Jason Clarke Antiques
Exhibition Quality Aneroid Wheel Barometer by TB Winter & Son of Newcastle
For sale, an exhibition quality aneroid wheel barometer by TB Winter & Son of Newcastle.
Comprised of a solid mahogany body overlaid with a rich veneer, the top is adorned with a carved swan neck pediment and central finial of urn design above an intricate inlay and penwork motif of a winged cherub with a draped oat beard design either side.
The outswept neck has satinwood veneer scroll inlay to either side with a a central thermometer case. The silvered scale shows temperature readings for both Centigrade and Fahrenheit and has a superb thermometer with a French type spiral bulb. The thermometer case has a glazed front and is framed on either side with classical styled columns with Ionic capitals. The case is surmounted at the base on an anthemion carved relief pediment.
The main body is formed in an unusual classical urn shape with wide shoulders and carved relief scrolls at either side. The centre has a splendid raised eight-inch dial with pressure readings for 26 to 31 inches around the outer circumference and beautifully engraved weather indications with black and red wax infil. The centre of the dial has an intricate engine turned floral design and the maker, TB Winter & Son, 21 Grey Street, Newcastle on Tyne at the base.
The centre of the body is a masterpiece of inlay and penwork set into the main rosewood veneer. The top has two classical female figures depicting weather conditions and are placed either side of a reeded classical column support and chequer board platform. The underside of the platform has two ram’s heads with oat beard drapes surrounding the barometer dial and terminated at the base with two cornucopia, the symbol of wealth, abundance, fertility and nourishment.
The base is completed with a carved and reeded mahogany end piece which completes the framing of the body and draws the eye back up to the masterful inlay adorning the centre of this superb instrument.
A silver plaque with a dedication is affixed at the top of this section providing both the owner’s name and the date on which it was presented:
“Presented to Mr George Parkin by the Deputies of the Randolph Colliery and a few friends as an appreciation of his kindness. – 20.01.13.”
The Randolph Colliery was situated thirteen miles south of Durham and was opened by The North Bitchburn Coal company in 1893. The 1910’s saw the height of the mine’s production with 793 miners working underground and 242 staff working above. The records show a George Parkin acting as Under Manager to the colliery from 1910 and remaining in the same position until the 1930s.
The following (for which I am indebted to the kind research of a longstanding customer and friend) appeared in the The Darlington North Star newpaper in January of 1913.
“At the Randolph Colliery offices, Evenwood, on Monday evening, a presentation was made to Mr George Parkin, under-manager of the above colliery. The present, which was a handsome barometer, was given by the deputies and others who have recently passed the examination for gas testing etc, necessary under the new Mines Act. Mr TW Hewitson acted as Chairman, and Mr CA Pattison made the presentation. Mr Parkin suitably responded. The following vocalists contributed to an interesting programme: Messrs H Curry, J Stokes, R Deighton and Banks. Thirty-three deputies and thirty others who were under Mr Parkin’s tuition were successful in the examination.”
The Under Manager was an important position working directly for the colliery manager and the owners of the mine and the Deputies (or Firemen, or examiners) noted on the plaque would have been under his direct management alongside the overmen and shotfirers.
The new Coal Mines Act of 1911 was established after a major explosion killed over a thousand miners at a colliery in Courrieres, France and whilst the Royal Commission was reporting on the safety of British mines, an explosion at the Norton Hills colliery did much to hasten the conclusion that heightened safety procedures were an immediate requirement.
Numerous safety provisions were put under new legislation including the establishment of rescue stations equipped with associated apparatus (an area where the diving company Siebe Gorman were hugely influential) and trained rescuers. The requirement for improvements in gas testing as a preventative meausure was also a necessary requirement and I suspect that the Randolph Colliery and many others in Britain were asked to train and submit relevant employees at short notice for examination and certification. The individual cost of taking this examination was so high that the issue was brought up in Parliament and so I suspect the good guidance and tuition of Mr Parkin was something worthy of celebration given the amount (63) of Randolph Colliery employees that passed on their first sitting.
It should also be remembered that all of the above happened amidst the miner’s strike of 1912 brought about by unequal standards of pay, and coupled with a railway and dockers strike, it must have had a serious effect on the economy. The Coal Mines Act, although dated 1911, did not come into being until mid 1912 but its passing was probably hastened by these events given that it also included some additional clauses relating to workers and their associated working conditions.
In relation to this fine barometer, the above does give you some insight into the likely cost of the instrument at the time. If we assume that sixty-three employees of elevated positions in the company contributed to the purchase, it was certainly a luxurious and expensive gift.
The business of TB Winter is given an establishment date of 1832 on the company’s later trade cards, which is somewhat problematic due to Thomas Burgess Winter’s birth taking place in Scotland in 1830. This issue, however, reveals some interesting detail relating to its earlier history.
In 1825, a London instrument maker named John Cail established a business in Newcastle at 2 New Bridge Street. Cail was presumably tempted by the growing amount of industrial activity taking place in the North of England during this period and his training and subsequent employment by the famous Edward Troughton would have stood him in high regard.
By 1844, Cail’s success allowed him to expand his business to two premises, 45 Quayside and 61 Pilgrim St and given the former addresses, I suspect that one would have dealt primarily with the sale of navigational instruments.
Although I can find no direct evidence, it is conceivable that around this time, Winter may have entered into an apprenticeship with Cail which might explain his move from Scotland. Cail’s business moved to 21 Grey Street in 1855 and operated for another twelve years and Winter is also recorded as having been in business at 55 Grey Street in the latter part of the 1850’s which would align with him receiving his freedom to trade independently. Beyond speculation though, is the fact that Cail’s business was purchased by Winter in August of 1867.
By 1875, the firm had become TB Winter & Son and although direct records of the company’s trading are sparse, during this decade, Thomas burgess’s name appears in Freemasonary records and also in the records of the minutes of the North of England Institute of Mining & Mechanical Engineers proving the status that his efforts had achieved. During his life, Winter also became Alderman and Justice of the Peace which gives a flavour of the regard in which he was considered at the time.
Twenty one years later in 1898. The Gazette announces the dissolution of the partnership with the son Charles Winter maintaining the business and it continued under the same name throughout the 1920’s (TB Winter died in 1902). Little more recorded evidence can be found beyond this point but the company were quite clearly a regional powerhouse for instrument making throughout the latter part of the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century, with a particular focus on the lucrative mining industry that existed at that time.
It is perhaps unsurprising that they also produced luxury gifts and items for mining industry leaders, and this “handsome” aneroid wheel barometer is a shining example. The sheer amount of work associated with this piece is simply breathtaking.