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J. H. Steward Francis Barker M-72 Prismatic Compass

J. H. Steward Barker M-72 Prismatic Compass

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A very rare example of the Francis Barker M-72 in lovely condition. This is also one of the very last compasses (possibly the last) to be sold by J. H. Steward, probably the most famous scientific instrument retailer of the 19th and 20th centuries. This compass marks the end of J. H. Steward's long and distinguished association with British scientific instruments, which began in London in 1852 and ended in Hove in 1975. Hardly any M-72 compasses have retailer's (or any other) markings, but this compass is clearly engraved on the base with the final Steward address: 'J. H. Steward Ltd, 154a Church Road, Hove'.

This compass has been expertly serviced by Pyser Optics, Edenbridge, Kent, the current makers of the Barker M-73 and M-88 compasses. Its seals, fluid, and luminous night lights have been replaced, the compass has been fully checked and set up, and is in perfect working order. A copy of the service details can be provided if required. The compass comes with its original Francis Barker fitted leather case and shoulder strap.

The Francis Barker M-72 Prismatic Marching compass was a direct descendant of the legendary MK III that was in use throughout the second world war. Produced in the UK in 1972, it was a development of the M-71 which was introduced in 1971 and was one of the last Barker compasses to feature a mother of pearl card. The M-72 was only made during 1972, in very limited quantities, before being replaced by the M-73 in 1973. The M-73 remains in production today, is still regarded as the world's finest liquid prismatic compass, and is standard military issue with many armed forces. The M-72 was very similar to the M-71, with a brass case and lid. Most of the M-71 and M-72 compasses were totally unmarked, or in very rare cases, like this one, had the retailer's details engraved on the base. Almost all of the M-72 compasses were exported to Australia. (Further details of the M-72 can be found at Paul Crespel’s excellent website:

J. H. Steward Ltd: James Henry Steward (1817-1896) established his business in London in 1852 as a maker and retailer of optical, scientific, military and surveying instruments. J.H. Steward was the head optician of the company and had businesses at 406 Strand, 457 West Strand and 54 Cornhill in London. In the mid 1800s he became the optician to Her Majesty's Government and the National Rifle, and National Artillery Associations. James Henry Steward died in 1896. J. H. Steward Ltd was incorporated in 1912 and continued in business in London until 1973. The main London office was sold in 1971, and from 1971-1973 the company rented premises in Catherine Street. All the remaining stock and long serving staff member George Goble (c.1916-1975) were moved to Catherine Street. Mr Goble was now the only member of staff, running the shop but mainly retained to provide a service to long-standing customers and to sell the remaining stock. The business finally moved to 154a Church Road, Hove, Sussex in 1973, before finally ceasing trading in 1975.

(Please Note: this compass is not available for shipping to the USA)


The compass is in excellent condition, in full working order, and finds North very well. It has been fully serviced (November 2019) at the Pyser Optics factory in Kent, including replacement of the luminous night lights. There is just some very minor wear to the paintwork in a few places. It would be very difficult to find a better example of this rare compass. It comes complete with its original Francis Barker fitted leather case and shoulder strap.

Dimensions : 85mm x 60mm x 34mm