In a previous blog post, “The Inconvenient Truth of the Maybrick Watch”, I cited that it was never quite clear if the Maybrick watch was made by Verity of Lancaster or Verity of Rothwell (near Leeds). So, I have decided to investigate this point more deeply.


In Shirley Harrison’s book “The Diary of Jack the Ripper” (2010 edition), she states the following:

Shirley’s information indicates the watchmaker was Henry Verity of Lancaster in 1846/47. The information seems to be provided by two separate sources. The Prescott Watch Museum curator John Griffiths gives us the year of the watch’s hallmark and the inscription details of ‘Verity, Lancaster’, whilst the British Museum’s David Thompson gives us the information that Verity ran a family watchmaking business since 1830.

The watch itself was assayed in London (according to John Griffiths), but interestingly, the gold case by Ralph Samuel, in which it was housed, was not. Based on this information, the watch and the case would appear to have been assayed in separate cities.

The case was most likely assayed in Chester, as Liverpool did not have an assay office then. Had it been assayed in London (which Ralph Samuel did offer as a service to clients from his Clerkenwell address), it would have also been punched with a leopard’s head mark to indicate as such.

Is this a potential red flag? Possibly. It could be accused of being a “composite”—something a poster, Michael Sheehan, on the Casebook Forums suggested back in 2004.


Essentially, the question being raised here is whether the watch is a composite or not. Apparently, putting cases with watches they were not originally made for is fairly common amongst antique watches. This is a fair argument to consider.

The poster claims that Henry Verity of Lancaster was not listed as a watchmaker in any directory until 1869. Indeed, census searches in Lancaster for that period against Henry Verity return just one Henry Verity as a watchmaker, but his birth date was 1841. His namesake father was a tobacco manufacturer. The younger Henry Verity cannot be the watchmaker responsible for this watch as he would have been just 6 or 7 years old when the watch was made if we were to believe the hallmark year. Could Henry’s father have been the watchmaker despite being listed as a tobacco manufacturer?

Census (1861)


In Shirley Harrison’s book, she claims Henry Verity ran a family watch retailing business founded around 1830 based on information supplied by the British Museum. Some researchers have had issues with this, as there is no obvious evidence that the family watchmaking business existed since 1830.

One researcher has produced evidence that Henry Verity Junior (born 1841) did not open his shop until November 1865.

Lancaster Observer and Morecambe Chronicle (25th Nov 1865)


We know Henry Verity of Lancaster, born in 1841, was indeed a watchmaker, but should we accept that this Verity is the correct watchmaker of the Maybrick watch? The trouble is that we do not currently have access to any clear images relating to the rear of the watch itself. We cannot see if the word ‘Lancaster’ is clearly visible as Shirley Harison describes it or if the hallmark can be accurately traced to 1846/7. So, it leaves things open to interpretation based on the available information.

A watchmaker does not simply start making watches out of nowhere. It is an intricate skill. For the young Henry, there would have almost certainly been some form of apprenticeship with another watchmaker. It would appear from the newspaper advert above that he has “several years of experience in large manufactories” but does not state where that occurred or even who his apprenticeship was with. It does indicate he had recently returned from London with stock. So, where did he learn his skills?


In the 1841 census, Henry Verity Sr. was listed as living on New Street, where Henry Verity Jr. effectively opened his watchmaking business in 1865—possibly even the same address. The raw record does not provide a house number.

Census (1841)


Henry Verity the Elder was still manufacturing tobacco in the mid-1840s, as this newspaper report below shows.

Westmorland Gazette (27th Oct 1849)

However, this was not his only trade as an adult. When he got married to his wife in 1832, he was actually a hairdresser and perfumer.

Lancaster Herald (20th Oct 1832)

Is it feasible that Henry Verity the Elder was a man of many trades? Could perhaps watch-making have been a sideline business for him? It’s possible, but it is right to add there is no evidence of this. It just could be possible.


Some people have argued that if the watch and case are some Frankenstein artefact cobbled together using various bits and pieces of different watch parts and materials, then the true history of the watch can never be fully established. If the watch is a mish-mash of different pieces, it cannot be conclusively linked to one owner. It cannot ever be proven that James Maybrick owned this watch.

Until we understand the hallmark for the year and the ‘Lancaster’ reference on the rear of the watch, we will remain in the dark.


One point worth considering is the obvious anomaly, which is the monogrammed initials of J.O. It is rather bizarre that a hoaxer would go to such extreme lengths to mimic the aged edges of the scratches through a multi-layered complex polishing process that gives the impression of the Maybrick scratches being older than the superficial surface scratches. Or embed oxidised brass particles in the base of the engravings. Or match the idiosyncratic K of James Maybrick’s signature, only to ignore the glaringly obvious issue that J.O. has no bearing on James Maybrick or his immediate family.

I do not believe the watch was ever originally intended for James. If he possessed it, which I believe he did, he obtained it through other than commissioning it originally or even someone else purchasing it for him. It must have had some other significance to him if he owned it.

We may never know what that significance was.


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