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The fine art of prediction; Under the Hammer.

Byline: by John Crane of Cato Crane Auctioneers

AT ONE time there was always a barometer in the vestibule. These days there is more likely to be a barometer in the hall.

There was one in the outhouse and, as a child, I never quite understood why my mother would tap on the glass of this rather strange looking 'clock' whenever she walked past it!

Well, barometers, in all shapes, forms and sizes, are collectable and range in value from a few pounds to a thousand or more.

There are lots of different kinds and many makers, and you should not be surprised to learn that some of the more notable ones are from Liverpool!

Barometers came about in the mid- 17th century when Evangelista Torricelli discovered that mercury held in a vacuum would rise and fall according to the changes in atmospheric pressure. By the end of the century this discovery was being used to predict the weather, in the form of a stick known as 'Torricelli's tube'.

Nearly two centuries later, scientists discovered a way of measuring pressure without the use of mercury and the Aneroid barometer came into being. This was far more portable and is widely used today.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries the manufacture of barometers and other scientific instruments, especially for instruments for use in the shipping industry, boomed in both Liverpool and Manchester - there were mercury wheel barometers, stick barometers and Fortin barometers.

Fortin barometers, commonly referred to as marine barometers, are interesting as the design allows the mercury to measure accurately despite constant movement. Then there were, and are, round aneroids, banjo round aneroids, pocket aneroids, altimeters and desk barometers.

Round aneroids and banjo aneroids are the ones that most of us have on our walls. Some of them are in carved frames - the so-called 'teardrop' barometers, with more elaborate carving and finials to top and bottom, are particularly attractive.

Well-known Liverpool makers' names to look out for are Lewis Casartelli, Simpson and Roberts, A. Abrahams and Co and Chadburns. Chadburns of Liverpool was renowned for its brass pedestal telegraphs and took out many patents as it developed and refined designs.

The faithful hall barometer may no longer respond to the tap on the glass, but there is a lot of history behind these instruments. They are, more often than not, saleable - why not check yours for a maker's name?
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Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 6, 2006
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