Jason Clarke Antiques

Edwardian Set of Draughtsman's Railway Curves by WF Stanley London


For sale, a fine mahogany cased Edwardian set of draughtsman’s railway curves by Stanley of Great Turnstile, London.

These curves were commonly used by draughtsman for the purpose of plotting railway lines or highways on maps where long sweeping curves were required. Both the inner and outer edges were utilised.

Manufactured from pearwood, each of the forty nine curves are individually stamped with the requisite size and, “Trademark Stanley London” all remaining in good sound condition. A similar cased example resides in The Science Museum Collection and similarly is without a paper key to show the various sizes originally included but those listed below do seem to follow a regular numerical pattern. It would of course have been impossible to fit numbers 1 to 120 in the mahogany box as it is already completely full with the contents outlined below.

1.5 / 2 / 2.5 / 3 / 3.5 / 4 / 4.5 / 5 / 5.5 / 6 / 6.5 / 7 / 7.5 / 8 / 8.5 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13 / 14 / 15 / 16 / 18 / 20 / 22 / 24 / 27 / 30 / 33 / 36 / 39 / 42 / 44 / 47 / 50 / 54 / 58 / 62 / 66 / 70 / 75 / 80 / 85 / 90 / 95 / 100 / 110 / 120 /

The box is complete with its original green paper label with decorative cartouche featuring images of various pieces of engineering equipment. To the centre it is marked to Stanley, Great Turnstile, London, England in gilt lettering. The style of the trade label is one that was used by the company in the early part of the Twentieth Century.

Commonly confused with the famous American toolmaking company, Stanley of London was actually formed by William Ford Robinson Stanley (WF Stanley). Born in Islington in 1829, Stanley was a gifted architect, inventor and engineer who by 1843 was enrolled at the London Mechanics Institution where he took classes in technical drawing, phrenology and engineering until he was forced to leave in order to support his father’s building business at the age of fourteen. His father’s ventures ultimately failed but Stanley having gained numerous practical skills and acting upon his father’s complaints about the quality of British technical drawing instruments, began to make and market his own in 1854. His immediate success allowed him to open premises at 3-4 Great Turnstile and another at 286 High Holborn and by 1862 he had won a prize medal at the International Exhibition for a straight line dividing machine of his invention.

Using his skills as an architect, Stanley designed and built his own factory in Belgrave Road which he named The Stanley Works and by the 1880’s the company employed 80 staff and were advertising over 3000 products for which they were of course most famed for their vast array of drawing instruments.

The company was floated in 1900 becoming William Ford Stanley & Co Limited but the founder largely retired in the same year from active participation, only remaining as Managing Director and Chairman of the Board until his death in 1909 at the age of 81. Under Stanley’s stewardship, the company had won no less than 26 of the highest medal awards at exhibitions across the globe, testament to his huge inventiveness and business acumen.

The company continued to prosper after Stanley’s death and although their factories were requisitioned in both world wars, it continued trading until 1999 where, through lack of investment and loss of governmental orders, it finally went into liquidation. Today its importance to British industry is sadly overshadowed by confusion with its American tool manufacturing namesake and the raft of reproduction items produced by a company that uses its name.

The founder WF Stanley was simply put, a powerhouse of a man and his obituary below goes someway in providing some detail on his extraordinary life both as a businessman and philanthropist.

“Mr William Ford Stanley dies at South Norwood on Saturday at the age of eighty one. He was the founder and for fifty years head of the firm of scientific instrument makers bearing his name, and was the patentee of inventions that have world-wide use. He was a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and the Meteorological Society and was the author of “The Nebular theory in Relation to Stellar, Solar, Planetary, Cometary and Geological Phenomena”, “A Political Utopia”, some tect books on surveying instruments and drawing instruments and other works. On many occasions he read papers before The British Association and other learned bodies. Mr Stanley has given South Norwood a public hall and art gallery, and during the last fifteen years had provided a sum representing £80,000 for the provision of technical trade schools. He was created an honorary Freeman of Croydon in 1907”.


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