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St. Andrew's Holborn church entry for Robert's baptism.

As seen in the image above, Robert was probably born on Caroline Court in London's Holborn neighborhood next to the parish border with Clerkenwell. His parents were living there when he and his older brother James were baptized at St. Andrew's Church in Holborn.1 When he was 15, Robert was sent to Edinburgh to apprentice with Alexander Dickie to learn clock and watch-making.2 Dickie's shop produced very fine pieces.

George III period clock from Alexander Dickie's shop, photo from Selling Antiques (

Robert was at 61 Red Lion Street (now Britton Street) as early as 1798. He partnered with John Mellvill by 1802 until the parted ways in 1811. In that year Robert insured that property and is listed as a wholesale watchmaker in the London Directory of Professions and Trades.
     Robert and another watchmaker, William Webb, had a co-interest in insuring a property at 19 Wilderness Row, off St. John Street, Clerkenwell, also in 1811. These men were involved with the "Watch and Clock Makers' Benevolent Institution," headquartered in that neighborhood.3 Robert was a trustee and William was Secretary, according to an 1815 publication. There is no other indication of a Stoddart/Webb partnership.
     Robert's will, written on New Year's Day 1829, doesn't mention the house, so he didn't own the lease for it. He left his business concerns to his eldest sons Robert and James, who were also watchmakers at #61. Robert, Sr., died in October 1830 and these sons jointly insured the house on their own the following January. To his son John and six daughters, who aren't named, he gave £600 each. The assets were to come from his watchmaking company, and if not paid two months after his death, were to have interest added. No other address is mentioned for Robert and/or his company, suggesting their home and shop were all at this address - house on the street, shop to the rear.

A clock made by Robert Stoddart's shop on Red Lion Street, London

One of the watches made by the shop

The Stoddart house at 61 Red Lion (now Britton) Street, Clerkenwell, London.

The entry of 59 Britton Street, which was built to the same design as 61. They were part of a block of houses built in 1722. There's a door surround with this design incorporated into the new buildings next to nearby St. John's Church and must be salvage - maybe from 61?

St. John's, both as an entity and a building, went through many changes since a Medieval start. These images show the church in the early 19th and early 20th centuries. The steeple was added about 1812. The Stoddart children up to Ann Amelia were baptized here, and presumably where the family attended services. By 1801 the baptisms appear in St. James, Clerkenewll, records. In the photo of St. John's interior we see an amalgam of a medieval wall and windows and Neoclassical galleries and ceiling.

St. James Church, where Robert and Sarah were married. The church building had just been completed, but there is no obvious reason why they switched to St. John's.

Robert Stoddart's and Sarah Jackson's signatures from the parish records of St. James Church, Clerkenwell

children of Robert Stoddart and Sarah Jackson:

i. Thomas Jackson b. 18 November 1793
ii. Mary May Louisa b. 17 November 1795
iii. Sarah b. 19 December 1797
iv. Ann Amelia Stoddart b. 23 September 1799
v. Elizabeth b. 20 July 1801
vi. Robert b. 23 May 1803
vi. James b. 21 July 1805
vii. Emily b. 24 May 1807
viii. John b. 7 November 1809
ix. Clarissa b. 6 December 1811
x. Rosina b. 7 September 1814

vital records sources: See note #1 below for his baptism. His death date is in compiled notes passed down in the Robert Keating Smith and Stanton McMasters Smith families. A burial record in St. James, Clerkenwell, parish gives a date 9 day later. The same parish records have his marriage.

1. St. Andrew's Holborn parish register, online database. The entry for Robert identifies the family by the name Smith rather than Stoddart ("James & Miron Smith Caroline Court"). James, Jr.'s, entry two years earlier says "son of James and Marion Stoddart Caroline Court." Robert's birth year passed down in his family in compiled notes is 1772. When he married in November 1792 he is called a minor, indicating he was born after November 1771. Given this and that Marion's maiden name was Smith, this entry is undoubtedly for Robert Stoddart.
2. 1 March 1787, from Register of Edinburgh Apprentices, 1756-1800 (Edinburgh:1963), 64.
3. Reports from Committees: Poor Laws; Chimney Sweepers; Steam Boats; etc., 6:17. Testimony about the lack of work for craftsmen in the watchmaking business due to inferior watches smuggled into England counterfieted with known makers marks.

all text and photographs © 1998-2020 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted