For sale, an Edwardian cased Inspector’s gas meter pressure gauge or manometer by Parkinson and W&B Cowan Ltd.
A superbly engineered piece of industrial heritage, this manometer gauge is comprised of a glass U tube with ceramic scale and brass fitting to either end. It is complete with various valve fitting, a brass retractable needle and a pair of original plyers presumably to tighten the connections between the various parts. The lid also includes a piece of rubber tubing with a turned brass end piece which is likely to have been the means for connecting the instrument to the gas meter being tested.
All are contained in hinged morocco leather covered case with red velvet fitted interior and the company name of “Parkinson and W&B Cowan Ltd (Cowan Branch) London & Edinburgh” embossed onto the velvet in the interior lid section.
Simply a joy to look at the amount of work that was lavished on an instrument that would have been used on such a manual task.
The company of Parkinson and W&B Cowan was incorporated in 1900 as an amalgamation of two of the oldest companies servicing the British gas industry. Parkinson had been established in 1816 and were responsible for the first gas meters and by the mid-point of the century were established enough to be responsible for manufacturing most of the gas company station meters in London. Cowan were formed shortly after in 1825 and plied a similar trade in meters and appliances for the burgeoning industry. In the 1890’s Cowan was known to be exporting its meters across the globe and had interests in the Australian market, it also established a leather company which produced diaphragms for gas meters.
The consolidation therefore seems to have been a complimentary exercise for two major companies during the period but in some instances, the branding remained distinct such as in Parkinson’s gas lighting and stoves. It was finally renamed to the slightly less wordy, Parkinson & Cowan in 1928 by which time it had already offered it shares to the public and had further majority ownership (98%) in the Gas Meter Co, a concern that had been established in 1862.
The 1909 Gas Meter Co advert included in this listing shows a very similar example of this instrument where it is advertised as an “inspector’s pocket gauge”.
The firm were eventually bought out by Thorn in the early nineteen seventies where it retained its own identity and they still exist today as a brand of gas stoves to this day.
William Henry Cowan also found time to serve as a liberal politician from 1906 – 22 and was knighted in 1917.
A rare instrument relating to the Edwardian gas trade which remains in almost immaculate condition.