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British Industrial History

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Edwin Richard Watts

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Edwin Richard Watts (1833-1901) founder of E. R. Watts and Son. He guided the firm through its first forty-five years.

1833 Born at Camberwell, the son of Charles Watts, a Grocer.

Edwin Watts began as an apprentice to an instrument-maker named Swaine off the Waterloo Road. He worked approximately 81 hours a week. His job was to make all the screws needed in the shop.

Edwin Watt's thirst for knowledge was such that he spent twelve shillings out of the thirteen shillings he earned each year during his apprenticeship, on a popular technical magazine.

On one occasion he almost destroyed Swaine's and himself with it when experimenting mixing chemicals together in his lunch-break at work. Little did he know, all the chemicals he was combining contained nearly all the components of a powerful explosive. A fellow apprentice James Swift, who fortunately knew a little chemistry, happened to pass just as the mixture was approaching a critical point, and quietly added a further chemical making it harmless.

1856 By now, Watts had completed his apprenticeship, and decided to launch out on his own. He was twenty-three and started off with £100 of his savings.[1]

1860 May 19th. Married(1) at Southwark to Emma the daughter of Henry Franks, a Merchant's Clerk. Edwin is described as a Mathematical Instruments Maker, the son of Charles Watts, a Grocer.

1865 April. Married(2) at Camberwell to Esther Emily Lawrence

1881 Living at 123 Camberwell Road, Camberwell: Edwin Watts (age 47 born Camberwell), Mathematical Instrument Maker - 5 men and 5 boys. With his wife Esther Emily Watts (age 36 born London) and their eight children; Francis M. Watts (age 15 born Southwark); Edith Emily Watts (age 13 born Southwark); Edwin R. Watts (age 12 born Southwark); Frank C. Watts (age 10 born Southwark); George H. Watts (age 7 born Southwark); Herbert R. Watts (age 6 born Camberwell); Percy L. Watts (age 3 born Camberwell); and Mildred A. Watts (age 1 born Camberwell). Also his sister-in-law and other relatives.[2]

Mr Watts was an intensely religious man and refused to work on Sundays, but waited until 2am on Monday morning when he set off on foot, often with his great friend Sir George Livesey.

1901 September 10th. Died after controlling for forty-five years the firm which he had founded. Of 63 Breakspeare Road, Brockley, Kent. He lived to see three of his sons in the factory together with between seventy and eighty other workers, and the family garden entirely built over, as well as those of the neighbours.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Watts, E. W. Watts and Sons Ltd. Company Booklet 1947
  2. 1881 Census