In October 1877, Martha Allen, a 32-year-old mother of five, was widowed when her youngest child was six months old. Her husband William was a watchmaker and jeweller, operating his own business in Launceston since 1864, initially from Elizabeth Street, and then from 1869 in Brisbane Street (opposite the Launceston Hotel). The Examiner of 23 October 1877 reported William died from a ‘painful illness of abscess in the brain’ caused by a clock weight falling on his head in the past. The following month, Martha announced she would carry on business and had employed a first-class workman from Melbourne.
Martha was born at Franklin Village on the southern outskirts of Launceston on 20 May 1845 to William Millington (a farmer and ex-convict) and Mary Ann, formerly Jex. Her baptism followed on 29 June 1845 at the Wesleyan Church, Launceston. Martha married London watchmaker William Henry Allen on 3 June 1866 at the Registrar’s Office in Fitzroy, Melbourne, Victoria. According to the marriage record, Martha was a domestic assistant, and she and William’s usual place of residence was Launceston, Tasmania. Between 1867 and 1877, the couple had five children (three sons and two daughters).
Martha managed the business after her husband’s death for 20 years at 102 Brisbane Street. She regularly imported a variety of stock including clocks, watches, and jewellery, and in 1880, advertised a position for an apprentice. December 1880 saw shop alterations - improvements to the front door and windows were undertaken, with business continuing upstairs. Following the renovations, Martha travelled to an exhibition in Melbourne to purchase new stock, including watches from the best houses in London, Waltham watches, assorted jewellery, and a range of silver and electro-plate ware.
After Martha’s death on 14 October 1896, the business continued until early 1897 under the management of watchmaker Foster Coulson. A fourteen-day sale was advertised in January 1897 to sell the remaining stock of the late M. Allen of Brisbane Street, Launceston.
Martha’s legacy lives on in the timepieces marked with her name on the dials. Over 30 years in business, Clockwise has come across several clocks and watches marked ‘M. Allen, Launceston.’
© Sallie Mulligan 2022
Ad: Daily Telegraph 28 August 1883.
TAHO: RGD32/1/3 no2702 Birth 1845; RGD35/1/65 no317 Death 1896.
Ancestry: Victoria, Australia, Marriage record, Registration No. 57/1866.
Cornwall Chronicle 19 November 1877; Daily Telegraph 21 & 22 November 1884, 4 November 1885, 2 January 1897; The Examiner (Launceston) 23 & 30 October 1877, 24 September 1881, 3 November 1877.
Photo credits: Clock key: Paul Ruston, Clock dial: Graham Mulligan