Jason Clarke Antiques

Early Victorian Cased Four Draw Telescope on Stand by Chadburn Brothers of Sheffield


For sale, an early Victorian cased four draw telescope on stand by Chadburn Brothers of Sheffield.

The telescope is comprised of a black painted barrel with four draws measuring 27.5cms when closed and 90cms fully extended. It has a one and three quarter inch objective lens with original brass dust cap and dust slide to the eyepiece.

The two sectioned tripod is provided with a rotating, hinged circular collar to the top which clasps the telescope barrel by means of a knurled screw to one side. The shaft is also finished with a threaded base onto which the tripod legs are screwed. This ingenious design allows the legs to be splayed outwards for use and then screwed back onto the shaft upside down for packing. The shaft of the tripod is also sectioned in two pieces which can be unscrewed to reveal a separate screw thread. This feature would allow the telescope to be mounted in the field on a tree branch or a fence post as required.

Both the tripod and the telescope are complete with their original stained and polished pine fitted case with hook and eye fasteners to the front.

The Chadburn family had a long history of involvement in the manufacture of scientific instruments. Beginning as a partnership in 1818 between William Chadburn and David Wright, by 1838 the business seems to have been bequeathed to the Chadburn’s sons, Alfred & Francis Wright, (the latter’s middle name presumably a dedication by his Father to David Wright his business partner) and in 1841 a third brother, Charles Henry joined the company which was subsequently renamed as Chadburn Brothers.

The Sheffield company’s adverts of the early 1840’s proudly state their address at Nursery Street, conveniently situated “near the railway station”, an entirely new form of transport for Sheffield which had only arrived in 1838. They also provide a list of instruments and products too voluminous to be reproduced, but its sheer size and breadth provides some insight into the firm’s manufacturing capability. It is also clear that they quickly understood the commercial benefits of the speed in which the railways could transport both people and goods. Even at this early stage, they were advertising their position as appointed agents to historic London firms such as Watkins & Hill and Newton & Son bringing with it a level of prestige which helped to make them one of the most recognisable regional instrument making firms of their day. By the end of the decade they had added continental maker’s products to their growing stock list and in 1847 a Royal Association was gained with all further advertising naming the firms as “opticians to HRH Prince Albert”.  

In 1845, Charles Henry Chadburn relocated to Liverpool to open a new branch at Lord Street, a sensible extension northward towards the new industrial heartlands of the northwest rather than trying to compete with established London firms further south. This new branch would also allow goods to flow from London to Liverpool with an in-house manufacturing base in both Sheffield and Liverpool.

With their countrywide reach and a newly formed relationship with Prince Albert, it is little surprise that the Chadburn Brothers appeared on the exhibitor’s list of The Great Exhibition, the brainchild of their new patron. The company is listed as Exhibitor 259 in Class 10 – Philosophical, Musical, Horological & Surgical Instruments, where they are referenced as having manufacturing bases in Sheffield & Liverpool and with an array of goods as follows:

“Spectacle glasses & lenses. Telescopes and microscopes, in various stages of manufacture. Agricultural and surveyor’s levels, magnets, steam and vacuum gauges, barometers, syringes, Galvano electric machines. Craig’s charactograph etc.”

The explanation provides evidence that Chadburns continued to be both retail and wholesale suppliers and for their efforts they gained a jury honourable mention for their exhibits. This honour was of course used unsparingly on all future adverts which also proudly displayed images of their exhibition showroom which was recreated in their Sheffield premises.

Charles Henry Chadburn continued to trade in Liverpool until 1861 as a branch of the Sheffield company. From this point he was joined in business by his son William and the Liverpool business was renamed as Chadburn & Son. The date of Charles’s departure from the family business is an interesting one as it marked the year of their royal patron’s early demise but would also have seen the company preparing for the International exhibition of 1862. It may be surmised that Charles was unwilling to involve himself in such a large undertaking at such a great distance from Liverpool and simply wished to provide his son with a separate business as his legacy. Either way, the entry for the 1862 Exhibition simply lists Chadburn Brothers as having premises in Sheffield and with a much-reduced array of products described.  

In 1875, The Gazette provides evidence of the dissolution of the father and son Liverpool partnership with his son William continuing the business, presumably for reasons of his father’s retirement. By this point, the company had already expanded the business to London, with premises at 105 Fenchurch Street, and it is likely that they were also trading in Glasgow and Newcastle as is evidenced on Chadburn & Son’s advertising from the late 1870’s and early 1880’s.

Little evidence is available as to the fate of the Sheffield company after their appearance at the 1862 exhibition although they continued in business until 1884. Both Watkins & Hill and the globe making arm of the Newton business in London had both ceased to exist by the 1860’s so it may be suggested that with the loss of both their Liverpool and London satellite production, they focused mainly on wholesale manufacture of instrument parts. With the growing success of Chadburn & Sons across the country, it may have been considered the most sensible option for them.

In Liverpool, William Chadburn took growing interest in ship’s telegraph technology and had already lodged a number of patent designs whilst in partnership with his father. At the time of the dissolution of the partnership William was already overseeing production of the Chadburn engine order telegraph and with the company renamed Chadburn & Sons to incorporate William’s offspring, it continued to grow from strength to strength. William Chadburn’s greatest stroke of luck was his association with Thomas Ismay, founder of the White Star Line to whom he lived in close proximity. This association led to Chadburn & Sons commissions for numerous ocean liners including the ill-fated RMS Titanic for which engine room telegraphs and steam whistles were manufactured. 

The Titanic incident seems not to have dented the Chadburn’s reputation as they were still in business in 1898 when the business was renamed Chadburn’s Ship Telegraph Company Limited. Their advertising in the 1950’s shows the company continuing to trade in all of the original UK locations with the addition of a Belfast branch. The remaining history of the company is difficult to follow, although a Chadburns company is still in existence today selling manual and power transmissions for land and sea applications. It is likely that this company retains some connection to the original.

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