Hague Clockmakers from the 16th to the 18th century.


Historian Victor Kersing is compiling a publication on Hague clockmakers from the 16th to 18th centuries. Victor worked at the Department of Archaeology and Nature and Environmental Education of the Municipality of The Hague, where he conducts archival research into the city's history of habitation in response to excavations, among other things. He is also a member of the editorial board of the Yearbook of the Geschiedkundige Vereniging Die Haghe and the Friends of the Hague Historical Museum and was editor of the quarterly magazine TIJDschrift of the Federatie Klokkenvrienden.

As a taster, he will regularly publish apprentice contracts of Hague clockmakers on this site.

A Contract between Salomon Coster and father of Pieter Visbach

One of the earliest apprenticeship agreements with a clockmaker in The Hague, and perhaps the best known, is the one from 1646 between Salomon Coster (circa 1622-1659) and the father of Pieter Visbach (1633-1722). With this, the tailor Rerick Eraerts (only later does the surname Visbach become common) apprentices his then 12-year-old son Pieter to Salomon Coster for the "hantwerck of horologiemaecken". And for a remarkably long period: nine years. This indicates that it was not a simple profession and involved more than repairing clocks. You learned to build a timepiece from metal raw materials.

For the first three years, Pieter will still live at home and his father will support him. After that, he will move in with Coster and be provided with food by the latter. As the years progressed, such an apprentice naturally became increasingly proficient and almost independently produced timepieces, which could be sold. Especially in the last years of the apprenticeship, he probably functioned as a full-fledged servant. Therefore, Pieter will receive 100 guilders in the eighth year and 200 guilders in the ninth.

What is striking is that the contract is dated 31 January 1646 and the apprenticeship starts on 1 May 1645. Apparently, Pieter first spent six months on trial and met Coster's expectations. Pieter would therefore become a well-known clockmaker.

Pieter Visbach also spelt his name with Visbagh as shown on the attached clock. The spelling of names was not so fixed back then. That was only the case with the introduction of the population register in the French era.

The original contract between Salomon Coster and Pieter's father

The transcription of the contract

B Pierre Batard

Geneva-born watchmaker Pierre Batard co-founded the watchmakers' guild in The Hague in 1688. This guild was established to support the Hague watch and
clock industry to protect it from imports and outside influence. In 1685, Louis XIV, the French king, revoked the Edict of Nantes. With this edict from 1598,
the French Protestants, the Huguenots, received protection in predominantly Catholic France. The abolition of the edict had major consequences, but even before that, the existing negative attitude towards Protestants will have been felt. Many people migrated to the Republic of the Netherlands, where Protestantism was accepted. That became a true exodus after 1685. Over 400,000 Huguenots then left France and more than 50,000 of them migrated to the Republic of the Netherlands. This will undoubtedly have had its impact on employment, but will also have given new impetus to the economy.
Batard, given his mention at the founding of the guild in 1688, was a respected colleague among his fellow clockmakers. Pierre married then-16-year-old Anne Marie Pascal, daughter of clockmaker Claude Pascal, who was from France, in 1678. Was Pierre an apprentice of Pascal's and did he bump into Anne Marie in that capacity? We do not know. What we do know is that Pierre and Anne Marie's eldest daughter married the watchmaker
Daniel Gohier, with whom she and her mother continued the business of Batard, who died in 1701. The apprenticeship contract below was chosen because it illustrates the international character of The Hague at the time.
Accountability contract:
Haags Gemeentearchief, notarial archive, access number 0372-01, inv.no. 733, fol. 55.
Justification photo:
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

The transcription of the contract

C Contract between Johannes van Ceulen and Willem Mulder

It is not known when or where clockmaker Johannes van Ceulen (de Oude) was born. He became a citizen of The Hague in 1676 and was among the founders of the clockmakers' guild in 1688. He is called the Oude because his son Johannes, born in 1677, also became a clockmaker (de Jonge, or le Jeune). In 1715, 30 guilders of tax was paid for burying Johannes. This means he had accumulated quite a fortune, as this put him in the highest class of this tax. He therefore had a large workshop, where much was produced, also to order and also for abroad as we will see later.

In 1684, he entered into a contract with Willem Mulder, under which the latter devoted his son Johannes for four more years as an apprentice. Johannes had apparently been employed as an apprentice by Van Ceulen for some time, although we know of no written record of this. In any case, by 1684 Mulder had already gained so much knowledge that he functioned as a servant in Van Ceulen's workshop. He was paid a wage of 27 pennies a week.

Justification contract: Haags Gemeentearchief, notarieel archief, access number 0372-01, inv.no. 464, p. 632.

The transcription of the contract

Pocket watch

This watch in the Science Museum in London is dated 1690-1700. The signature is remarkable: John van Ceule Haghe. This indicates that it was made for export to England. Made to order?

Photographs Science Museum, London.

Hague Clock

This table clock in the Astronomisch-Physikalisches Kabinett und Planetarium Kassel is dated to before 1680. Again, the signing is remarkable: Johannis van Ceulen fecit Haghe Hollandia. Why add Hollandia? You only do that if the clock is destined for someone abroad, where Haghe doesn't mean much. What is strange is that this clock sits in the 17th-century collection of Landgraf Carl van Hessen. He knew full well where Haghe could be found. He made a journey through the Netherlands in 1685. Following Christiaan Huygens' instructions, he came into contact with Johannes van Ceulen and bought several timepieces from him. By 1765, there were nine in the clock room. This again says something about the size of the workshop's production.

Photos Museumlandschaft Hessen Kassel

D Adam (van) Oosterwijck

Contract between Adam Oosterwijck and merchant Francois Beaumont concerning his nephew Jean Floriau

Things can also sometimes go badly wrong between master and pupil.

Like the aforementioned Pierre Batard, Adam Oosterwijck, born in 1658, was an initiator of the Hague watchmakers' guild founded in 1688. He was the son of watchmaker Severijn Adamsz. and Sara Jansdr. van Dueren. Adam was probably trained by his father. The following is an illustration that things could also sometimes go badly wrong.
In 1684, Adam contracted with the merchant Francois Beaumont to employ the latter's nephew, Jean Floriau, to work in his shop and train him in watchmaking for the next three years. A fairly short time; Jean Floriau was apparently already somewhat adept at watchmaking, which is why he also gets paid for his work.
On 26 April 1684, Adam had it recorded by a notary public that he had had to dismiss Jean Floriau for getting many fits and spins. As many as a hundred times. That is probably a bit of an exaggeration. What was going on? Epileptic seizures? We don't know. Witnesses are at least a maid working for him and two boys, working in his shop and probably apprenticed to him. Of one of them this is almost certain: that is the 14-year-old later clockmaker Johan Overdijck, who was apprenticed to Pierre Batard in 1685. Why did Oosterwijck have that deed drawn up? To indemnify himself from claims for damages because of the dismissal. And those damage claims were coming. Francois Beaumont did not leave it at that.
On 21 May 1684, Francois Beaumont had his cousin Jean Floriau's housemates declare that they never noticed any seizures or the like, suggesting that Oosterwijck had wrongly dismissed his cousin.
How this ended is unknown. However, it is noteworthy that Brian Loomes in his Watchmakers and clockmakers of the world mentions a John Florio as a servant of John House in Croydon in Surrey.

Justification deeds:
1- Hague Municipal Archives, notarial archive, access number 0372-01, inv.no. 734, p. 265-266.
2- Hague Municipal Archives, notarial archive, access number 0372-01, inv.no. 548, p.997-998.
3- Hague Municipal Archives, notarial archive, access number 0372-01, inv.no. 1074, fol. 93.

The original contract of employment

The transcription of this contract

Jean Floriau's original resignation contract

The transcription of this contract

The original contract for challenging the dismissal of Jean Floriau

The transcription of this contract

E Clockmaker Willem Bolderman and his apprentice Johannes Grotenrooij

Reformed clockmaker Willem Bolderman was born in 1738. In 1763, he married for
the first time. This marriage was not long-lived. His wife died in January 1766 from the
'tering', then aged 28. They had two children. Bolderman then married in the same year
for the second time. With his second wife, he had 12 more children, including a Willem
Jacobus, who also became a clockmaker and was probably trained by his father. Bolderman died in
1811, there were then six adult children still alive.
Bolderman became master of the clockmakers' guild sometime between 1758 and 1760. He is
then nominated head of the guild several times and elected dean in 1792
thereof. In 1795, he was appointed city clockmaker by the Batavian administration in place of
the dismissed princeling Jan Bernardus Vrijthoff.
The apprenticeship contract below dates from 1763, not very long after he became a master.
It means his business was running nicely, but did not yet have sufficient equipment or capital
possessed. The 15-year-old apprentice Johannes Grotenrooij, after all, had to work for his own tools
concerns. Bolderman is quite willing to be helpful in its manufacture. The contract is valid for
a learning period of seven years and leads to being able to make both the 'big' work and the
'small' work.
Johannes Grotenrooij, incidentally, continued to work as a clockmaker in The Hague afterwards.

The original contract between Willem Bolderman and apprentice Johannes Grotenrooij

Transcription of the contract

F Contract between Jan Janszoon Boeckels and Claerken Jansdochter

Jan Janszoon Boekels was a clockmaker who lived and worked in Haarlem. There he became embroiled in a fierce marital dispute. In 1625, he was summoned to the Court of Holland by his wife, supported by the sheriff of Haarlem, for soliciting, incest and assaulting a neighbouring girl and a live-in maid. During the trial, he was detained at the Prison Gate. All this eventually led to nothing. However, apparently afterwards, his reputation in Haarlem was so damaged that he moved to The Hague with his daughters. In 1626, his ex-wife made another unsuccessful attempt to kidnap one of their daughters.

The apprenticeship contract he concluded with Claerken Jansdochter in 1632 stipulates that her son Jan Kerkhoff will be apprenticed to Boekels for six years. For this, Claerken must pay 200 guilders, to be paid in four annual instalments of 50 guilders. Boekels will give the boy board and lodging. If Jan Kerkhoff leaves the apprenticeship early and runs away, Claerken will have to pay a fine of 100 guilders.

Thanks to Kees Stal who solved some tricky palaeographic problems for me.

Accounting for apprenticeship contract: Haags Gemeentearchief, notarial archive, access number 0372-01, inv.no. 31, fol. 69.

The original contract between Jan Janszoon Boeckels and Claerken Jansdochter.

Transcription of the contract.

Table clock, circa 1600-1625. Photo Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Neck watch with indications of hour, day, month and tides, circa 1625-1650. Photo Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

G Contract between Johan Roussel and Jan Janszoon Houblet

Born in 1633 in The Hague, clockmaker Johan Roussel was the eldest son of clockmaker Cornelis Roussel (Russell) and Cornelia de Vries, daughter of the rector of the Latin school in The Hague.

Johan was therefore probably first trained by his father. So did his younger brother Adriaen (1638), who also became a clockmaker and was one of the founders of the clockmakers' guild in 1688. Father Cornelius was born in London in 1608. The family's ties with London continued. For instance, Johan stayed there from 1655 to 1657, no doubt apprenticed to another clockmaker, perhaps Ahasverus Fromanteel.

This close connection between the Republic and London is not surprising. There was a lot of exchange of thoughts and people in those days. Just look at Christiaan Huygens' correspondence with all kinds of English scientists. And artisans, including clockmakers, also regularly undertook the sea voyage across the Channel. A well-known example, of course, is Ahasverus' son, John Fromanteel, born in about 1638, who went to work with Salomon Coster in 1657 to produce pendulum clocks. And he knew Johan Roussel. Both acted as witnesses to a notarial deed of 13 October 1657. Did they take the trip to The Hague together?

See image of the signatures of Johan Roussel and John Fromenteel under a notarial deed (Haags Gemeentearchief, notarial archive, access number 0372-01, inv.no. 183, fol.309)

Little or nothing is known about the apprentice Jan Janszoon Houblet. I have been unable to find him nor his father the coarse-grain worker (silk cloth worker) in the archives of Erfgoed Leiden after a cursory search.

The apprentice contract covers a period of eight years, during which the apprentice will be taught the craft of watchmaking. Johan will house his apprentice and provide him with everything he needs, such as wet and dry food and clothing. He will thus come into the house. In return, the father will only have to pay for the first year, 100 guilders in four instalments. Apparently, Roussel expects to benefit enough from his apprentice for the remaining seven years.

The original contract between Johan Roussel and Jan Janszoon Houblet.

Transcription of the contract.

H Contract between Johannes Tegelbergh and Miss Ellse Lelege

Johannes Tegelbergh was a clockmaker, who turned up at some point in The Hague. In 1674, he became a citizen of The Hague. He was Roman Catholic and together with his wife Cornelia van Dijck, he had 13 children, of whom Petrus, born in 1687, also became a clockmaker. Johannes was among the founders of the clockmakers' guild in 1688. Thereafter, he was headman of the guild several times.

In 1682, Johannes Tegelbergh took on an apprentice. He entered into a contract with Ellse Lelege, housewife of Johan Bergeron. Their son Johan would stay with Tegelbergh as an apprentice clockmaker for six years. Tegelbergh would provide accommodation, wet and dry food and washing. The boy was 16 years old at the time. In fact, he had been baptised as part of twins on 21-02-1666. His twin sister's name was Cattelijne. The 16-year-old naturally had to serve Tegelbergh obediently. If he failed to do so and ran away, mother Ellse had to pay Tegelbergh 150 guilders. In addition, for every year the contract was not fulfilled, a free hat. A funny stipulation, because not standard. But understandable when you discover that the boy's father was a milliner in Amsterdam.
What further stands out is that people had difficulty noting foreign names, especially if they were illiterate. See cross at the signature of mother Lelege. She appears in two variants in this deed: Ellse Lelege and Ella Lelege. In addition, she appears in the Amsterdam archives as Allij Lijgee and Alijs le Ligne. This sometimes makes things a bit tricky.

Accountability contract:
Hague Municipal Archives, Notarial Archive, access no. 0372-01, inv.no. 541, fol. 13

The original contract between Johannes Tegelbergh and Miss Ellse Lelege.

Transcription of the contract.

Justification photo clock: Zuylenburgh Collection

Justification photo clock: Zuylenburgh Collection