A rare Francis Barker brass Night Marching pocket compass dating from c.1880. The large 54mm diameter case, intricate ‘Skeleton’ compass card, and 'Ross, 111 Bond St.' address engraved on the lid, date the compass to c.1880 (although the design is more typical of the 1850’s, and the large hunter case was seldom used after about 1865). This Francis Barker design was first sold around 1852. It is engraved on the lid, ‘Ross, 111 New Bond St, London’, which was the address of the Ross & Co. London showroom from 1881 to 1917. By 1881 this type of design was being superceded by more modern designs, like the early service pattern compasses of the Verner type, and it is unlikely to have been produced much later than the early 1880’s. Although this compass was retailed by Ross & Co., it was undoubtedly made by Barker and supplied, like most of their products, unsigned to the retail trade. Ross would simply have added their own details to the lid before displaying it in their showroom.
Originating before luminous paint existed, this compass features an open, 'skeleton’ type, aluminium dial and a white painted bowl to aid visibility when marching at night. This design was often described as a ‘Night Marching compass’ in catalogues of the period. The complex and finely made design was one of Francis Barker's earliest, first produced in the 1850’s, and it can certainly be attributed to Francis Barker & Son as this design was only ever made by them. The compass has a jewelled pivot, a large brass hunter case, and a transit lock which engages when the lid is closed.
Ross & Co: were founded in 1830 by Andrew Ross (1798-1959), based in Albermarle Street, Clerkenwell. Ross made microscopes, lenses and some of the earliest cameras. When Andrew Ross died in 1859 the firm was taken over by his son Thomas Ross, moving to Brook Street and opening a sales department in New Bond Street. The first shop was at 112 New bond Street, with the move to number 111 coming in 1881. The firm’s main business was in optical and mathematical equipment, lenses, cameras, microscopes, and telescopes. By the time of the First World War Ross & Co. had secured numerous lucrative government contracts and were supplying a wide variety of military optical equipment to the War Office and armed forces.
The compass is in good condition and finds north well. The transit lock is working. The skeleton compass card is in good condition. The original glass is in very good, clean condition. The brass case is in good condition, with a few marks and the usual signs of age and wear. The lid is quite a tight fit and closes with a very firm ‘snap’, which can make it hard to open if fully closed.
Dimensions: 54mm diameter (79mm inc. bow & loop), 15xmm depth
Further details of this type of compass can be found in Paul Crespel's excellent book, Trade Mark London, (p.100) and at the trademarklondon.com website.