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Thomas Mudge (1715-1794)

Thomas Mudge was born in Exeter in 1715, the second son of the Revd Zachariah Mudge. As a young man Thomas was apprenticed to the celebrated clock, watch and instrument maker George Graham, in the Clockmakers' Company, London. In 1738, Thomas Mudge became a Freeman in the Company. In 1750, just before his former master's death, Mudge opened a business in his own right at the 'Dial and One Crown' in Fleet Street and four years late took Matthew Dutton, another of Graham's apprentices, into partnership.

In the story of eighteenth-century clock and watch making, Thomas Mudge ranks highly as one of the most accomplished of makers. The firm of Mudge and Dutton made clocks and watches of high quality, but it is undoubtedly Mudge's individual pieces which have gained him a place in horological history. Of particular note are his perpetual calendar watch and his series of equation watches made for John Ellicott to sell to the Spanish royal court. But perhaps most celebrated of all was his experimental timekeeper of 1754, which incorporated the first detached lever escapement. This was a technical innovation for portable timekeepers, particularly watches, and has been used in a developed form ever since.

Leaving the running of the Fleet Street business to William Dutton, Mudge retired from London life in 1771 to spend his time in Plymouth developing a series of marine timekeepers. The first of these was assessed at Greenwich for the Board of Longitude in 1774 (Mudge was granted an award of £500 to encourage him to refine his ideas for the perfect longitude timekeeper) and is now in The British Museum. Mudge was appointed Clockmaker to George III in 1776 but did not carry out active duties in the Office. He died on 14 November 1794.

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