14 June 2001
THE PROPERTY OF
THE LATE JOHN BLACKWELL, ESQ.
SOLD BY ORDER OF THE EXECUTORS
A GEORGE II BRASS-MOUNTED BURR-WALNUT AND WALNUT BAROMETER, HYGROMETER AND THERMOMETER
The thermometer by Rice Williams, London
The case in the form of a longcase clock with ogee moulded base to the trunk with glazed rectangular door set with alcohol thermometer against a printed paper ground signed 'Rice Williams Londini Fecit' at the top, the scales from 'Extra hot' to 'Extra cold' read against a sliding hinged index finger, concave throat moulding to the hood with giltmetal-caped three-quarter-columns supporting the inverted bell top with foliate pierced-wood blind fret-frieze and surmounted by a giltmetal ball finial, the acanthus-engraved arched dial, possibly replaced, having a matted centre and applied with a silvered barometer ring engraved with the weather variants, the pierced blued-steel counter-poised 'minute' hand indicating the barometric change, the smaller pierced blued 'hour' hand for recording the previous reading. Indian-mask-and-foliate spandrels, the arch with silvered hygrometer ring flanked by dolphin spandrels and with matted centre, pierced blued-steel recording hand (lacking hygrometer hand); some restoration
64 in. (162.5 cm.) high; 12¾ in. (32.5 cm.) wide; 6½ in. (16.5 cm.) deep
Percival D. Griffiths, Esq,. F.S.A.
Geoffrey Blackwell, Esq,. O.B.E. (1884-1943) and by descent.
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R. W. Symonds, Masterpieces of English Furniture and Clocks, London, 1940, p. 167, fig. 130
N. Goodison, English Barometers and their Makers 1680-1860, London, 1969, p. 377.
Wheel barometeres were a comparatively novel form of recording the weather in this period, hitherto the more common form was that of the stick or angle barometer. The most obvious feature of this barometer is its resemblance to a longcase clock. John Hallifax of Barnsley, 1694-1750, was the most famous exponent of this type of barometer, however the maker of this barometer took the idea that much further creating a more impressive and refined version. Instead of the recording hand in the centre of the trunk, as on a Hallifax barometer, they transferred it to the main dial thus cleverly simulating the minute hand, and by employing a hygrometer in the arch simulated the strike/silent or date ring in a longcase clock. To carry the idea that much further the maker has used a trunk door with a hinged back and glazed front to display Rice Williams' thermometer. Similarly the hood which is screwed down on a Hallifax barometer but hinged on the present barometer like that of a longcase clock so that the recording hand may be moved.
Very little is known about Rice Williams. The only record of his business is the trade-card from the Heal Collection in the British Museum (B.M. 85) which portrays him to be a general manufacturer of opthalmic and scientific instruments.
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