Jason Clarke Antiques

Late Victorian Met Office Station Barometer by Patrick Adie London


For sale, a Late Victorian Meteorological Office Station Barometer No 616 by Patrick Adie of London.

Comprised of a brass and black painted tubular body with an enclosed iron cistern to the base, the lower length carries an engraved Fahrenheit scale thermometer specially designed so that the mercury bulb is protected within the body of the instrument. An ivory scale runs to the side of the thermometer with a matching scale to the thermometer measuring 0 to 110 degrees.

The upper section has a brass lipped collar below the scale and a brass screw cap to the top which together support a glass protective tube sitting around the circumference of the silvered scale. The scale has a central reading aperture and Vernier which is operated by a brass dial below and to the right hand side.

The scale measures 26.5 to 32.5 inches of barometric pressure to one side and is signed to the maker (Patrick) Adie, London. It has the additional MO engraving to denote its use by the Meteorological Office and has the serial No: 616.

This working barometer comes complete with its original mahogany backboard with white inset panel to the reverse of the scale to enable accurate measurement. It is fixed by a small gimble to the centre of the instrument and is held true by a supporting ring surrounding the cistern which has three brass fine adjustment screws for the purpose of levelling. The backboard has a brass hanging plate at both the top and bottom.

Bearing similarity to the Kew Pattern Marine Barometer that was devised by Patrick Adie, this example was intended to be used at a fixed point on land for Met Office observation. The only real difference between the two examples are the method of presentation. This example securely fastened to the backboard and the other suspended in a gimble a distance away from the wall by means of a long arm extending outwards. The latter method obviously required to avoid contact with the wall whilst moving in open seas and to remain vertical.

This new and improved form of scientific barometer was first devised in 1855 by John Welsh of The Kew Observatory in partnership with Patrick Adie of the famous Scottish scientific instrument making dynasty. The catalyst was a conference in Brussels wherein numerous nations met to discuss a way of producing an accurate instrument for weather measurement at sea.

The outcome was a design such as this example and was taken up by The Board of Trade as a standard on both land and sea for many years. Interestingly, Admiral Fitzroy was not a supporter of this barometer due to the use of metal for the trunk construction. He deemed it too prone to breakage from movement or from gun fire. The latter issue was the catalyst for him supporting the invention of the gun marine barometer, a challenge that was taken up by the newly formed but latterly famous Negretti & Zambra. Their involvement with Fitzroy and the Met Office (like Adie) allowed them to gain worldwide notoriety.

The firm of Patrick Adie was set up in 1844 after serving apprenticeships with both his Father’s famous Edinburgh firm and the gas engineers, Milne & Son, he also specialised in the production of meteorological instruments. Through contacts made during his apprenticeship and training at Sir Thomas MacDougall Brisbane’s observatory near Kelso, Patrick made the close links with John Welsh Superintendent of The Kew Observatory that would eventually lead to the creation of this barometer, a fitting development to his father’s earlier invention of the sypiesometer.

Adie himself developed a number of instruments during his lifetime including the first coincidence rangefinder used in astronomy. He exhibited numerous patent instruments at the Great Exhibition, The Paris Exhibition of 1855 and at the London Exhibition of 1862 and gained medals for his meteorological instruments. Close links were also garnered with the civil engineering industry, and his instruments were used as part of the great trigonometrical survey of India and in the construction of railways at home and abroad. 

Adie eventually died in 1886 from bronchitis and heart disease and upon his death, the Institution of Civil Engineers (of which he had been a member since 1865) wrote:

“That Mr. Adie possessed great inventive power is shown by the fact that he took out no less than twelve patents, many of which are well known, and have proved very successful. One of these patents he was engaged in perfecting at the time of his death. It consists in the employment of corrugated steel belting, in lieu of leather, which he believed would effect a large saving both in power and cost. In this opinion he was supported by some eminent Members of the Institution, to whom he was well known, and who frequently sought the advice which his great experience enabled him to give.”

His business continued until 1942 presumably under family ownership although the latter history of this London firm remains largely unclear. Adverts from this later period for cement making machines suggest a closer association with industry rather than retail.

The Met Office markings on this barometer do also make it possible to track the purchasing of this rare instrument to a date of the 30th of December 1882. It stayed in operation for two years but according to the records was eventually sold to a Reverend Charles Humphrey Cholmeley (1829 – 1895) on the 15th of February 1884.

Cholmeley was born in Wainfleet in Lincolnshire and was educated at Oxford University from which he graduated into the clergy. He very obviously came from a wealthy background and is likely to be related in some way to the Baronets Cholmeley of Easton Hall in Lincolnshire. Sadly, nothing in the records suggests a specific interest in meteorology.

His obituary in The Times (10/12/1895) however gives some insight into his life. It reads:

The death is announced of the REV. CHARLES HUMPHREY CHOLMELEY, rector of Beaconsfield. He was formerly a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, where he took his degree in 1851. In 1858 he was appointed perpetual curate of Horspath, Oxon, and was successively rector of Sherborne St. John, Hants, and vicar of Dinton, Wilts. In 1882 he was appointed to a prebendal stall in Salisbury Cathedral, and in 1885 to the rectory of Beaconsfield. He died suddenly at Beaconsfield on Saturday last in his 67th year.

A very scarce meteorological instrument from one of the top scientific instrument making families of the nineteenth century, dateable to 1882.

You may also like

Recently viewed