The Woman Who Inspired The Derwent Sundial

The Woman Who Inspired The Derwent Sundial

All of our watches are designed to be unisex. It’s important to us that nobody feels excluded from anything, let alone something so trivial as feeling able to buy and wear one of our watches, based on their gender. While many brands design a men’s line or a women’s line, we just design Marloe Watch Company watches, and that’s the way it will stay.

We do have one watch, however, which is very popular with women. Whether that’s down to the design or the backstory, we aren’t sure, but we want to give the Derwent Sundial its moment in the spotlight - and make sure that the story of the lady who inspired this beautiful timepiece is told.

Sundial Lifestyle

Lady Anne Clifford was born in 1590 in Skipton, North Yorkshire, to George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland, and his wife Lady Margaret Russell, the daughter of the 2nd Earl of Bedford. Her childhood tutor was the poet Samuel Daniel, and she was born into a life of privilege and high society. She was spirited, highly engaged with dancing, the arts, and literature. She charmed those around her, including Queen Elizabeth, and displayed a strong will from infancy which could have ruffled feathers, were it not for her charisma and ability to form strong bonds quickly. 

Lady Anne

When her father died in 1605, instead of passing his estate to Anne (as would be expected under law, as his only surviving child) he left it all to his brother, Anne's uncle, stating that he did not believe that a young woman would manage affairs appropriately. Anne was outraged; and her father and uncle underestimated her when they thought that she would quietly accept the situation.

Anne was a highly educated, intelligent, and driven young woman. Only 15 years old when her father died, she vowed to recover her rightful inheritance and fight back against the patriarchal system which had deprived her. She was very close to her mother, and fiercely loyal to her family name. Her motto, which she held close to her throughout the ensuing battle, was;

“Retain your loyalty, preserve your rights.”

Loyal to her family name, and to protecting her rights and those of generations to come, she dedicated the next 40 years of her life to asserting her right to her father’s estate. A woman mounting a legal challenge against a man, let alone an uncle, was almost unheard of, and caused quite a stir among high society. She was all but exiled from her childhood homes and separated from those among whom she had grown up. 

Lady Anne married twice in her life; neither was a happy union, and she fundamentally struggled with the sense of being owned that came with marriage in the 17th century. She wrote;

“I lived in both of these lords’ great families as the river of Roan or Rodamus runs through the lake of Geneva without mingling any part of its streams with that lake; for I gave myself wholly to retiredness, as much as I could, in both those great families, and made good books and virtuous thoughts my companions.”

Anne refers to this metaphor frequently in her diaries, making clear how her own unique identity flowed through her familial connection and her legal rights, never mingling with the patriarchal and cultural prescriptions that were the norm in society at that time. Her first husband died and she became estranged from her second, keeping herself to herself as much as possible, dedicating her time to challenging her uncle and protecting her family name.

Derwent Water

Anne finally received her rightful inheritance at the age of 54, but sadly only because her male cousin who had inherited the estates from her Uncle, had died and there was no other male heir to take over the rights. She returned to her childhood homes and found her estates badly neglected and local people unheard and struggling. Anne immediately set about restoring the castles and lands to their former glory, and ensuring that the people of the local parishes were cared for. Again, her diligence and authority as an older woman upset some around her, and many urged Oliver Cromwell, who was at that point Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, to stop her. He is said to have firmly retorted;

“Let her build what she will, she shall not be hindered by me.”

So, I hear you ask, how did this remarkable woman inspire our Derwent Sundial watch? Well, a couple of miles from the market town of Penrith stands the Countess Pillar. A 14-foot high octagonal pillar with sundials on three sides and the familial coats of arms of both Anne’s father and mother side by side - this monument was erected by Anne on the site where she last saw, and said goodbye to, her beloved mother who died shortly afterwards. Anne was quick to ensure that the money from her estates, for which she had fought for over 40 years, was distributed to the local people, who gathered each year on 2nd April next to the Countess Pillar to receive donations. 

Countess Pillar

The pattern engraved on the Countess Pillar sundial is the same pattern you see on the face of our Derwent Sundial watch. Drawing on the reds and blues of the pillar, along with rose gold casing to create a warm glow evocative of the stunning sunrises and sunsets of the Lake District, we have created a subtle yet striking homage to Lady Anne and her homelands which we hope she would approve of – though we suspect she might prefer this short, but hopefully informative, blog on her strength of character over something so fanciful as a watch. 

Lady Anne lived out the rest of her years in happy solitude; travelling between her properties, reading, writing, restoring her estates and gathering her ancestral history, ensuring that her diaries and her voice had their place in her family’s archives. She died at the grand old age of 86, in the room in which her father had been born and her mother had died. Engravings marking her restorations across her estates always end with this excerpt, from the book of Isaiah, which is a fitting tribute to her place in history and in the hearts of the communities that she cared for;

“And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places; though shalt raise up the foundations of many generations: and though shalt be called, the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in.”

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1 comment

  • Captivating. Will you ever do another run of this model, if only to share the story Lady Anne with more in the world?

    Cormac Hanley

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