Jason Clarke Antiques
Mid Victorian Pocket Sextant by Field & Son Birmingham
For sale, a cased Victorian pocket or box sextant by Field & Son of Birmingham.
Of standard construction, the instrument includes a silvered arc scale with index arm and magnifier. The face engraved to Field & Son Birmingham. It retains its original cover and telescope all of which fir neatly into the original leather case inscribed with the name WH Silk, Architect & Surveyor, 35 Royal Avenue, Belfast.
Field & Son are perhaps most famous for winning the much publicised Society of Arts microscope award for manufacturing a quality and reasonably priced microscope for students and the general public. The company was formed by Robert Field Senior in about 1830 and he is considered to have been a foreman for the famous microscope innovator, Philip Carpenter, eventually taking over Carpenter’s Birmingham business interests from his family in 1837 after Carpenter’s earlier move to London and eventual death in 1833.
Trading from 113 New Street in Birmingham, the firm became Robert Field & Son in 1845 with Robert Junior joining the business. Five years later, they were amongst the upper echelons of the trade that took the opportunity to exhibit at The Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace although Robert Senior died in September 1851 just prior to its close.
Robert Junior was certainly adept enough to replace his Father and by 1855 had won the Society of Arts prize mentioned above. The production of mcroscopes was a heavy burden on the company but it continued throughout the 1860’s, exhibiting again at the 1862 Exhibition. However, towards the end of the 1860’s or the early 1870’s the company became Field & Co having been sold to a John Anderton.
Under Anderton’s direction, the company continued until the turn of the century after which point it dissolved upon his death in 1905.
Given the above, the name on the leather case stating WH Silk, architect & surveyor, 35 Royal Avenue Belfast is somewhat misleading. Wiliam Henry Silk was active during the 1920’s, practising under partnership as Taggart & Silk and after 1925 under his own name. The address for Silk provided on the dissolution of the partnership in The Belfast Gazette is as described on the case. It is perhaps a fitting tribute to Field’s quality of workmanship that the company’s instruments continued to be of service sixty years after their manufacture.