Rider, Job (1761–1833), clockmaker and inventor, was born in Broomhill in the parish of Westbury, Shropshire, England. He was almost certainly the Job Rider, son of Thomas and Elizabeth Rider, who was baptised 21 August 1761 in Westbury parish. More than one branch of the Rider family were involved in clockmaking in Shropshire and across the Welsh border during the eighteenth century; in 1792 Thomas Rider made a brass sundial for Broomhill parish church. Job Rider worked as clock- and watchmaker in London, Dublin, and Hillsborough, Co. Down, before settling in Belfast c.1791. His business at the sign of the ‘Reflecting Telescope’, Shambles St. (near High St.), Belfast, sold a variety of clocks, watches, and scientific instruments. The shop was located just a few yards away from where ships were then moored, and he would have been able to tempt skippers, merchants, and visiting gentlemen with his selection of ‘quadrants, compasses, improved day and night glasses, thermometers, telescopes, reading glasses, spectacles, and sundials’ (Belfast News Letter, 7 Jan. 1806). Between 1805 and 1807 he worked in partnership with R. L. Gardner, and with William Boyd after 1807; both were watchmakers and jewellers. Rider was unusual in that he manufactured his own clock and watch movements and cases on site. Most Irish craftsmen during this period imported movements from England and then carved, painted, and decorated wooden cases and dials. His business must have been fairly brisk: an advertisement in 1806 says that he was in need of four additional clockmakers for his shop.
Rather than slavishly reproduce the movements invented by earlier masters, such as John Harrison and James Cox, he made significant modifications to their designs. Rider had a truly inventive mind and is credited with designing a barometric clock that kept going for twelve years non-stop without winding. This device, a type of ‘perpetual motion clock’, probably used a glass jar of mercury carefully balanced on chains that moved according to slight changes in the weight of the atmosphere. The movement of the jar must then have been used to tighten a coil and set in motion a series of cogs that turned the dials on the clock face. His unusual gift for solving problems meant that he received special commissions. In the late 1790s he produced extremely accurate two-faced clocks for the Belfast post office. These clocks would sit in the windows of post offices so that officers on the mail stagecoaches could set their watches as they passed by. In a newspaper advertisement of 1791 he says that he can offer turret and steeple clocks of an ‘entirely new construction’.
It would seem that any problem involving moving parts and energy captured his imagination. In 1805 he patented improvements to cylinders and pistons for steam engines, and in 1820 patented, built, and operated in Belfast a rotary steam engine that functioned without a fly-wheel. He also invented a curious contraption for aerating mineral waters; soda water was sold in his shop. The United Irishman, Thomas Russell (qv), who had an interest in horology while imprisoned, allegedly requested the services of Rider to help carry out experiments.
Rider was by far the most innovative clockmaker working in Ireland during the period 1790–1830 and perhaps the most interesting clockmaker that Ireland has ever produced. However, his original designs do not survive and it is not clear whether other clockmakers in Ireland and further afield were able to learn from his improvements. His few surviving clocks (of which two are in the Ulster Museum, Belfast) show that his focus was always on utility rather than decoration; the cases and dials are of a simple but elegant design.
He married at least once; his wife Mary (maiden name and date of marriage unknown) died of a ‘lingering illness’, aged 44 years, on 1 December 1832. Her death notice describes her husband as ‘Job Rider esquire of Belfast’. He died shortly afterwards in 1833. One obituary states that he was in his seventy-sixth year, while other sources suggest that he lived until he was 83; the Shropshire baptismal record would indicate that he died aged 72. The same obituary noted that he showed great kindness to less experienced craftsmen and was well known in Belfast for his acts of philanthropy.