Jason Clarke Antiques

George IV Scottish Stick Barometer by Gardners of Glasgow


For sale an early nineteenth century Scottish mahogany stick barometer with ebony banding by Gardners of Glasgow.

This seldom encountered style is of a similar design to Gardner barometers illustrated in Edwin Banfield’s publication, Stick or Cistern Tube Barometers” (Pages 103 to 107), they are described as follows:

“Scottish barometer makers continued to produce barometers in distinctive cases in the Nineteenth Century, and Fig 137 shows an example of the type of barometer produced in Scotland during the first quarter of the century. A similar barometer was made by Gardner’s, Glasgow in 1822 and is illustrated in Fig 138 (very close to the one advertised here). The satinwood veneer gives the effect of crossbanding between the moulded edges of the case”.

As described by Banfield, this example has the same traits although it is completed in mahogany with ebony banding and cistern cover. This crossbanding style was certainly a more expensive way of consuming prized veneers and shows the quality that the Gardner business lavished on its instruments. The barometer is completed at the top with a domed topped and silvered scale plate and hand sliding vernier. It is engraved, “Gardners – Glasgow” at the top.

With its distinctive style and slimmer proportions this example is ideal for a small wall space or for a collector desiring something slightly different to the norm and with a distinctive history leading back to the workshops of James Watt.

The Gardner Company traces its roots back to Glasgow University and with the famous Scottish figure of James Watt, steam engine engineer and inventor. Watt after undertaking his apprenticeship, set up business in 1757 at Glasgow University and provided instruments to the institution. John Gardner (1734-1822) in turn served his apprenticeship under Watt and became his Senior Journeyman by 1769 and the business was largely operated by Gardner by the early 1770s owing to Watt’s surveying activities. The death of Watt’s wife in 1773 precipitated his move away from Glasgow to Birmingham and by 1773, Gardner is known to have been trading under his own account by this point.

It must also be presumed that Gardner himself must have learnt surveying skills through Watt’s guidance as he was appointed in 1789 as assistant to James Barry, Glasgow land surveyor and succeeded him to this post following Barrie’s death in 1792. It is likely that a partnership with James Laurie coincided with Gardner’s increasing workload and the departure of his previous partner James Sym. Little is known of James Laurie as he seems not to have worked as an independent scientific instrument maker but during the six years of their partnership they advertised a wide range of products.

In 1799, Gardner entered into a new partnership with his son John Gardner and the company was renamed to J&J Gardner. In 1818 the son John Gardner died in the middle of bankruptcy proceedings for the company and amongst the creditors were Thomas Jones of Charing Cross, which perhaps gives a flavour of the circles within which they were trading at the time. It did however manage to continue trading and by the time of John Gardner senior’s death in 1822 there existed a partnership named, Gardner, Jamieson & Co.

The family dynasty did not disappear upon his death, it was initially continued by his wife Margaret and his younger son but finally became Gardner & Co and under that title remained in business until circa 1920.

It is of further interest to note that bankruptcy proceedings dogged the family after John Gardner’s death and in 1832 one of the creditors is listed as Laurie & Hamilton, Glasgow Merchants. Perhaps a common Scottish surname but could it have been the same Laurie from the earlier partnership. Further research may well bring that question to conclusion.

A fine example of its type, probably dating to the 1820’s following John Gardner Senior’s death and prior to the formation of Gardner & Co.

Circa 1822

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