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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

W. Marshall Watts and the Tamblyn-Watts family

I was digging around looking for information on Harold Tamblyn-Watts and I've been trying to piece together a little of his family history.

The earliest I can trace (as official records only began in 1837) is the marriage of Isaac Watts and Dorothy Scott in Rothwell, Northampton, on 17 June 1836. Isaac had been born in Market Bosworth in c.1811 and Dorothy in Rothwell, Northampton, in c.1817. Isaac was an Independant Minister of the New Congregational Church and a schoolmaster in Boston, Lincolnshire.

The Watts' had at least three children, Walter Angus Watts (b. Skirbeck, Lincs., 1837), Isaac (b. Skirbeck, Lincs., 1840) and William Marshall Watts (b. Boston, Lincs., 1844).

William Marshall Watts was educated at Owens College, Manchester, and at the University of Heidelberg. Watts returned to Owens College in 1864 to work as an assistant to Professor Roscoe, later becoming an assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow in 1866. In 1868 he became First Science Master at Manchester Grammar School before moving to take the same position at Giggleswick School in Settle, Yorkshire, where he worked until 1904.

Watts was married to Ida Hartley Tamblyn in 1877. Now, Ida was born c.1850 in Newcastle, Northumberland & Durham in upper Canada, the daughter of Daniel Massey, the founder of Massey-Harris Co., of Toronto, and, on 16 August 1871, had married John Tamblyn, a bank clerk working in Newcastle.

The Tamblyns had at least one child, Thomas Massey Fisher Tamblyn, born in Toronto on  5 August 1872. John Tamblyn died of consumption on 13 July 1875 at the age of 28. Ida Tamblyn then came to England where she married William Marshall Watts in Chorlton, Lancashire.

The newlyweds had at least two further children, Dora Mannock Watts (b. Giggleswick, Yorkshire, 1879) and William Francis M. ("Frank") Watts (b. Settle, Yorkshire, 20 January 1881, who fought with the 29th Battalion of the Canadian Infantry and died at the Somme on 26 September 1916).

Meanwhile, Thomas Massey Fisher Tamblyn married Marion (b. Glasgow, Scotland, c.1873) in around 1894 and their son John Marshall Tamblyn was born in Settle, Yorkshire, in 1895. The Tamblyn family then added Watt to their surname so that, in 1900, their second son was born Harold William Watts in Settle.

Tidying up their surname, the 1901 census lists Thomas T. Watts as a scientific apparatus maker, electrician and engineer living at Goldielands, Settle, Yorkshire, with his wife and two sons all listed under the name Watts.

It would seem that there was no rancor between father and stepson as their can sometimes be. Thomas Watts wrote additional material for one of his step-father's books and seems to have shared an interest in both the spectral properties of chemical elements and botany.

William Marshall Watts had published scientific papers on spectra in Philosophical Magazine and the Journal of the Chemical Society at least as early as 1864 and his 'An Essay on Lighthouses' appeared in Boys' Own Magazine that same year. He was also the author of a number of books:

Index to Spectra. London, Gillman, 1872; (revised & greatly enlarged) Manchester, A. Heywood & Son, 1889.
Organic Chemistry. London, Collins, 1873.
A School Flora for the use of elementary botonists. London, F. Warne, 1878; (revised) London, 1879; (revised & enlarged) London, Rivingtons, 1887; (new edition) London, Longmans & Co., 1905.
A Practical Introduction to the Elements of Chemistry. London, Nisbet, 1891.
An Introduction to the Study of Spectrum Analysis. London, Longmans & Co., 1904.

Thomas Tamblyn-Watts (as he was by then styling himself) added a number of appendices to Index to Spectra in around 1931 as well as writing a number of titles himself:

The Home Electrician. A Handbook for the Student and Householder. Westcliff-one-Sea, self published, 1927.
The Home Electrician. Part 1: Electric light accessories. Westcliff-on-Sea, 1928.
The Home Electrician. Part 2: Fuses and wires. Westcliff-on-Sea, 1928.
Some notes on the Natural Features of Southend-on-Sea and District. Westcliff-on-Sea, self published, 1930.
The "Uniter" Index Strips. Westcliff-on-Sea, self published, 1931.
Wonderful Plants. A botanical book for students. Westcliff-on-Sea, self published, 2 vols., 1933-34.

William Marshall Watts later moved to Venner Road, Sydenham, in south east London where died on 13 January 1919. Thomas Tamblyn-Watts was living in Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, in the 1930s but died in Battle, Sussex, in 1940, aged 68.

John Marshall Tamblyn, Thomas Tamblyn's elder son, later became an electrical engineer.

His son, Thomas Murray Tamblyn-Watts, was born in Leigh-on-Sea on 22 June 1923. Educated at Littlejohn’s Private School, Essex, and Page’s Private School, Southend-on-Sea, T. M. Tamblyn-Watts (as he usually signed his work) studied art at Bath Art School under Clifford Ellis. He married Doris May Jones in 1949.

As an artist in oil and watercolour he exhibited work in Holborn, but worked mainly as a book jacket artist for various companies, producing westerns for W.H. Allen, travel books for T.V. Boardman, science for Phoenix House, and work for Harrap, Guild Books and The Bodley Head. He also produced advertising for Kerry Engineering Co., H. Broadbent Ltd., Churchill Redman, Vickers-Armstrongs, Freeman, Hardy & Willis, International Combustion Ltd. and others. He wrote the book Oliver Trist for Collins. He was living in Sydenham, London S.E.26, in the mid- and late-1950s.

Like his uncle, Thomas also contributed to comics, namely two brief features in the first issue of Lone Star Magazine (1952) which were signed Thos. Tamblyn Watts.
To my knowledge this was his only contribution. Uncle Harold Tamblyn-Watts, on the other hand, had quite an extensive career in comics which is worth exploring. But that's another entry for another day.


  1. Interesting, Steve! Harold Tamblyn-Watts was, of course, the first artist on the weekly 'Supercar' strips in 'TV Comic', and produced two superb colour strips for the 1962 'TV Comic' annual. I look forward to seeing more about him!

  2. Hi Shaqui,

    There won't be a huge amount as I've not been able to locate an obituary, not even in papers that were local to where he lived. I'll let you know when the information I've gathered appears.

  3. Harold Tamblyn-Watts was the uncle of my cousin, after our grandfather's death, purchaed his house in Whitstable Kent, which he used as a holiday Home. He has a son still living.

  4. I have a painting by Tamblyn Watts which I think may be a self-portrait. Is there a photograph of him anywhere to compare?

  5. Hi Susan,

    I certainly haven't come across one. Any chance of a photo or a scan? Posting it might prompt a response from someone confirming your notion.

  6. Harold Tamblyn-Watts was my uncle, brother of my father John Marshall Tamblyn Watts. He had two sons, Stewart (deceased) and Graham (still living). He lived until his death at age 99 at 25 Bennetts Way, Croydon.

  7. Hi,

    If you have anything more to share about your uncle, we'd love to know more. There was an earlier enquiry about a possible self-portrait... does anyone in the family have a photograph for comparison? You can drop me a line directly if you prefer; my e-mail address can be found top left, below the photo.