Larcum KENDALL (1719–1790)
Post Office, 8 Market Street, Charlbury, near site of cottage
Larcum Kendall was born in Charlbury into a Quaker family, the son of Moses Kendall, mercer and linen draper. His mother was Ann Larcum of Chepping Wycombe, Bucks, where the couple married on 18 June 1718 (Quaker records). The birth is recorded on 21 September 1719 in the non-conformist register for the Witney area. According to local tradition the cottage where he lived as a child was on the site of the Post Office building in Market Street. He is next recorded in London in 1735 apprenticed to the fine watch and clock maker John Jefferys and living with his parents in the parish of St Clement Danes. In 1742 he set up his own business and established a reputation as a fine craftsman, doing work for the distinguished watch and clock maker George Graham. Together with Thomas Mudge they formed the finest watch making team of the day.
In 1765 he was selected by the Board of Longitude to be one of six experts to witness the operation of the remarkable marine chronometer, known as H4, made by the great John Harrison. Kendall was then chosen to make a test copy (K1) for which he was paid £450. K1 was used by Captain Cook on his second South Seas voyage (1772–75) and much valued by him as ‘his trusty friend’ and ‘never failing guide’. Kendall was then commissioned to produce less costly versions. K3 was used by Cook on his final ill-fated voyage (1776–79). K2 was later used by Captain Bligh on the Bounty in 1789. The story of the mutiny is well known. The mutineers kept the chronometer when they cast Bligh and his party adrift and it enabled them to realise that Pitcairn, inaccurately located on existing naval charts, would be a safe haven. K2 was later sold on, passing through various hands and returning to England only in 1840. All three chronometers are preserved in the Royal Observatory Museum at Greenwich.
For the rest of his life Kendall continued to make pocket watches of the finest quality for the top retail trade. For many years his home was in Furnival’s Inn Court where he died on 22 November 1790. He was buried at the Quaker burial ground in Kingston six days later, and the contents of his workshop and personal effects are recorded as auctioned by Christie’s on the instructions of his brother Moses.
- Sources: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article by Jonathan Betts; England and Wales, Quaker Birth, Marriage, and Death Registers 1578–1837 (online database available via Ancestry)
- Photograph of unveiling ceremony
- Oxford Mail, 24 April 2014: “Honour for maritime history maker”
Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board
appointed by the Board of Longitude
to make the chronometers used by
Captains Cook and Bligh
in the South Seas
lived near here
as a child
The Charlbury Society