Barometers from the 18th to the 20th century

We always have a selection of barometers on our website from the Georgian period up until the 1930’s, mercurial and aneroid as well as barographs.  We have the barometers serviced and restored by the Gentleman who also looks after our clocks, and give the same guarantees.

The shipping of  mercury barometers is possible within the UK and some places within Europe but when we have had to pack them to ship further abroad we have had to remove the mercury and advise the customer to make sure they have someone capable of refilling the tube or reservoir on arrival.  The removal of the mercury is for safety reasons as mercury is of course a poisonous metal and must be looked after properly because it’s  difficult to gather or clean up if a leak happens.  In addition,  it is a heavy metal in a glass tube so care must be taken when transported.  However, we have experience of delivering barometers safely by road within the UK and have also shipped barometers to Spain, Portugal and the United States with the mercury removed.


The earliest barometer we have in stock at the moment is a George III mahogany cased mercurial wheel barometer made in London

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The Georgian mahogany barometer above was made in London by Lione and Somalvico at 14 Brooke street Holborn around the start of the 1800’s.  The Somalvicos were a family of Italian Barometer makers that worked in London.  Dominick Lione and Joseph Somalvico were in partnership between 1805 -1819 and initially worked from 125 Holborn Hill in London(1805-1807) and then from 14 Brook St, Holborn, London until 1819. They are recorded as one of the several Italian barometer makers in London at the turn of the 18th – 19th century , making better than average barometers, about two thirds of Barometers made in London at this time were made by Italians.

The barometer has a mercury filled tube running the full height inside the back of the case that has a glass weight resting on the exposed upturned end of the tube, the weight sits on top of the mercury and  is strung to a counter balance weight via a wheel that turns as the mercury raises and falls due to barometric pressure.  The wheel inside the back of the barometer is connected to the hand on the front and this is where a reading can be taken.

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The  oak cased barometer above is called a “stick barometer” because of the slim case, the earlier 17th and 18th century barometers where mostly of this style before the pressure could be read off a dial. The stick barometer has the mercury filled glass tube exposed at the top and a barometric reading can be taken direct from the level  the mercury.  A system of scales where invented to be read against the position of the mercury in the tube, the range was between 27 and 31 inches with divisions in between, with 31″ at the top and 27″ at the bottom of the scale. The predicted weather was also written on the scale, Great Storm at the bottom to Very Dry at the top. The barometer we have here as an example was made by Gardner & Co Opticians to the Queen (Victoria) in Glasgow Scotland. You can see as well as the scale which is written on a thin plaque of ivory there are two adjustable scales, one you set at Ten O’clock in the morning at the level of the mercury then and the other you set the next day so that you can see if the pressure is rising or falling and hopefully predict which way the weather will go. The earlier Georgian barometer has a secondary dial which you set each day, again to see which way the weather might be going.

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Later in the 19th century Aneroid barometers where invented, this involved a vacuum filled metal flat cylinder being attached to a set of levers , when the pressure rose the cylinder would be squeezed and visa versa when the pressure dropped. The reading would be taken off a dial almost identical the the earlier Georgian dials , with a secondary pointer to set at the days reading.

Above is the dial on a Victorian walnut cased aneroid barometer and an unusual desk standing art deco aneroid barometer with a mahogany frame and a brass stand.

Below is a real ” Boys Toy” a pocket aneroid barometer with a thermometer and compass built in, all kept safely in a leather carrying case and put into your pocket for your expedition. The good news for me and the not so good news for customers is this great Robson’s of Newcastle pocket barometer sold through the web site two days after we put it on line – sorry!

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The ultimate “Boys Toy” as I call them is a barograph, a barometer fitted in a glass case with a clock work dial that rotates and a pen scores the barometric pressures as it changes. The tin can shaped tube has a clock works fitted inside that you wind up once a week (8 day works), to the outside of this tube a paper record sheet is fastened which will record the pressure for one week as it rotates. The aneroid barometer part of the works is exposed for all to see, usually a pile of vacuum cylinders are stacked one on top of the other, most times 2-7 of them. The cylinders are linked by mechanical arms to a lever which rests on the paper and has an ink filled nib on the tip which drawers a line as the tube slowly rotates. A record is kept of the rises and falls in air pressure, this particular barograph has a drawer underneath to store used record sheets and keep new ones.

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Graham Smith Antiques has been established for 14 years but Graham has been in the antiques business for 40 years. We trade on line and from showrooms on the edge of the city of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK and all  the items shown on the website are available to view at the show rooms where they are set out in four room settings – for ease of viewing. As long time members of LAPADA [the Association of Art and Antiques Dealers], the UK’s largest trade association for professional art and antiques dealers, we want all our customers to be confident to buy from us on line or in person and make every effort to make each sale a pleasure.  Please take some time to read our Testimonials page which can be found on the home page of our website.


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