Jason Clarke Antiques

Early Twentieth Century Met Office Pattern Dines Tilting Syphon Rain Recorder


For sale, an early Twentieth Century Met Office Pattern Dines Tilting Syphon Rain Recorder.

Comprised entirely from copper and brass, this innovative instrument was first invented by English Meteorologist, William Henry Dines FRS. With a hollow conical copper base, these instruments were often partially buried to gain stability of position both by its shape and the weight of the surrounding earth. At the top of the base is housed the mechanism which is described in the Handbook of Meteorological Instruments as follows:

“The trouble which is frequently experienced in recording rain gauges, owing to irregularity in the action of the siphon was overcome by Mr WH Dines in an ingenious manner in a gauge which was in use at Benson Observatory during the War. Gauges working on this principle have recently been constructed and thoroughly tested and will, with detailed improvements, be adopted in future as the standard Meteorological Pattern.

In this pattern the water falls into the chamber and raises a float carrying the pen in the customary manner, but the chamber is mounted on knife edges and is so arranged that it overbalances when full of water, sending a surge of water through the siphon tube and starting the siphon in a positive manner. The overbalancing is controlled by a trip which is released by the rising float at a predetermined point. As the float chamber empties, the centre of gravity shifts to the left and under the action of the counter weight, the system resets itself in its normal working position.”

The action of the chamber float is neatly recorded on a clockwork barrel working on the same principles as a barograph. This instrument’s mechanism has been fully overhauled and serviced and also retains its original key.

The upper section of the case is hinged to the base to allow access to the inner working but it also has a glazed viewing panel to the front for immediate viewing of the recording. It is crested by a ring of brass which has been honed to a near knife edge to ensure that rain is more accurately captured in the centre. It is engraved around its circumference with “M.O Tilting Syphon Rain Recorder – Mark I – Ref No: 562” providing clear evidence that this was an early example in use by the Met Office at the time of its manufacture.

The inventor of this iconic instrument, William Henry Dines (1855 – 1927), was the son of Master Builder George Dines who famously worked for Thomas Cubbitt and advised Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on the design and construction of Osborne House. Both George and his son would become Fellows of the British Meteorological Society.

Educated at Cambridge, Dines also concluded an apprenticeship with the Nine Elms Locomotive Works in Battersea. Although already an enthusiastic meteorologist it was the rail disaster of the Tay Bridge 1879 that encouraged his first serious work on air pressure which later culminated in the invention of his pressure tune anemometer.

In 1901 he began work on upper air research using kites and meteorographs manufactured to his own design and recorded both on land and also by sea for which purpose the Admiralty loaned him the use of HMS Seahorse. He was during this time serving as President of the Royal Meteorological Society and was elected a Fellow of The Royal Society shortly after in 1905.

The tilting syphon rain recorder or more accurately, the improvements he made to them was perhaps the last of his great achievements. Invented during the War and put into general use by the Met Office in the 1920’s, this instrument is still in use to this day. He died just seven years after its invention at Benson, Oxfordshire.

This is a large instrument measuring 84cms in height with a base diameter of 50cms.

Circa 1930

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