Jason Clarke Antiques
Late Victorian Stick Barometer by Dring & Fage of London
For sale, a late Victorian stick barometer by Dring & Fage of 145 The Strand London.
An interesting and very uncommon design, this example has a mahogany backboard with engraved, decorative brass fitting throughout. The scale plate is comprised of painted opaline glass with weather indications to the left and a scale to the right measuring 27 to 32 inches of barometric pressure. The top of the scale has the maker’s name, “Dring & Fage, 145 Strand London” and below the scale it has the company’s trademark of a dagger with crescent moon and also a registered design lozenge which accurately dates the manufacture of this instrument to beyond the 5th of November 1881 the point at which the design was lodged.
The base of the instrument also carries a lovely oplaine glass Fahrenheit thermometer on ebonised wood, the base of which is fitted into the front of the cistern cover. The top of the thermometer is supported behind by brass support and allows it to sit proud of the backboard.
A most unusual and pleasing design of which I have not previously encountered. These seem to have featured in Dring and Fage’s inventory until the turn of the Century owing to advertising evidence provided in the images.
The partnership of John Dring & William Fage was established in 1790 although the company later advertised themselves as having been founded in 1745. The earlier date is accounted for by including the trading period of John Clarke, whose business John Dring purchased at the end of the Eighteenth Century from John Clarke’s son Richard who had in turn married Dring’s sister.
John Clarke had been famed for the manufacture of hydrometers and his instruments were widely used by the British Government throughout his later life. Dring & Fage continued to benefit from this relationship until 1803 when Bartholomew Sikes invented his improved hydrometer whilst at the same time there was growing discontent with the accuracy of Clarke’s instrument. A competition was launched shortly after by a Governmental panel which included scientists such as William Hyde Wollaston and representatives from The Excise Board. Sadly, Sikes died suddenly during this period and although it was widely recognised as a superior instrument, Sike’s widow had to petition until 1810 to finally be awarded The Excise Board contract. Robert Brettell Bate had established his business specifically to make Sike’s hydrometers in 1807.
Dring & Fage therefore held on to the valuable Government work until 1810 and finally regained the contracts after Bate’s death and the closure of the Bate firm by his son in 1850. From records of Dring & Fage’s representations to The Government during this period, it is clear that both of the founding partners were either retired or more likely had passed away. The company was now being run by Edward Hall and Edward Jenkin and from this point onwards, they maintained strong links with HM Customs, The Inland Revenue and Colonial Departments into the Twentieth Century.
Beyond Hall and Jenkin’s stewardship, the Company passed through Hall’s family line and became a Limited company in 1940. It finally closed in the 1960’s.
The barometer dates to circa 1890.