Jason Clarke Antiques

Met Office Presentation Barograph by Casella of London


For sale, a Twentieth Century Met Office presentation barograph by Casella London.

Slightly later in date than I would normally offer but quite a special example of a Met office Pattern barograph. Comprised of a mahogany case and set upon bracket feet. The case is glazed on two sides and hinged to allow access to the mechanism. The base also has a thin slide draw which would allow the storage of spare pen arms and nibs.

It lid a brass carrying handle and the less common feature of a time marker button to the top. When depressed, it would cause the pen arm to make a mark on the chart. This additional function was used mainly to create comparison between the barograph clocks accuracy versus real time and any variations would have been calculated once a chart was submitted. It would of course have to have been repeatedly done at the same time daily by the observer to ensure accuracy of records.

The front of the case also bears a presentation plate with the following engraving:

“Presented by The Director-General of the Meteorological Office to Captain MJ Heron in recognition of his valuable meteorological work at sea from 1947 to 1974”

The mechanism is based upon a gilt brass plate with a clock movement by the Gluck Barograph & Recorder Company Limited. The movement is accesses by lifting the lid from the recording barrel and is also wound by means of the key retained within.

The bellows are comprised of a single concertina pattern capsules rather than individual evacuated capsules, a development which is often seen on later barographs. Above is a knurled screw which would allow for adjustments and setting of the altitude as required. The pen arm is of gate form and the arm throw to the side of the barrel can hand operated at the base of the pillar. It comes complete with its Casella London brass engraved nameplate and its original Casella ink bottle.

The presentation of gifts by the Met Office for services rendered by mariners has been happening informally almost from its inception in the mid-Nineteenth Century. Examples are rare but certainly exist. In the early Twentieth Century, The Met Office sought to formalise this process and in 1924 an annual Excellence Award was presented each year. Some details from their records provides some further detail and some specifics on the recipient of this super barograph:

“Commencing in 1948, in addition to the annual Excellence Awards which had been presented since 1924, the Director-General of the Meteorological Office has made special awards to the four voluntary marine observers whose contribution has been particularly outstanding over a prolonged period.

All officers who have provided us with meteorological records in 15 or more years, and who have compiled at least one meteorological logbook in the previous year, come within the possibilities of being selected for the special awards. Personal cards, are scrutinised; length of service combined with the number and quality of their records decides the order of placings.

In 1974 there were 99 officers with the required length of service, over 15 years; these years are rarely continuous and frequently cover periods of 30 years or even more.

The Director-General is pleased to make special awards to the following shipmasters:

  1. Captain JM Burns of P&O Lines, whose first meteorological logbook was received here in 1951 from SS Dorset (Federal Steam Navigation Company). During his 22 years of voluntary observing Captain Burn has provided us with 34 logbooks, 30 of which were classed Excellent.
  2. Captain MJ Heron also of P&O Lines, at present serving with Container Fleets Ltd, a consortium of which P&O is a member. Captain Heron’s first logbook was received in 1947 from the SS Pipiriki (New Zealand Shipping Company). During his 22 years of voluntary observing, Captain Heron has provided us with 43 logbooks, 33 of which were classed Excellent.
  3. Captain DS Millard, Manchester Liners Ltd, who sent us his first logbook in 1946 from SS Manchester City. During his 25 years of voluntary observing Captain Millard has provided 49 logbooks of which 19 were classed Excellent.
  4. Captain AF Ashton, Bibby Brothers & Company, sent us his first logbook in 1954 from SS Empress of Australia (Canadian Pacific Steamships Ltd). During 20 years as a voluntary observer Captain Ashton has sent us 49 logbooks of which 37 have been classed Excellent.

As in former years, the award will be in the form of an appropriately inscribed barograph, and it is with great pleasure that we congratulate these four shipmasters on this acknowledgement of their many years of zealous voluntary observing at sea on behalf of The Meteorological Office.

The four shipmasters will be notified personally of the award and of the arrangements which will be made for its presentation.”

The Director-General of the Met Office during this period was Sir Basil John Mason an ex Flight Lieutenant for the RAF during World War Two and educated as both a physicist and meteorologist. He specialised in cloud physics and headed the Met office from 1965 to 1983. He became a member of the Royal Society in 1965 and was eventually knighted in 1979. It is with some sadness that the career of Captain Heron remains somewhat shrouded in mystery. A more detailed search may provide better detail but his career as a merchant seaman was a long and seemingly illustrious one.

A rare presentation prize from the UK Meteorological Office, the barograph remains in good order and the mechanism has been recently serviced.

The maker of this fine barograph also has a fine and distinguished history. Alongside Negretti & Zambra, Louis Casella’s company was at the zenith of meteorological instrument making during the Victorian period. Given their Italian origins, it is perhaps not surprising that like Negretti & Zambra, Casella also hailed from the Como region of Italy and he was very well acquainted with his competition.

Luigi Pasquale Casella was the son of a musician who came to The British Isles in the Early Nineteenth Century and the anglicised “Louis” was born in Edinburgh in 1812. His Father eventually rose to be a music tutor to George III’s daughters but by the 1830’s, his son had apprenticed to Cesar Tagliabue, a noted Italian instrument maker who had been in London since the turn of the century.

Casella eventually married Tagliabue’s daughter in 1837 and shortly after formed the partnership of Tagliabue and Casella with his new father in law in 1838. Tagliabue was already known to have been exporting his products to South America and Europe and must have provided Casella with a perfect grounding in both instrument making and more importantly in the business of selling them.

It is somewhat strange that this partnership should ever had existed given that Cesar is known to have had three sons, John, Anthony & Angelo but presumably his focus was on providing his daughter and her husband an equally good opportunity in life. The numerous Tagliabue’s listed in trade directories of the period would suggest that the family remained close knit in any case and the son John also went on to form an early partnership with Joseph Zambra prior to the latter’s more famous partnership with Henry Negretti in 1850.

Cesar Tagliabue eventually died in 1844 leaving the business to be solely managed by his son in law Louis Casella and the under his long stewardship became one of the most renowned scientific instrument making firms of the nineteenth century, providing products to the likes of Darwin and Livingstone. Cordial relations were almost certainly maintained with Negretti & Zambra over the years as Casella’s catalogue of the 1860’s shares numerous similarities with his competitor. Both were equally capable makers so it suggests that the parties were probably sharing manufacturing practises to create greater industry and both exhibited with great success at The Great Exhibition and the following Exhibition of 1862 where Casella was awarded a prize for his meteorological instruments.

By this point, his catalogues state that he was employed as an instrument maker to The Admiralty, The Board of Trade, Board of Ordnance, The War Department, The Royal Observatories at Kew and The Cape of Good Hope and numerous Governments and Universities.

Casella’s sons, Louis Marino and Charles Frederick both trained under their Father alongside other members of the Tagliabue family and also the latterly famous JJ Hicks who was perhaps the most promising of all of those that emanated from his workshop. He eventually died in 1897 whereafter Charles took over the sole ownership of the company.

Sadly, the younger son did not possess the same level of business acumen and skill as his Father and the business had become rather run down by 1905 but it was incorporated in 1910 and with the assistance of more adept management from Rowland Miall and Robert Abraham, manged to regain its momentum. The First and Second World Wars saw it engaged in numerous Governmental contracts but also saw the deaths of both of Casella’s sons, finally severing the link with the original family.

Casella is one of the few companies of this period that still remains in existence today, it continued to provide meteorological instruments throughout much of the Twentieth Century but the focus of the business has since diversified into environmental sampling and monitoring products.

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