Barometer has been an integral part of the British domestic
scene since the early part of the 18th Century. Initially
a valuable tool in the domestic and agricultural decision-making
of the British aristocracy, antique Stick and Wheel Barometers,
especially the Georgian examples, have now become highly-prized
complements to today's fine antique reception room furniture.
that our Showroom pages
will give you a greater awareness of the styles of fine
antique Barometers that can be acquired.
part, we are able to offer the largest stock of authentic
high quality antique mercury Barometers in the world - usually
around 50 instruments, alongside fine examples of early
aneroid barometers and barographs, all expertly serviced
and fully guaranteed operational.
Last Updated: 24 May 2013
note that antique mercury barometers remain completely unaffected
by the 2009 EU mercury regulations. Properly restored and
working well, they afford no risk whatsoever to personal
health or the environment.
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Types and Origins of Antique Barometers
Georgian up to c.1830
Until the last quarter of the 18th Century, virtually all English Barometers were Stick Barometers
In their construction and design, Barometers closely reflected the prevailing furniture style. Walnut gave way to mahogany around 1740 as the preferred material, and the styles, usually individualistic, became more classically simple, architectural pediments appearing from c1770. Not many Stick Barometers from the pre- 1770s remain.
From around 1780, there was an increasing harmonisation into a small number of barometer styles - especially in pediments, engraving style and cistern covers. Most were produced, in small batches, by a group of London based 'Optical and Mathematical' instrument makers.
The latter Georgian period saw an explosion of Barometer manufacture by Italian immigrants in workshops in Holborn, London. The design of their Stick Barometers was, from the start, almost exclusively restricted to one familiar format, increasingly popular with the burgeoning middle-class.
Victorian c.1840 - 1900
Stick Barometer styles changed in a number of ways as the 19th Century progressed -
Register plates were made of ivory [later bone] or porcelain instead of silvered brass. Lettering style was more ornate. Architectural pediments gave way to the 'ogee'. Rosewood and walnut became fashionable from around 1860, and oak from around 1880.
The final quarter of the Century
also saw the introduction of the popular Admiral Fitzroy Barometer,
a style which is still reproduced today. stick barometers stick
barometers stick barometers stick barometers stick barometers
antique stick barometers antique stick barometers antique stick
Georgian c 1780 - 1830
The popularity of the mercury Wheel or colloquially banjo Barometer is due entirely to the activities of Italian immigrants, who settled in London from around 1780 producing wheel barometers with a variety of decorative marquetry inlays and elaborately engraved dials.
Increased demand for wheel barometers at the beginning of the 19th Century culminated in the ubiquitous 'Sheraton style' Wheel Barometer with simpler, stereotyped decoration and usually bearing a provincial address. [Antique Barometer]
Victorian c.1840 - 1900
Throughout the 19th Century increasing demand for Barometers generated a growing use of mass-production techniques - machine made parts, thinner veneers and standardised designs became the norm by mid-Century.
Mahogany continued to be the favoured wood until around 1860 when rosewood and walnut became fashionable. From the 1880s oak cases were most in demand. Larger, 10 and 12 inch dials went into the more spacious hallways of the growing middle classes.
Perhaps the most significant technical development of the period was the introduction of the Aneroid Barometer, in the 1850s, which had all but eliminated its mercury competitor by the close of the Century.
SCIENTIFIC AND MARINE MERCURY BAROMETERS
The very earliest - 17th Century - Barometers were in fact primitive altimeters used to determine the height of mountains. Technical developments in the early 18th and 19th Century enabled more sophisticated instruments to be employed in experiments in the upper Atmosphere ['Balloonists Barometers'] Similar Barometers were used by surveyors on every continent ['Mountain Barometers']
Fortin Barometers - with visible reservoirs - were the essential Laboratory adjunct for a hundred years from the 1860s.
A large variety of Barometer types were devised to give necessarily accurate weather forecasting data. In particular Marine Barometers were increasingly employed from the early 19th Century; including the "sympiesometer" which was popular in the 2nd/3rd quarters of the 19th Century. Other types were introduced for specific locations and purposes including Farmers' Barometers and 'Fishery or Sea Coast' Barometers
First introduced at the London Great Exhibition in 1851, Aneroid Barometers, [literally meaning 'without liquid'], quickly became an attractive alternative to the traditional Mercury Barometer.
Being unconstrained as to size or shape they were produced in a wide variety of forms, from the pocket-sized traveller's Barometer to large domestic pieces.
By the end of the 19th Century their price and inherent portability had destroyed the market for the Mercury Barometer. Even in areas requiring precise measurements, such as the marine environment, they established a strong presence before the end of the Victorian era.
BAROGRAPH c.1870 - 1920 BAROGRAPHS
The "Recording Barometer" or Barograph was first commercially produced, albeit in very small numbers, in the 1870s, harnessing the movement of mercury in a standard Torricellian column.
It was not until the 1880s, however, that the Aneroid mechanism became powerful enough to enable the data to be recorded, initially, in the main, in the form of Weather Stations in public buildings.
The familiar Barograph, with glazed hood, was introduced in the 1890s, and has been produced in essentially the same form up to the present day. However, the earliest models are generally of superior quality.