17 Dec 2023
For over 60 years I have owned a “farmer’s verge” large silver pocket watch hallmarked 1842 and with the name Noah Bates crudely engraved on the inner case.
While recently giving the watch a general check over, for the first time ever I closely examined the worn watch paper and the handwritten text.
It reads “Robt Tye(?), Watchmaker, High Bridge Spalding, June 95.”
I casually entered an Internet search “Bates Spalding” and instantly landed on Musings from the Museum 14. This was the easiest research I have ever done.
That relates the history of Daniel Cross Bates, son of Spalding farmer Noah Bates, who had many notable achievements in New Zealand and particularly in the Capital – Wellington – where I lived for many years.
Daniel Bates’ story is very well told in Musings #14 and likely connections and coincidences appear. For instance, he worked as Government Metrologist for the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) ; donated to St Marks Church, and founded the NZ Numismatic Society. Well, my father worked for DSIR, I joined the Numismatic Society as a teenager and our children attended St Marks School.
Knowing my interest in mechanical items, the President of the Numismatic Society (James Berry – who also designed many of NZ’s stamps and coins until the 1960s) gave me this old watch.
So, while at best a theory based on circumstantial evidence, the travel of the old watch from Spalding to Wellington may well be via Daniel Bates.
Although long retired from regular use, the old watch can still tick away the hours reliably – as it did for Noah almost 200 years ago – and since its last recorded service in June 1895.