For sale, an Edwardian oak cased surveyor’s aneroid barometer and thermometer set by Ross of London.
This superior quality set is contained within an oak case with campaign style brass bindings and lock and push catch to the front, opening to reveal a green velvet fitted interior.
The lid is fitted with a small, removable bone scale travel thermometer skilfully engraved for Fahrenheit, Centigrade and Reaumur scales. The base is amply filled by a very robust six inch dial aneroid barometer with three tiered silvered scale measuring 27 to 31 inches of barometric pressure. The central dial is engraved with standard weather indications and is compensated for temperature changes. The famous name of Ross, London is beautifully engraved below. The outer dial is intended for use as an altimeter measuring 0 – 4000 feet which may be turned, adjusted and set by the hand dial to the base of the instrument. This feature allows measurements in relation to elevation and air pressure possible.
A hugely desireable set on its own account but the lid also has an engraving to the cartouche in the centre of the lid stating:
“Given to ARTHUR MAINWARING by some members of the NEW CLUB, BRIGHTON in appreciation of his 265 BREAK made on the club table on Dec 29th 1904”.
Obviously a prize for the game of snooker, this represents an extremely early example of a snooker prize, the game having been devised in India during the 1880’s by Colonel Sir Neville Chamberlain. It slowly gained notoriety in the latter part of the century and by the early Twentieth Century had governing bodies and competitions to regulate the newly endorsed sport.
Although somewhat circumstantial, the evidence would point to the recipient being an Arthur Mainwaring who after serving with the British Army during the Boer War had attained the rank of Colonel by the onset of the First World War. His inter-war years at the billiard table were perhaps a happier memory than his later experiences in the Great War. The Ireland on Sunday report below gives some perspective on his later life and treatment by the authorities.
“Lt Col Mainwaring – who, although born in India, always regarded himself as an Irishman met his downfall because he took a more compassionate attitude to the men of the Dublin tenements whom he commanded and who singularly failed to live up to their regimental nickname, ‘The Old Toughs’. An officer and a gentleman of the old school, Mainwaring came from an impeccable military background. His father William was a general who had commanded the Fusiliers before him and who saw service in the Indian Mutiny and Afghanistan. Arthur had been with the Fusiliers since 1885, been decorated in the Boer War and written a history of the regiment. He also wrote on whist, croquet and billiards, in which he had been a runner up in the Irish amateur championship, and regularly played cricket for the MCC during his summer leave. But on the morning of August 25, 1914, after four nights without sleep, his ears ringing with the sound of German shells, deprived of the certainty of orders issued from above because his superiors had long since disappeared, Lt Col Mainwaring was at his wits’ end. The Fusiliers were among the first British regiments despatched to France in the early days of this war which everybody believed would be ‘over by Christmas’. Their mission as part of the British Expeditionary Force: to help protect France from the German troops who had already over-run Belgium. The Battle of Mons, which started on August 22, was the first engagement between German and British troops in that part of Northern France that was subsequently to become notorious as the Western Front. But in these early days of the war that was supposed to end all wars there were no trenches, no ‘no man’s land’, no barbed wire, no fortified positions. The first clashes were between cavalry troops and only later did British infantry take up defensive positions along the Mons canal. But they were hopelessly outnumbered and ill-equipped: 70,000 troops as opposed to 160,000 and 300 heavy guns against 600 German. Within days the British had suffered almost 10,000 casualties and were in ‘strategic retreat’ – throwing away their weapons as they ran. On August 27, the remnants of the Dublin Fusiliers arrived in the dusty little French railway town of St Quentin, where there were no trains to take his men away from the advancing enemy. The surviving soldiers, ill-educated, poorly trained volunteers from the Dublin slums who had only joined up because they thought the Army offered them decent pay and excitement flatly refused to march another step. These bone-weary men, having fought and marched for 48 hours without respite or sleep, were now more dead than alive. In fact, it has now emerged, so ill-prepared were they and their commanding officer for combat that one senior officer had actually tried to prevent Mainwaring even going to the Front. In 1913 Brigadier Aylmer Haldane complained that Mainwaring’s men were poor shots who were prone to drunkenness and indiscipline. The officers were’very stupid at grasping an order, no matter how clearly given.’When Mainwaring went down with colitis, Haldane tried to get him removed from his command but was overruled by doctors. And so the ‘Old Toughs’ found themselves thrust into the front line and, equally quickly, in ignominious retreat. Nothing in the long and distinguished military career of their 50 year old commanding officer had prepared him for the unimaginable horror of the retreat from Mons or the fate that awaited him and his troops in St Quentin. Had he been made of sterner stuff he would have threatened them with the firing squad. Maybe even executed a few then and there for refusing to obey his orders. Instead Lt Col Mainwaring and the commanding officer of the First Royal Warwicks, Lt Col John Elkington, gave in to the hysterical entreaties of the local mayor and signed a piece of paper agreeing to surrender rather than see the citizens massacred in a German artillery bombardment. After the court martial Mainwaring wrote a lengthy justification of his actions which he circulated privately among his friends. It described how he and Elkington, who had the future Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery among his junior officers, had marched in to face their first action on August 24, with the army already in retreat. As they dug in, next day, to cover their colleagues’ backs, they come under heavy shellfire. They were last to retreat, under cover of darkness, and without rations went through the same ordeal the next day. In the midst of the battle Mainwaring received the last order he would get from High Command: ‘The general says he wishes you to hold on here to the end. This is a personal message from him to the regiment. ‘By early evening everyone else had pulled out and Mainwaring wrote: ‘The behaviour of our men had been splendid throughout. They were so dog tired that many of them slept through the infernal fire, as one could here them snoring. ‘It was then he discovered that HQ had been abandoned and he determined on another night march in retreat, hoping to catch up with them. He allowed his men to grab a couple of hours sleep in a barn but dared not nod off himself because there was no one to wake him. Early next morning he found himself in St Quentin, negotiating with the mayor for food and transport for his men, when panic broke out as a four messenger claimed the town was surrounded by Germans. He and Elkington agreed that they could not endanger the safety of the townspeople and tried to get their men up on their feet to march on. ‘The fact is that the men could do no more for the time being, their limit of endurance was reached. I considered it my duty to protect these men, who so nobly had done theirs. I still consider that it was so, and my conscience is quite clear,’ Mainwaring wrote. The thick-set and normally implacable Mainwaring himself, an eyewitness later wrote, ‘looked very pale, entirely exhausted and leaned heavily on his stick. He had no Sam Browne belt on and with the heat and fatigue he could scarcely have known what he was doing. ‘And so he signed the document that was to bring about his disgrace. At the court martial, Elkington, who was the more senior of the two, would deny authorising the surrender. Unbeknown to them, the Royal Irish Dragoon Guards were still holding off the advancing Germans and an episode of tragi-comedy was about to unfold. One of the cavalry officers arrived in the town and insisted the troops get on their feet and retreat. They refused. Enraged, he left, only to return with a more senior officer, Major Tom Bridges. Bridges recalled later: ‘The men in the square were so jaded it was pathetic to see them. If one only had a band, I thought! Why not? ‘There was a toy shop handy, which provided my trumpeter and myself with a tin whistle and a drum, and we marched round the fountain, where the men were lying like the dead, playing the British Grenadiers and Tipperary, and beating the drum like mad. They sat up and began to laugh and cheer. I stopped playing and made them a short exhortation and told them I was going to take them back to their regiments. ‘Late that evening 400 men marched out of the town. The exhausted Mainwaring summoned the strength to march at their head, despite collapsing twice. The incident was the inspiration for Sir Henry Newbolt’s poem: The Toy Band: A Song of the Great Retreat. But for Mainwaring it was a march filled with foreboding. The cavalry officers had insisted that the mayor hand over his surrender letter to them and that could only mean a court martial. No official record of the hearing survives but one officer in the dragoons claimed that a firing squad was already drawn up when the court decided the two officers had suffered a mental breakdown, under stress, and dismissed the charge of cowardice. Elkington, two years younger than Mainwaring, was to redeem himself a year later, fighting at Vimy Ridge for the French Foreign Legion, knocking out enemy machine gun posts until his leg was shattered by gunfire and he lay in a trench, close to death, for 13 hours. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre and in 1916 King George V reinstated him to his old rank in the Warwickshires, granting him pension rights since he was too badly wounded to fight again. It is unclear whether this affected Mainwaring’s position but there was no official announcement of a change in his status. He lived out retirement quietly at Blackboys in Sussex, serving on village sports organisations and enjoying a reputation as a raconteur and cardplayer”
Regarding the manufacturer, Andrew Ross was born in 1798. His Father John was a staymaker based in Fleet Street but given the proliferation of top flight scientific instrument makers surrounding him during his upbringing, it is perhaps unsurprising that he graduated towards the industry and was apprenticed in 1813 to the London maker John Corless for the obligatory seven year period. As an interesting aside Corless had business associations with a Michael Dancer who was a relation to the latterly famous maker John Benjamin Dancer, both he and Ross were later to make their respective names in the field of microscopy.
Ross left Corless in 1820 and spent three years working for a mechanical engineer before taking up a position with the famous firm of W&T Gilbert. He eventually set up his business from 5 Albermarle St in Clerkenwell in 1830. Often considered a “jobbing” lens maker (albeit a very adept one) until the latter part of the decade, the Transactions of The Society of Arts would suggest differently whereupon in 1831 he was awarded The Golden Isis medal for his dividing engine. Perhaps unsurprising given his experience under the Gilbert business. He is also known to have made his first signed microscope in 1832 for the botanist, W. Valentine, the same design being presented again to the Society of Art in 1832.
The developments in microscopy were trail blazed during this period by Ross, Hugh Powell (of Powell & Lealand) and Joseph Smith (ex Tulley and later of Smith & Beck or Smith, Beck & Beck) and Ross’s skills as a philosophical instrument maker are largely overlooked in preference to his involvement in this discipline. Instruments with Ross’s early address are also seldom seen but were certainly manufactured as it is unlikely that he would have survived on the sale of microscopes alone.
In 1839, Ross moved to a new address at 33 Regent’s Circus and the business was renamed shortly after to Andrew Ross & Co owing to his involvement with the wine merchant and amateur scientist , Joseph Jackson Lister who designed lenses to cancel out chromatic aberration in microscope lenses just as the Dollond’s had done in the Eighteenth Century for telescopes. In 1841, Ross also received another award from The Society of Arts for his invention of the Sphereometer.
The relationship with Lister lasted only until 1842 whereupon Ross moved to 21 Featherstone Buildings in Holborn and continued (under his own name again) to develop improvements in microscopes whilst also maintaining a reasonable trade across all scientific disciplines.
By 1847, the company had moved to 2 Featherstone Buildings and it was from this address that Ross presented his microscopes at The Great Exhibition of 1851 subsequently winning the Gold prize. In the same year he also employed JH Dallmeyer, an equally adept optician who eventually married Ross’s daughter. Dallymeyer was to dominate the Ross business in regards to astronomy during the 1850’s whilst Ross’s son Thomas took control of the fledgling photographic arm.
Upon Ross’s death in 1859, the business was separated in a two thirds versus one third share in favour of Thomas and they subsequently parted company although Ross demanded in his will that the two should remain partners for at least twelve months following his passing.
Thomas Ross continued the business for a further ten years until his death in 1870 whereafter the business was left to his widow. Within two years, Mary Ann Ross is listed as marrying a John Stuart and together they continued to run a successful business and win awards for their optical developments under the new moniker of Ross & Co. The company was incorporated in 1897 and went on to acquire a Royal Warrant in 1911, it also provided instruments to the British military throughout both World Wars. It continued until an eventual merger in 1948 with Barnet Ensign. The newly formed Ross Ensign was itself consumed in 1969 by Ayling Industries Group.