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J. H. Steward Service Pattern Compass (1902)

J. H. Steward Service Pattern Compass (1902)

Price £145.00 Sale

A J. H. Steward Service Pattern prismatic military compass, with the serial number 732, dated 1902. This compass design originated around the time of the Boer War, being replaced by Lt-Colonel Verner's designs, such as the Mk V and Mk VI, before the outbreak of WW1. It seems likely that this particular design was manufactured by both J. H. Steward and Francis Barker & Son. The compass has a mother of pearl card, a transit lock, and a manual brake. The central section of the mother of pearl card would originally have had black hand-painted cardinal point markers over a luminous paint background - most probably a version of 'Balmain's Luminous Paint' which was a compound of calcium sulphide. This type of paint was patented in England in 1877 by William Balmain, and was often used in compasses, before the introduction of radium paint rendered it obsolete just before WW1. In this compass the paint has either been removed or simply flaked away over time. This compass has no 'broad arrow' service markings, so it may well have been an officer's private purchase item. It is engraved on the base with the name 'A. E. Crawford'.

J. H. Steward: 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. The business finally moved to 154a Church Road, Hove, Sussex in 1973, before finally ceasing trading in 1975.


The compass is in good condition, and finds North well. There is some minor wear to the case, and most of the original black oxidised finish to the exterior of the lid has worn away.  The mother of pearl card, glass, and prism are all in very good condition. The transit lock is fully functional and the lid hinge is strong. The bezel is in good condition, but is a very tight fit, and it does not turn. The only significance of this is that the black bearing marker on the glass cannot be moved. Otherwise, the compass is in full working order. The compass is engraved on the lid with the serial number and maker's details, 'J. H. Steward, London', and on the base with the name ‘A. E. Crawford.'

Dimensions : 52mm (diameter, 72mm inc. prism)