John Marshall (1659-1722)

John Marshall is acknowledged as one of the best lens makers of his time. In 1693, he was commended by the Royal Society for inventing a way of all simultaneously making batches of good quality lenses of a given focal length.

He was the son of Thomas Marshall, cordwainer of Covent Garden, London, and his wife Jane. In 1673 he was apprenticed to John Dunnell of the Turners Guild. In 1685, he took his first apprentice, Edward Lane.

Thereafter, he operated from a series of premises, all in the same area:
Two Golden Prospects, Ludgate
Archimedes and the Two Golden Prospects. Ludgate

1688 Three Keys. Ivy Lane
1688 At the Sign of the Gun, Ludgate
1690-1694 Archimedes & Spectacles, Ludgate
1695 Ludgate St
1701 Archimedes & Two Golden Spectacles, Ludgate St
1714 Old Archimedes & Two Golden Spectacles, Ludgate St

His 1702 advertisement includes “all sorts of glass instruments as perspective glasses, telescopes, microscopes single and double, horoscopes, sky optics, reading glasses” and much more. Interestingly, among the microscopes he advertises are “microscopes according Mr Lewenhoek“, suggesting that copies of Van Leeuwenhoek’s microscopes were available in London before Folkes described them in 1723. His advertisement finishes “He also hath invented a new method of grinding spectacles true, (others being generally false) which having showed both spectacles and the method of grinding to the Royal Society are approved by them)”.

He was both Optician and Maker of Glasses to his Majesty the King (this would have been George I).

Marshall may have had a short-term partnership with Ralph Sterrop, but they were generally rivals.

John Marshall seems to have married twice, but only the name (Esther) of the second wife is known from his testament (probate given on 4 February 1722 at St Gregory, London). He left some of his tools to Esther’s son and son-in-law, but the bulk of his estate went to her, his 2 daughters (Elizabeth and Catherine) and his former apprentice and current partner, Catherine’s husband John Smith who inherited the bulk of his tools and the business.