Jason Clarke Antiques

Large Early Nineteenth Century Chondormeter or Grain Scale by Robert Brettell Bate of London


For sale, a large early nineteenth century chondrometer or grain scale by Robert Brettell Bate of London.

The English chondrometer was devised following an Act of Parliament on the 1st of January 1826 introducing the imperial form of measurement under George IV. This steelyard type scale was primarily used as a measure of the bulk density of grain and therefore quality of the product.

To use the scale, the brass measuring cylinder was placed upon the scale arm and filled to the brim with a sample of grain and levelled using a straightedge known as a strickle. The weight was identified by means of the sliding weight on the arm of the scale and was repeated a number of times to ensure accuracy of measurement. The outcome would determine price and space required to store the crop in question.

This early example is of superb quality and was manufactured by the most famous producers of these items during the period. It is housed within its original mahogany case with its original instructional label to the interior of the lid, giving bushel conversions for wheat, rye, barley, oats, peas, small beans, Dutch clover, canary & rape seed. It has a further trade label to the lid for Bate, stating, “RB Bate, Mathematical Instrument Maker, Wholesale, Retail & for Exportation, No21 Poultry, London”.

The scale is constructed from a turned brass stand, brass measuring cylinder and scale arm engraved with measurements in pounds and signed to Bate London. The weight is incorporated onto the arm and is further engraved with, “pounds per Bushel, Imperial”.

Robert Brettell Bate was a very high quality manufacturer of scientific instruments working in the early part of the Nineteenth Century. Born in 1782 in Stourbridge, to a family of bankers and cloth merchants, Bate was sent to London to join his Uncle (Robert Brettell) in his haberdashery business at 21 Foster Lane. His Aunt Mary from his Mother’s side also lived in London with her husband Bartholomew Sikes, an Excise official and their daughter Anna Maria. Bate became acquainted with his cousin and soon after they married in 1804 and lived at Foster Lane with Anna Maria’s mother after the early death of Bartholomew Sikes.

The name Sikes is an important one as the hydrometers that continue to bear his name were created by Bate’s uncle and prior to his death, he was in the process of negotiating the supply of his new hydrometer to the Excise Office. By the strength and fortitude shown by Mary Sikes, the Excise Office agreed to allow her to maintain the contract for the supply of these “improved” hydrometers and Robert was permitted to inherit the commission for the provision of the instruments.  

A move to No 17 Poultry soon followed and with a shrewd business acumen, he managed to maintain a strangle-hold on the market for hydrometers and the new saccharometer. In 1824, he  was further commissioned by the Board of Excise & Ordnance to make the new national standard measures for weight & capacity and a move to larger premised at 20/21 Poultry took place. This chondrometer is an example of Bate’s output following his appointment.

His quality of manufacture led him to receive Royal Appointments from George IV, William IV and Queen Victoria where he acted as Optician and he further served as the Master of the Spectacle Maker’s Guild in 1833. He also acted for the Admiralty as its main chart agent with numerous sub agents acting below him such as the instrument maker, George Stebbing. Bate traded from his addresseses in Poultry street, London from 1808 to 1844 whereafter he moved to number 33 Royal Exchange in 1844 until his death in 1847.

A superb quality example of an early chondrometer by the maker who was commissioned to create the new national standard for measures at the introduction of the imperial system.

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