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Silver Singer's Patent Pocket Compass (1864)

Silver Singer's Patent Pocket Compass (1864)

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An extremely rare and beautifully made solid silver Singer's Patent pocket compass, dating from 1864. The compass is clearly marked on the mother of pearl card 'Singer's Patent, 2632'. Singer's patent lapsed in 1868, and no compasses made after that date carried a 'Singer's Patent' serial number. The case has the maker's mark of Samuel Freeman, a case maker who worked in Trafalgar Street, London from 1862 - c.1880. Although the compass card is unsigned, its style and lettering are almost identical to one made by Groves & Barker in the 1860's, and this compass may possibly have also been made by them. It was certainly made by one of the best maker's of the time. The compass has a silver hunter case, hallmarked for London 1864, jewelled pivot, and hand-painted mother of pearl compass card.


The compass is in very good condition, full working order and finds North well. The hallmarked silver case is in very good condition. The glass is in very good condition, with just some M.O.P. dust under the glass. The hand-painted mother of pearl compass card is in very good condition, and marked 'Singer's Patent, 2632'.

Dimensions: 43mm diameter

Singer's Patent: Samuel Berry Singer (1796-c.1875) was a master mariner from Southampton when he patented his unique design in July 1861. This distinctive high contrast design was intended to be much easier to read in low light than conventional compasses of the time. He did not benefit greatly from his invention, the patent lapsed in 1868, and he ended his days living in poverty in Kincardine on the Firth of Forth. 

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, supplying major retailers such as Negretti & Zambra, J. Lizars, C. W. Dixey, Dollond, and many others. Richard Groves outlived his former partner and was still listed as a surveying instrument maker in 1902.

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.