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Groves & Barker Pocket Compass c.1848

Groves & Barker Pocket Compass c.1848

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An extremely rare Groves & Barker early Victorian pocket compass, dating from c.1848. The compass is clearly signed on the card with the Groves & Barker name. This distinctive compass card design was used by Francis Barker for many years during the Victorian era, but compasses produced during his partnership with Richard Groves are very rare. They had both been apprenticed to the firm of J & G Simms in the latter part of the Georgian period, before going into business together in 1848. The compass has a brass box and lid, jewelled pivot, transit lock, and hand-drawn paper compass card.


The compass is in very good condition, full working order and finds North well. The brass case is in very good condition, with some of the original lacquered finish still present inside the lid. The glass is in very good condition. The hand drawn paper compass card is in very good condition. The lid fits very well. The transit lock is in working order.

Dimensions: 37mm diameter

Groves & Barker: the partnership between Francis Barker (1819-1875) and Richard Groves (1821-1911) was established in London in 1848. Both had started out working for the scientific instrument makers J & G Simms of Hatton Garden. Francis left to set up his own company, and soon afterwards also went into business at 16 Market Street with his friend Richard Groves, producing sundials and maritime compasses. The partnership was dissolved in August 1865. Francis Barker went on to become one of the most prolific scientific instrument maker's of the 19th century, and Richard Groves outlived his former partner and was still listed as a surveying instrument maker in 1902.

Francis Barker (1819-1875) went on to have a very successful career, producing a wide range of compass designs over the years, supplying major retailers such as Negretti & Zambra, J. Lizars, C. W. Dixey, Dollond, and many others. The company prospered until 1932, when it was taken over and became F. Barker & Son (1932). After WW2 the company changed hands several times and the name is now carried by Pyser-Optics. They continue to produce the renowned Barker M-73, widely acknowledged to be the world's finest prismatic compass.

Much of the above information is from Paul Crepel's excellent book Trade Mark London. For more information on the Groves & Barker story, go to the website. I am also indebted to Leszek Zietara for further information about Richard Groves.