Country Of Origin Australia
Born 1853
Died 1912
Birth/ Baptism Born 11 November 1853, Launceston
Parents Charles and Selina Sparrow (formerly Wilkins).
Selina was the sister of watchmaker Josiah Wilkins.
Apprenticeship Mr W Abbott, Brisbane Street, Launceston
Skills Watchmaker, Jeweller, Optician
Work Locations Launceston
Street Address
Charles Street, Launceston
78 Brisbane Street, Kings Building’s, Launceston
20 Brisbane Street, Launceston
Marriage/Spouse 28 May 1882, at Mr Sparrow’s house, Launceston, to Frances Roberta Owen.
Other Education: St John’s Church School, Elizabeth Street, and Church Grammar School, Launceston.

January 1875: Purchased Josiah Wilkin’s business after his death.
1875: Relocated the business to 78 Brisbane Street near the Brisbane Hotel.
August 1875: Displayed a mysterious clock in the front window of his shop.

January 1880: John imported an illuminated clock featuring a turret movement with a gravity escapement, seconds pendulum, and two three-foot dials. It was installed above his shop for the benefit of the public to view the correct time day and night.
The Examiner (Launceston) 9 March 1880:
‘The Municipal Council seem determined to realise to the utmost the blessedness of giving; and not content with the scope which their own affairs afford for indulging that amiable weakness, they are casting about for occasions wherever they may offer. Mr Sparrow, an enterprising horologiographer, of Brisbane Street, fired with a commendable ambition to eclipse his fellow-craftsmen, has erected over his shop a clock with transparent faces, which he illuminates at night. It is an attractive, if not novel, system of advertising, and he has received, as he doubtless deserved, the commendation of the public. In this, we should have thought, Mr Sparrow’s object was fully attained, but the idea occurred or was suggested to him that he might obtain some assistance in maintaining his hobby, and he asks the Municipal Council to pay for the gas. The idea, like the object that suggested it, was decidedly bright, but everyone thought it was a mere “try on”, and dismissed it with a smile. It has, however, become a stern reality: the application has not only been graciously granted, but several fervent hopes were uttered that many others would follow so laudable an example! The clock was a public benefit, and such enterprise ought to be encouraged! We should not like to be considered vulgar, but our candid opinion is that the act is wrong and the excuse bunkum. There may be something plausible in the statement, but did the Alderman seriously enquire to how many of the public the illuminated clock was really an advantage? In the first place it can be of service only in the night, and to a few in the immediate vicinity. How many of the nocturnal perambulators of Brisbane Street will heed the illuminated clock? And when its novelty has worn off, they will pass it unconscious of its existence. But the principle of has been recognised, and where is it to stop? There are three or four other clockmakers within fifty yards of Mr Sparrow, and a dozen others in different parts of the town, each of whom may prefer just as reasonable a claim. The burgesses are compelled to pay one-half the cost of cementing and asphalting footpaths, which are certainly for public convenience; but their money is appropriated with gratitude for the opportunity to subsidising a speculation made by an individual for his personal benefit. The Council should be consistent.’

April 1885: David McKenzie took legal action against John Sparrow regarding ‘the illegal detention of a watch and breach of agreement’; employees Frank Hobart Walton and John Malachi Procter gave evidence. The verdict favoured the plaintiff, with the watch returned to him.

Approx. mid 1880s-1900s: Maintained the St John’s Church Town Clock.

From approx. 1892: Added optical services and sales to the business.

October 1906: Alfred Castley, watchmaker, purchased John’s 32-year-old business.

July 1907: John advised the public he had recently moved to a private residence, 20 Brisbane Street, where he would devote his time to optical work.

Known employees: John E Piper, John M Procter, Frank Simpson, Thomas H Wathen.

1913: A clock from John Sparrow’s estate was purchased by the Launceston Hospital board and installed in their main building.

1949: Death of wife Frances Sparrow, Adelaide, South Australia.

Death 27 July 1912.
Burials: John and Frances Sparrow, Carr Villa Cemetery, Launceston.
Jenny Gill, The Town Clock or that of St John’s Church, 2017.
Tasmania Post Office Directory 1890-1894.
TAHO: RGD33/1/31 no692 Birth 1853; RGD37/1/41 no736 Marriage 1882; AD960/1/34 1913.
The Mercury (Hobart) 29 June 1866; The Examiner (Launceston) 2 February 1875, 22 January 1880, 9 March 1880, 11 October 1881, 29 October 1906, 29 July 1912, 17 October 1913, 30 July 1949; Cornwall Chronicle 21 July 1875; The Tasmanian 7 August 1875; Daily Telegraph 23 January 1884, 8 April 1884, 7 February 1885,  22 April 1885, 24 February 1896, 27 January 1906, 4 July 1907, 31 December 1909; Tasmanian Democrat 21 January 1893.