Jason Clarke Antiques

Victorian Three Draw Telescope by William Dixey Engraved with an Edward Dixey Dedication


For sale, an early Victorian three draw handheld telescope by William Dixey Optician of 241 Oxford Street, London with engraved Edward Dixey dedication.

The telescope is comprised of a quality rosewood barrel and measures 75cms extended and 25cms closed. It has an objective lens of one and three quarter inches and retains its end cap and dust slide to the eyepiece. IT is engraved to the first draw with the maker, “W Dixey Otician, 241 Oxford Street, London.”

In itself a super quality telescope of the period by the renowned Dixey Family but this example is made historically unique by means of the engraving around the top collar which states,

“Presented to Mr John Lipscombe by his Father in Law, Mr Edward Dixey 1852.”

The maker William Dixey was the son of Edward Dixey who was born in 1772, the son of John Dixey a victualler or publican in Vine Street, Piccadilly and Catherine Dixey (nee Harris). According to most records, Edward is considered to have been apprenticed to George Linnell or George Black but more recent research by Anita McConnell shows Edward Dixey to have been apprenticed on the 4th September 1787 for seven years to the top instrument maker Jesse Ramsden at a cost of £21. A Christie’s sale record for a Wilson & Dixey telescope is also marked, “late apprentice to Jesse Ramsden” so the corroboration of these two facts seems to prove undeniably that his training was of the highest quality.

By the 1790’s (presumably after his apprenticeship in 1794) Edward is listed as working independently at Vine Street in Piccadilly and at the start of the 1800’s business addresses on Oxford Street and at Wardrobe Place are also listed. It is again unclear when, but a partnership was agreed during this period between George Wilson (also spelt Willson) and Edward Dixey to form the company of Wilson & Dixey.

Perhaps due to the numerous premises listed across London during the same period, this short-lived partnership seems to have failed quite rapidly and in 1803 both of the partners are listed under bankruptcy proceedings records with a dividend of £10 associated to the business. Despite their issues with debt, the company was able to maintain trading until 1809 but their increasing debt continues to be recorded throughout.

After 1809, Edward Dixey held various addresses at 335 Oxford Street, Air Street, Piccadilly and at Southwood Lane in Highgate according to a petition of insolvent debtors dated to February of 1824. These are probably his home addresses and records indicate that his trading address was at Oxford Street. There is a tantalising record for an 1817 legal case, Wilson vs Dixey (C13/2509/33) which may bring further light to the history of these ongoing financial difficulties, however, in 1812, his son, William Dixey was born and in the same year his eldest son, Charles Wastell was apprenticed to him. It is likely that George (Edward’s brother) was also working at the firm as the addresses for George in the records match closely to Edward’s known premises.

Whilst William’s elder Brother Charles Wastell went on to form G&C Dixey (George & Charles) and then later, the famous CW Dixey, William must have begun his own training around 1826. It is not clear whether he trained under his Father or whether he was apprecticed to Owen Jones who had himself been earlier trained under Edward Dixey at the same time as Charles Wastell. Jones worked from 11 Duke Street, Grosvenor Square until 1828 but subsequently moved to 241 Oxford Street a year before his untimely demise. With Jones’s death in 1828, his widow Mary Jones maintained the business at Oxford Street successfully until 1841 whereafter William Dixey became the new owner of the premises. The twenty nine year old Dixey would have most likely been working with Mary Owen prior to the transfer and the occasion meant that during the early 1840’s, the Dixey dynasty had three London premises at 241 (William) and 335 (Edward) Oxford Street and CW Dixey at New Bond Street.

Edward is considered to have retired from his trading address in 1843 and just a year later, his daughter Frances Dixey was married to a John Lipscombe, one of the three brothers who owned the Lipscombe & Co business in London, Chesterfield and Manchester. Their company was most widely famous for the production of a patent water filter which was a huge success during the period and of which there remains many extant examples. John and Frances moved to Manchester to manage the business there in the early 1850’s so this piece may have been gifted as a leaving present from his Father in Law and given Edward’s retirement by this point, would have been procured from his son William.

Edward Dixey died a year later in 1853 at the age of 81, whilst the recipient John Lipscombe also died in 1866 leaving Frances to continue to run her husband’s part of the business.

The maker William Dixey traded from the Oxford Street address until 1870 and eventually died in 1889.

I can think of no other example of an instrument with a dedication from an instrument maker, not least from a dynasty such as the Dixeys whose skills were originally derived from the hugely renowned Jesse Rasmden. This telescope provides a unqiue insght into the family’s history and a fine telescope dated accurately to 1852, just one year after The Great Exhibition.

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