The first indication the author had of ‘Yalding tall case clocks’ was when a lady from Williamsburg, Pennsylvania, wrote saying that she had bought one dated 1804, and wanted to know more about the Mrs French, Yalding, named on its face.
Jeremiah French aged 26 was buried here on October 31st 1800, shortly after he had arrived with his wife Phoebe and son John, to set up as a Watchmaker and Ironmonger. Two years later on the 21st of January 1802, Phoebe married Isaac Chittenden, but obviously continued to use the name French in the business, that was on the site of our present Post Office and previous bakery. Her son John continued the trade, and married an Ann who produced their own son John, baptised here on May19th 1846.
Maidstone Museum contains a silver cased verge watch of ‘Isaac Chittenden, Yalding’. It is numbered 25692 and hallmarked 1806. There is also an ornamental watchpaper, that was placed in the outer cases when watches were repaired or cleaned, named ‘French, Watch and Clock maker, Yalding, Kent’.
A century later, William Edgar Palmer, who lived at Gable Roof in Yalding High Street, also performed a watchmaking and repair business. He had developed and patented in 1902, an electric clock, which is now in the Science Museum at Kensington, London. This master clock laid the foundations for a design which, in the hands of others, would dominate the British market for well over half a century.
In 1904 he married his wife Millicent, when they were living in Tonbridge, Kent. He was then working for the South Eastern and Chatham Railway, repairing and keeping in good order the watches of the railway staff, from a workshop on Tonbridge station.
With competition increasing from other clock manufacturers, he closed his premises at Lyons Crescent, Tonbridge, and in 1916 opened a clock and watch repair shop at Gable Roof. He continued to be employed by the railway company until he retired in 1929.
Whilst in the village here he acted as lay-minister at the Baptist Chapel along Vicarage Road, until he died in 1951 at the age of 87. Both William and Millicent are buried in our church cemetery.