An attractive and very substantial ormolu and silver plate brass novelty desk barometer modelled in the form of a military timpano or kettledrum by George Betjemann & Sons, London.
Novelty desk barometer with 4¼” engraved and silvered dial, the upper portion with barometric scale calibrated 28-31 inches of mercury, annotated 'Stormy,' 'Rain,' 'Change,' 'Fair' and 'Very Dry,' the lower portion with semi-circular mercurial thermometer set against a Fahrenheit scale with a range from 20 to 150 degrees. Blued-steel pointer, gilt brass telltale, substantial glass with curved circumference. Heavy, cast and decoratively-engraved bezel complemented with two timpani mallets and three tension rods, the bowl hung with twisted brass and plated rods emulating tensioning ropes, and stated with registration diamond for “George Betjemann & Sons, 24 April 1873.” First quality 2½” capsule-driven movement contained within an inner drum-form case. The whole supported upon a tripod stand set upon a raised circular base with faux rope work surround, the verso faced with original red velvet.
Very rarely encountered, this is an impressive piece with wonderful aesthetics, retaining a good proportion of original finish. Some areas of patination. Carefully conserved, retaining and revealing wonderful contrast in surface colour and texture. Bearing in mind this desk barometer is almost 140 years old, it has survived in remarkably good condition.
The majority of novelty instruments are French-made: this is a London-made piece by one of the finest cabinet makers of the time. Fitted with a first quality movement that is almost certainly the work of Thomas Ross, it has stepless transition, and is achieving an accuracy of 100ths of an inch in the range 29-30 inches , a significant result, given its age. Fully serviced and calibrated, all the above attributes make this novelty desk barometer a very special item.
George Betjemann & Sons was a London-based cabinet maker founded in 1851 by George Betjemann, and based at 36-40 Pentonville Road. It became George Betjemann & Sons in 1858 when his two sons, George William and John (grandfather of the Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman) joined the firm, and displayed their work at the International Exhibition of 1862 and also at the Paris International Exposition in 1867. The firm continued with various generations of Betjemann sons, converting into a limited company in 1909 until 1939 when it was sold.
George Betjemann & Sons produced a limited number of these timpani or kettledrum desk barometers, some of a smaller size, as well as matching clocks.
Thomas Ross (1817-1880), only son and successor to Andrew Ross, is recorded in Banfield, Edwin, Barometer Makers and Retailers, 1660-1900 as working in London from 1860-1872. Both Andrew and Thomas won gold medals at the Great Exhibitions and Ross barometers are noted for their high quality.