Victorian Oak Cased Ship's Barometer by Henry Hughes - Thames Marine Officers Training School Prize
A historic Victorian ship’s barometer by Henry Hughes of 59 Fenchurch St, London in original oak presentation case with silver engraved mount.
The silver plaque states, “Thames Marine Officer’s Training Ship Worcester, Port of London, General Good Conduct First Prize, Harry Hughes, Christmas 1873”.
This superbly crafted instrument has a four and a half inch silvered dial stating the maker, “Henry Hughes, 59 Fenchurch St, London” with integral Fahrenheit mercury thermometer and a pressure reading 28 to 31 inches. As is usual with nautical ships barometers the setting hand is manoeuvred by means of a brass knob that stands proud at the base of the brass case. It has a brass ring at the top as a means of hanging if required but sits snugly in its original oak case.
The maker Henry Hughes founded the business in 1828. Noted for its life size wooden figure of a seaman with sextant displayed outside the front door, Hughes premises at Fenchurch street was a popular destination for merchant and Royal Navy seaman alike and Hughes gained much business from the Admiralty in the nineteenth century due to the quality and precision of his instruments. The business was incorporated as Henry Hughes & Son Ltd in 1903 and ran successfully until its premises were destroyed during the blitz in 1941. Owing to the devastation, Hughes entered into a collaboration with Kelvin, Bottomley & Baird in the same year and later amalgamated in 1947 to become Kelvin & Hughes. They continue to operate to this day under the name Kelvin Hughes Ltd under part ownership by ECI Partners.
The barometer was bought from Hughes in 1873 as a first prize for general good conduct relating to the Thames Marine Officers Training School based upon HMS Worcester in the Port of London. The school was opened in 1862 as a result of an original idea by William Munton Bullivant (a London Merchant) and Richard Green (a shipbuilder) conceived due to the lack of properly trained officers in the merchant navy. With support given by the admiralty by the lending of the HMS Worcester to the school, it was initially stationed at Blackwall Reach and then Erith before it as finally moved to Greenhithe in 1869. It was on this initial ship that the recipient of this barometer would have been trained alongside such notable fellow scholars as the future Japanese Admiral Togo (dubbed the “Nelson of the East”) who later gained fame for his devastation of the Russian Fleet at the Battle of Tshushima in 1905 during the Russo-Japanese War. The school was eventually closed in 1968 with three ships (all renamed HMS Worcester) being used for training purposes through the years.
Sadly, little is known of Harry Hughes, however he must have been a first class seaman in order to have achieved this sign of merit and further research at The Marine Society where the Worcester’s records are held, may provide further interesting details.