OXFORDSHIRE BLUE PLAQUES SCHEME

Samuel, Joseph, and John KNIBB

Eminent Clockmakers

Church Room , Claydon

Knibb clock
Carriage clock by
Joseph Knibb

Samuel Knibb and his cousins Joseph and John Knibb were all born and bred in Claydon, North Oxfordshire, and their baptisms are recorded in the register of the Church of St James the Great in the village. They went on to become eminent clockmakers of the English Golden Age of clockmaking.

Samuel Knibb (1625–c.1670), the son of John Knibb, yeoman of Claydon, was established as a clockmaker in Newport Pagnell by 1655. He began work in Westminster in 1662 and was admitted to the Clockmakers’ Company in 1663. Only five clocks signed by Samuel Knibb are known and are of exceptional quality. He died c.1670.

Joseph Knibb (1640–1711) was the son of Thomas Knibb, and a cousin of Samuel from whom he learnt his craft. In 1663 he moved to Oxford and set up business in St Clement’s. As a newcomer he was at first refused the Freedom required to trade within the city boundaries but after becoming a tenant of Merton College and being designated a gardener at Trinity, he was finally admitted to the Freedom in 1668. He moved to London c.1670, probably to take over Samuel’s business. By 1689 he was a leading figure in the Clockmakers’ Company. In 1697 he retired to Hanslope in Buckinghamshire where he continued to make clocks until his death. Joseph seems to have had links with Italy and introduced the Roman Striking mechanism. He is known to have sold at least one clock to Charles II for £141. The turret clocks at Wadham College and the clock at the State Entrance to Windsor Castle are his work. He died a landed and wealthy man.

John Knibb (1650–1722), Joseph’s brother, was apprenticed to him and later ran the Oxford business, eventually becoming a Freeman in 1673. He sold his prestigious clocks at premises near the Smith Gate on Holywell. In 1690 he made the clock for St John’s College. The antiquary Anthony Wood records in his diary that he ‘borrowed a brass watch of Mr Knibb’. In 1689 John Knibb was one of six officials accompanying the Mayor of Oxford at the coronation of William and Mary. He himself was twice Mayor, in 1698 and 1710, and finally Alderman from 1716. He and his wife Elizabeth are buried at St Cross Church where also their three sons and five daughters were baptized. There is a family memorial tablet on the North wall of the aisle.

  • Sources: Clockmaking in Oxfordshire 1400–1850 by C. F. C. Beeson (1989); In Quest of Clocks by Kenneth Ullyat (1968); The Knibbs – A Family of Clockmakers, an account compiled for Claydon by Don Siviter and Eric Bates; websites: www. headington.org.uk and Knibb One Name Study (Alan Jackson)
  • Picture: Unveiling ceremony
Knibb plaque

The plaque was unveiled by Mr Gerald Marsh, Liveryman and Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, at the Church Room, Claydon, on Saturday 25 September 2010 in the presence of a good company, including Professor Paul Jarrett, Junior Warden of the Clockmakers’ Company, and the Lord Mayor of Oxford, Councillor John Goddard.

Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board

SAMUEL KNIBB  / 1625–c.1670
JOSEPH KNIBB / 1640–1711
JOHN KNIBB /1650–1722
Eminent Clockmakers
born and bred / in Claydon

© Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board

 

Contact Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board