J. Hicks, Military Prismatic Compass & Clinometer (1895)
A prismatic, greencard type, military compass clinometer combination set, made by J. Hicks of Hatton Garden, dating from c.1895. Both the compass and the clinometer are engraved with the name of the original owner, Alick C. Robinson, an officer in the Royal Engineers, who was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in March 1895.
This type of compass was a development of Schmalcalder's Patent compass of 1812 which introduced the idea of using an optical prism, combined with a sighting vane, to improve accuracy when taking bearings. This compass was made by J. Hicks of Hatton Garden, London, a well-known Victorian scientific instrument maker. It has an oxidized brass case, bright green compass card, a jewelled pivot, an optical prism, and a folding sighting vane. It also has a manual brake and an automatic transit lock, which is operated when the sighting vane is folded down. The distinctive bright green card design was intended to enhance the night marching capabilities of the compass, and this type of compass was often used by the British Army from around 1860 to 1900.
The detachable clinometer is a Watkin's Patent design, often to be found in this type of military combination instrument. It is marked 'Watkin’s Clinometer patent 217' and 'No. 5122'. The patent was originally granted in 1884. This type of clinometer has an internal pendulum and scale which rotate under gravity. When a feature is sighted through the eye hole in the side of the case the angle of inclination or depression can be seen alongside in the reflection from a mirror.
The two instruments were used by artillery and engineer officers throughout the Victorian era. They are still in their original box, with Alick Robinson's name printed in gilt lettering on the lid.
Alick Christopher Robinson (1874-1930) was commissioned in the Royal Engineers in March 1895. In 1898 he was promoted to Lieutenant. In the early 1900s he was appointed Director of Engineer Services in New Zealand, with the temporary rank of Major, before returning to England in 1908. He was still serving in the army in 1919, having been promoted to Major during WW1. By 1922 he was a Lieutenant Colonel. He appears as a Colonel in the passenger list of a ship bound for Batavia in 1927. Colonel Alick Robinson died in Kensington, London in 1930.
In good condition and full working order, the compass finds north well. With just some wear to the original oxidized finish of the case. One tiny screw is missing from the area next to the viewing glass, but this has no effect on the function of the compass and the glass itself is completely secure. The clinometer is in very good working order, with a chip to the glass window, and some wear to the original finish of the case. The box, although worn and with some careful repairs, is very solid and in generally good condition.
Dimensions: Compass & Clinometer: 70mm (diameter, 100mm inc. prism), height: 35mm Box: 115mm x 90mm x 60mm