 he was one of the negotiators with Mallet's and Verney of New York, although he ultimately withdrew, I believe, through some cash-flow difficulty.  He nevertheless sold a number of these clocks.  His interest and knowledge was not confined to horology but included antiques of all kinds, including gold, silver and jewels.

It was very largely the opportunity which I was given through my contacts with Webster's clocks in all stages of dilapidation, that sparked off in me my interest in and study of the subject.
Percy Webster's personal collection was built up over many years and was housed in his Leverstock Green home where he lived with his daughter, Isobel.  When he died in I938 his business was carried on by his son, Malcolm, and Isobel.  He was buried in the churchyard near to his home, where there is a memorial to him which bears an inscription and a clock dial.

Shortly before the last war the business was moved from the Great Portland Street premises to smaller but more exclusive ones in Queen Street, Mayfair, where they continued with a lesser emphasis on horology.  When Malcolm Webster died in I953 his sister continued the business for some time before closing down.  The Percy Webster Collection was sold in I954.  It is frequently thought that clocks bearing the little ivorine label with the Webster name, were part of this collection but this is not so, they are clocks that were sold in the shop .
My thanks to George White for supplying the change of address notice.
    Percy's funeral took place within a couple of days, and was held at Holy Trinity Leverstock Green on Saturday 18th November.  The Gazette reported:

                                                    Funeral of Mr. Percy Webster

The Funeral of Mr. Percy Webster  of Sibleys Orchard took place on Saturday at Leverstock Green Church.  The Rev TA Binns Vicar conducted and the church was well filled with residents of the village and other friends, who thus paid a last tribute to one highly estimated in the village.

The chief mourners were: Mr. Malcolm & Mr. Bernard Webster (sons; Miss Isabel (note sp) Webster (daughter); Mr Peter Webster (Grandson) Mrs RW Charles (sister), Mrs Judith Rust (niece), Mrs Morton-Palmer (niece), Mr. Keith Webster (nephew), Mr. & Mrs Derek Webster (niece & nephew),  Mrs Godfrey Whitfield (niece), Mr. Archie Malcolm, (nephew), Sister Thomson, Mr. William Whyte, Col Carrington Sykes, WS Pennefather,  (Clerk to the WC of Clockmakers), Mr. Livingston Bailey, Mr. Butt, Mr Fairgaves, Mr. Frank Mercer ( Deputy Master of WC Cl)  Mr. John Murray,  Mr. Harry Murray, Mr. David Black.

Among those present were Mr. & Mrs George Anson, Mr. & Mrs Day, Mr. Terence O Sullivan, Mr. C E Hinton, Mr. Harry King, Mrs Brigginshaw, Miss Annie Long, Mr. J Herkes, Mrs Hill, Mrs Binns, Miss Durrant.

Mr. WA Ayres (representing Leverstock Green school),  & Mrs Ayre, Mrs Greenwood, Miss Palmer, Miss Mortimer, Mr. & Mrs Wright, Mr. W Wright Jnr, Mrs Collins, Mrs Seabrook, Mr. & Mrs Parkins, Mrs & Miss de Begar, P.C. Goddard, Mr. Henston, Mr. Skeggs, Miss D Cox, Mr. & Mrs Woodward, Mr. Ison & Mr. W Ison, Mr. C Ingham, Mrs Mayo, Mrs Latchford, M, Mr. Mardell, Mrs Lee, Mr. Filed, Mr. Ed Smith, (representing Mssrs Christies)

Wreaths were sent by: Isabel, Malcolm & Annie, Bernard, Florrie, Daisy & Bertie, "In loving memory" from his goddaughter With deepest Sympathy Uncle Ernest Keith & Derek, In affectionate memory, Doris & Geoff, deep Sympathy Keith Webster, With sympathy Meg & Archie, Deepest sympathy Ernie Rose Ella & Alan, Affectionate remembrance, from Nurse.

From the Master Warden Court of Assistance at the Worshipful  Company  of Clock Makers  of London, from Members of the British Antique dealers Association, , J Bernard Perott (President); The Leverstock Green Hall Committee; Leverstock Green cricket club; In Memory of a Faithful Friend, Managers, staff and scholars at Leverstock Green school.

Major & Mrs George Anson, Mr. & Mrs J Bailey, Mr. & Mrs Blower, Mr. & Mrs Brigginshaw, Lt Col & Mrs Carrington Sykes; Mrs A Carrington-Sykes; Mr. & Mrs Herbert Cescinsky; Miss Doris Cox and Mr. & Mrs Herbert Secker; Mr. & Mrs Archie Day; Miss Connie de Pree; Miss Lorna Durrant; Dr & Mrs Jere Butler Faison, Miss Maison Good & Mr. Terence O Sullivan; Col George Hawes, Sir Harold Harmswood, Mrs Knox & family, Mr. C R Hinton, Mr. & Mrs Walter Ides; Mr. J Murray & family; Sir John Prestige; "With affectionate memory of many years of valued friendship."; Mr. & Mrs Bernard Peacock;  Mrs Seabrook & family; Mr. & Mrs William Ehyte and Margaret; Mr. & Mrs Wright;  staff at 17 Queens Street; staff at Sibleys Orchard, Gardener at St. Michaels End.[Gazette 25th November 1938]

                           The Hertfordshire Advertiser & St. Albans Times also reported on Percy's death & funeral:

Regarded as the greatest authority on antique clocks in the world, Mr. Percy Webster of Sibley's Orchard Leverstock Green, has died.
Mr. Webster, who was 76 years of age, had one of the finest collections of antique clocks in the world, and included in it was a clock that once belonged to Queen Elizabeth and one which had once belonged to Mary Queen of Scots.  He also claimed to possess one of the oldest clocks in the world  one that is reputed to have been made in the 13th century. Mr Webster's interest in antiques and more especially old clocks began at an early age.
Although he spent a good deal of his time in London, he took a keen interest in all things appertaining to the welfare of Leverstock Green.  His association with Leverstock Green began in 1906 when he went there to take up residence.
He was principally interested in the village school of which he was a Manager, and the children will always remember him for the treat he has provided for them at Christmas for several years past in the way of sweets.
The villagers too, will always remember him for his geneial personalility and generous disposition.

The Funeral
The funeral took place on Saturday, the interment being in Leverstock Green churchyard. The service at the church and at the graveside was conducted by the Rev T A Binns ( Vicar of Leverstock Green )
The principle mourners were.. (There then followed a similar list as that given in the Gazette.) [ Hertfordshire Advertiser & St. Albans Times 25th November 1938]

A few months later the following appeared:

"Mr Percy Webster, of "Sibley's Orchard" Leverstock Green, and 17, Queen Street Mayfair, W, an authority on clocks and a dealer in silver, jewellery, furniture and other works of art, who died on November 16th 1938 aged 76, left estate to the Gross value of £41,355 18s 7d with net personality £20,739 18s 7d.  Estate duty £4,317 7s 6d.  Probate has been granted to his son Malcolm Robert Webster, clockmaker, and his daughter, Isabel Ladie Webster, both of 17 Queen Street Mayfair, and his son Bernard Percy Webster, of 20 Hanover Square W., solicitor.  He leaves £5,000 upon trust for his son Graham John Webster, for life, with remainder to his children, and the residue of his property to Isabel Ladie, Malcolm Robert and Bernard Percy Webster." [Hertfordshire Advertiser & St. Albans Times 10th March 1939]

The equivalent gross value of the estate in modern times (2001) would  be £2,085,327.78. The estate duty equivalent in 2002 would have been £217,698.94 (using 1939 regulations), and the £5000 left in trust for Graham Webster would have been worth £252,119.57 in 2002 [S385: ]

Percy's clock collection was kept intact at Leverstock Green until after the death of Malcolm in 1953, when it was ultimately sent to Sotheby's for auction.  The collection was so comprehensive that it was split into two parts and sold on two separate days. The following is an advert for the second half of the collection sold at Sotheby's as reprinted in Antiquarian Horology in the Summer of 1980 as part of the article by Percy Dawson, mentioned above.

A complete write-up of the auctions was given by James Oakes in Antiquarian Horology in June 1954 & December 1954 respectively.  From these descriptions can be seen the importance of the collection to the world of horology, as well as indicating a measure of the Websters' standing and wealth.    The final sum realised from the sale reaching over £31,000  a sum which in today's world would have the purchasing power of nearly half a million pounds.

Extracts from

Text, photographs and advert as published in Antiquarian Horology, June & December 1954. ©Antiquarian Horology, reproduced here with their kind permission .

The late Mr. Percy Webster was acknowledged the leading authority of his day on antiquarian horology, and this being his business as well as his hobby he was able to accumulate a collection of very rare and early specimens of clocks and watches for his private collection.  This, at his decease, passed to his son and successor Malcolm Webster who as we all remember passed away on January 3rd, 1953.  As a consequence part of the collection was sold by auction at the Sale Rooms of Messrs. Sotheby & Co., 34 New Bond Street, London, W.1, on Thursday, May 27th, while the remainder will be auctioned in October.
It will be appreciated that all of the 126 items offered were of such importance that the auctioneers illustrated almost every one, some in fact being reproduced in colour.

There was a large attendance of both collectors and trade buyers from this country and from overseas.  The bidding was keen and resulted in high prices being realized in many cases.
Nuremberg being the City from which the first portable timekeepers emanated it is natural that specimens by makers residing and working there in the 16th and 17th centuries should be well represented, but probably most of these items will find their way into museums or the World famous collections.
A fine clock-watch only 2 ¼ inches in diameter with iron going and striking trains, circa 1575 (Lot, 2, £220) bearing the initials I.H. was in this section, while a similar watch having an alarm train in addition by Martin Haimmert, circa 1580 (Lot 3, £170), was also included.
Among the early French productions was a very fine crystal watch by Abraham de la Garde of Blois, circa 1600 (Lot 25, £240), and another, oval in shape, circa 1590 (Lot 6, £250), which has a very interesting history, having been originally purchased by a James Colville, whose arms it bears, while serving his Country in Paris between 1589 and 1594, and who was rewarded by being created Lord Colville of Culross in 1604.
Included in the section devoted to 16th century watches was a rare Elizabethan one inscribed on the top plate " Francois Nawe at London " (Lot 9, £210) in an oval gilt metal case 3 ½ inches long by 2 1/8  inches broad.  The movement slides into the case being held in position by a stud and secured by a turnbuckle.  Although this maker traded in London from about 1580 till the end of the century, he was a Huguenot born in Brabant, and the style of the watch is characteristic of the Low Countries.  Among the 35 or so 17th century watches were a number that appealed to the collector of more moderate means.  
There were nearly 60 clocks in the sale and as was the case with the watches the majority were of German origin of the late 16th or early 17th century, consisting chiefly of tabernacle, table, or chamber clocks.  The few English ones in the sale included 4 brass lantern clocks, one signed Wm.  Paynes in East Smith Field, Londini (Lot 122, £65), with original balance wheel escapement, circa 1618.  There was also a Tompion & Banger Grande Sonneric with 3-train quarter chime movement on 6 bells in a later case (Lot 124, £420).  But probably the most interesting clock of all was a mahogany long-case month equation regulator by Thomas Mudge, (Lot 126, £520), with bolt and shutter maintaining power, inverted deadbeat escapement, gridiron pendulum and perpetual calendar; this was the last item in the catalogue.

Extracts from
The second portion described by JAMES OAKES
Text & photographs  as published in Antiquarian Horology, June & December 1954. 
©Antiquarian Horology, reproduced here with their kind permission .

The second and last portion of the private collection of the late Mr. Percy Webster was sold by Auction at the Sale Rooms of Messrs. Sotheby & Co., 34 New Bond Street, London, W.1, on Tuesday the 19th October last.  It will be remembered that the first portion was auctioned in these same rooms last May and reported in this journal for June and consisted of 126 lots, whereas on this occasion the sale covered only 94 lots and comprised chiefly English, French and German Watches, Table Clocks, and English Lantern, Bracket and Longcase Clocks.

Although the Sale was not so well attended as the first one, the serious collectors and earnest buyers were there so that the high prices realised at the former sale were well maintained, the top price of £l400 being paid for the rare and early long-case clock by Edward East standing 6ft. llins high, C.1670. This had an 8-day striking movement with bolt and shutter maintaining power and outside locking plate, while the case, with its architectural hood and slender proportions, was of straight-grained walnut.  The other longcase clock with a month movement by Thomas Tompion, C.1680, in a panelled walnut case with scroll cherub head cresting, realised £1,150.  Two English bracket clocks were sold, the one by Thomas Tompion No. 202 in ebonised case, and standing 14 inches high for £1,350  - a very high figure, even for this maker  About 30 lots comprised English watches of the 17th and 18th centuries but although they included examples by such eminent makers as Edward East, Robert Grinkin,  very few of them fetched three figures, most of them selling for about £75. 
The cheapest lot in the Sale was No. 135 which only realised £16 for two watches.. The Sale made just ever £15,000, which, together with the first part sold last May brought the total for the complete collection to more than £31,000.

In March 1939 The Hertfordshire Advertiser & St. Albans Times reported on the will of Percy Webster.

"Mr Percy Webster, of "Sibley's Orchard" Leverstock Green, and 17, Queen Street Mayfair, W, an authority on clocks and a dealer in silver, jewellery, furniture and other works of art, who died on November 16th 1938 aged 76, left estate to the Gross value of £41,355 18s 7d with net personality £20,739 18s 7d.  Estate duty £4,317 7s 6d.  Probate has been granted to his son Malcolm Robert Webster, clockmaker, and his daughter, Isabel Ladie Webster, both of 17 Queen Street Mayfair, and his son Bernard Percy Webster, of 20 Hanover Square W., solicitor.  He leaves £5,000 upon trust for his son Graham John Webster, for life, with remainder to his children, and the residue of his property to Isabel Ladie, Malcolm Robert and Bernard Percy Webster." [Hertfordshire Advertiser & St. Albans Times 10th March 1939]

        Following Percy's death, as has been previously mentioned, Malcolm and his sister Isobel, who still lived at Sibley's Orchard, continued to run the business in London.  Helen Atkin, Percy's great-granddaughter, can remember visiting Isobel at Sibley's Orchard when she was about 9. She remembers being taken into one of the
local pubs by Isobel (The Leather Bottle perhaps?) where there was an enormous cockatoo!  She also recalls a family legend which says that Percy lent many of the props (armour, flycatcher tankards etc) for the Charles  Laughton film "The Private Life of Henry VIII".

In 1949, when Holy Trinity was celebrating its centenary, Malcolm & Isobel had made a silver-gilt chalice, based on the design of a 15th century chalice to be found at Ampleforth Abbey in Yorkshire.  This chalice is one of the two used every week for Communion.  The pictures shown here are from the 1949 Centenary booklet and depict the chalice in its various sections prior to being "water-gilded", and loosely assembled to show the finished cup.  The chalice was given to Holy Trinity for the centenary in memory of their father Percy.

Photographs © Holy Trinity Church. Leverstock Green 1949
In 1953, following a long illness Malcolm was to join his father in his grave in Leverstock Green  churchyard.  The Gazette reporting:


The head of the firm of Percy Webster clock specialist and antique dealers, Mr. Malcolm Robert Webster, died in Brompton hospital London, after an illness lasting 6 months.

Mr. Webster, who was aged 63, lived at St Michaels End Leverstock Green, Hemel Hempstead and had been prominent in the life of the village.  He was a Trustee of the village Hall and a school manager.  Two years ago he was confirmed at Holy Trinity church, and since then has been a regular member of the congregation.

In 1949 Mr. Webster made a chalice for the church, which is used during Holy Communion.  Mr. Webster's firm, one of the best know in the country, has its premises in Mayfair in London.  It is patronised by members of the During the 1914-1918 war he served in the army.  He leaves a widow.

The funeral took place on Wednesday at Holy Trinity church Leverstock Green, The Rev PE Thomas officiating. [Gazette 23rd January 1953] 

Malcolm & Isobel were not the only children of Percy & Elizabeth Webster.  They had two other sons: Graham & Bernard. Graham, Helen Atkin's Grandfather, was whilst living in Leverstock Green an active member of the newly formed Leverstock Green Cricket Club, and was elected its first treasurer as this clip from the Gazette shows:


CRICKET CLUB: - A special meeting was held in the schoolroom on Friday evening  for the purpose of forming a cricket club for the village.  Mr. T.H.Ford  presided and there was a good muster present.  It was decided to form a club forthwith and the following officers were elected: Mr. Ford Chairman of Committee; Mr. Graham Webster Hon. Secretary; Mr. Arthur Seabrook Treasurer; Mr. J. Hallett Captain and Mr. W. Dell sub captain; with seven others to constitute a committee.  During the proceedings sixteen members were enrolled." [Gazette 23rd May 1908]

Graham was the only one of the four children to have children of his or her own. Helen Atkin, Percy's great grand-daughter and Graham's granddaughter informed me that "Graham seems to have been the rebel of the family and, whereas the others of Percy's children stayed close to home, he went off, married an actress, and then went with his wife and family of four boys to work in Kuala Lumpur.  My father Peter, generally known as Guy (his middle name) was the eldest of the family."   He returned to London to live as a teenager. His daughter Helen as a young child was later evacuated to Hemel Hempstead during the war and was able to visit her aunt Isobel at Sibley's Orchard.  Later the family moved to St. Albans making contact even easier. "My great-aunt Isobel was always in touch with usShe never married, and my memory of her is that Sibley's Orchard itself was rented out to tenants, being far too big for her to live in alone.  She herself lived in what I think was the Lodge Cottage, which just had two bedrooms.  She had at least one cat, masses of books, and an old policeman's truncheon (dated about 1840 something) hanging on the back door.  On one occasion I can remember staying with her when I was about 9 (around 1947,). She took me into one of the local pubs where I remember seeing an enormous cockatoo!  She was very fond of children.  I thoroughly enjoyed my stay.   The tenants were away, so she took me into the old house and I browsed around the big rooms and the boxes of books which had been stored, some of which she gave me.  Outside, the grounds which had once been so admired had gone to rack and ruin.  There was at least one tennis court, and weeds were pushing up through the asphalt.  To my surprise, we passed not one, but two "witches Cauldrons" in various parts of the grounds, big and black and hanging from large tripodsOn another occasion I played with the children of a Lady White who lived nearby.  In the 1950's Isobel retired to the south coast, living quite near Rye, and eventually died there."

Bernard was to become a Solicitor, but during WW1 he was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Fusiliers:

The Gazette reported on 19th January 1918 - 

2nd Lieut. B Webster Royal Fusiliers, son of Mr & Mrs Percy Webster is home on leave for 14 days.  Joining up almost at the commencement of the war, he has done about three years of valuable service in France.  This is his third leave since he landed in France.

His services as a solicitor were used when the conveyance of land for the school in Pancake Lane took place in 1930:

Both Percy & Malcolm Webster played an important part in the life of Leverstock Green in the first half of the 20th century, and we remember their contribution to our village with interest and gratitude.  It has been a privilage to meet up with one of his decendants, and to introduce her once again to Leverstock Green, and to show her & her husband not only Percy & Malcolm's grave, but also the challace and crucifix. (See photos below.)

Barbara Chapman
September 2003

Click here to go to the end of the article and the Bibliography and other source references.
This Lantern Clock is beleived to be a reproduction which was either made in the London workshop of Percy Webster, or which was sold by his business during the late19th/early 20th century.  It is currently in the posession of John Avery, an American antiques dealer at Avery Art & Antique.
Bibliography & References

I acknowledge with thanks the help of the following people for providing information 
and insight into the life and work of the Websters, and the Webster Cup football trophy:
Barbara Chapman

Helen Atkin, Percy's great-granddaughter;

Graham White, Consultant Keeper of the Worshipful Company of Clockmaker's Library and Collection;

Secretary of the Antiquarian Horological Society for her help in locating and supplying the various articles from their magazine. (See list below.)

Bill Dawes, Chairman of Leverstock Green Football Club;
(Tony Smart, LGFC General Manager and in the near past, one of the senior administrators of the West Herts FA;)

Tony Baillie, ex- Churchwarden Holy Trinity Church;

Terry Perry, current Churchwarden Holy Trinity for access to the Webster Crucifix;

Matt Wheeler, Curator of Dacorum Heritage Store for access to Gazette microfilm.

John Avery, of "Avery Art & Antiques" USA.

I also consulted the following publications:

The Hemel Hempstead Gazette for the years 1907-1954

The Herts Advertiser for the Years 1938 & 1939 

English Domestic Clocks by Herbert "Cescinsky, & Malcolm Webster

The Percy Webster Collection by James Oakes  from Antiquarian Horology, Vol 1 No 3 pp31-32.

The British Museum website.
Helen & Gregory Atkin at the Webster grave.
Helen Atkin holding the Webster Challace, and close up views of its base with the inscription, and the challace.
Click on thumbnail pictures to enlarge
This page was last updated on: July 7, 2021
It is quite likely that either Sibley’s Orchard was built for Percy Webster himself, or that he got to know of its existence via his friendship with Norman Shaw the architect.  According to Pevsner, in The Buildings of England, Shaw was Sibley’s Orchard’s architect:  “Sibley’s Orchard, a brick and roughcast house with an addition of 1906, probably Norman Shaw’s last domestic work.  Overhanging eaves, the end canted in for an inglenook.” Nikolas Pevsner, Second Edition revised Bridget Cherry 1978.  Whichever was the case it again seems likely that the Websters moved in following the new addition of 1906.

Both during and after his lifetime the British Museum purchased a number of items associated with Percy Webster.  Some were purchased directly from him at his London business during his lifetime, such as the Cheapside Hoard; others were purchased by collectors such as Courtenay Adrian Ilbert, these items then being snapped up by he British Museum after his death.    To see details of all 38 such ojects associated with Percy Webster,  click on the picture of the Museum to the left.

Percy Webster's makers mark used on some silver and possibly gold items made in his workshops.  .
Photographs © Barbara Chapman, February 2010
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