Archive Services regularly receives enquiries for information about ships’ compasses made by the firms of James White, Kelvin & James White Ltd and Kelvin Bottomley and Baird. These enquiries are generally from people who have acquired a compass as an antique, or from divers who have located one on a shipwreck. They want to know when it was made and what ship it was used on.
The compass books are in the collection of Kelvin & Hughes Ltd (collection ref. UGD33). This company was formed in 1947 following an amalgamation between the scientific instrument manufacturing firms of Henry Hughes & Son Ltd, London, England, and Kelvin Bottomley & Baird Ltd, Glasgow, Scotland.
Within the collection there are the following compass books:
UGD033/5/1 1876-1883 Sir William Thomson’s Patent Compass Book
UGD033/5/2 1883-1893 Sir William Thomson’s Patent Compass Book
UGD033/5/3 1893-1904 Lord Kelvin’s Patent Compass Book
UGD033/5/4 1904-1918 Lord Kelvin’s Patent Compass Book
The compass books only cover the period 1876-1918, serial numbers 1-3474. There are also a few entries for Type DS, model 1914 (serial numbers 101-153, incomplete) and VLE (serial numbers 102-163, incomplete).
The entries consist of :
Serial number, ship name, date, standard, wheelhouse, bowl number, card number, azimuth mirror number, globes, to whom sent out, remarks.
However, the individual ship names are not always given, just the shipbuilder’s name, or that it went to a naval dockyard, such as Portsmouth or Devonport. You would have to consult the records of the relevant shipbuilder or the Admiralty to try and find which ship it was placed in.
There is also a pamphlet, Instructions for the adjustment of the Kelvite Standard Compass (Lord Kelvin’s Patent Compass) –ref no UGD033/6/6.
There are no compass records for Kelvin & Hughes Ltd.
You are welcome to visit our searchroom in order to look at the books yourself, or you can order copies of the original entries from us. For more information please contact us.
Categories: Archive Services (GUAS)
Tags: archive services, compass, Enquiries, GUAS, James White, Kelvin & Hughes Ltd, Kelvin & James White Ltd, Kelvin Bottomley and Baird, Lord Kelvin, Patent compass book, scientific instruments, William Thomson