A rare Major Legh's Patent Luminous compass, dating from c.1896 (later prismatic versions of the Legh Patent compass, made by Lawrence & Mayo, were available in 1899). There are no maker's marks, but it is likely that this compass was manufactured by Lawrence & Mayo. The compass has a large blackened brass case, a white compass card with the distinctive star-shaped Legh Patent design, and a sighting vane in the lid. One very unusual feature is the rotating bearing indicator which is positioned on the exterior of the compass glass. The compass was specifically designed for military night marching use, and the compass card was covered with a version of Balmain's luminous paper. This utilized the luminous paint developed and patented by William Balmain in the 1870's and widely used in compasses of the late 19th century. It was rendered luminous by exposure to bright light - often aided by burning magnesium ribbon close to the compass card. The compass has a transit lock and manual brake operated by a sliding button and lever on the side of the case.
Major the Hon. Gilbert Legh (1858-1939): was the son of William Legh, the 1st Baron Newton, a veteran of the Crimean War and Member of parliament. The family seat was at Lyme Park in Cheshire. Gilbert Legh was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards in 1878. He served with the 1st Battalion in the Sudan in various campaigns from 1885-1898, and commanded the 3rd battalion in 1901 during the Boer War. In the 1890's He designed and patented a method for the precision reading of compass bearings in the dark, work which led to the development of several versions of 'Major Legh's Patent Luminous Compass'. The prismatic version (and possibly the earlier non-prismatic designs) were made by Lawrence & Mayo, of 87 Chancery Lane, London. All versions of the compass featured a star-shaped design on a luminous white background, with a sighting vane incorporated in the lid. The 'Magnapole' compass, used extensively during WW1, was a development of Major Legh's patent design.
Further details of Major Legh's patent compass can be found at the excellent compassmuseum.com.
In very good condition, full working order, and finds North well. The compass case, card, and glass are all in very good condition. There is some wear to the original oxidised finish of the brass case. The transit lock and manual brake are working well.