Brass mining theodolite by William Wilton – £1950 at Adam Partridge.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The 19th century instrument maker and retailer William Wilton of St Day, Cornwall, specialised in surveying products for the local mining industry.

This brass mining theodolite on stand above, engraved to the base and dial with the maker’s name and place, is a type associated with two Quakers, and friends, Robert Were Fox and Joel Lean (a Cornish mine captain). A rare instrument, it sold for £1950 at Adam Partridge (20% buyer’s premium inc VAT) in Liverpool on January 6.

Bird telescope


Gregorian brass telescope by John Bird – £3800 at Gildings.

Gildings (24% buyer’s premium inc VAT) in Market Harborough sold a mid-18th century Gregorian brass telescope and stand for £3800 (estimate £400-600) in an online-only auction that closed on January 5.

The telescope was made by John Bird, a highly regarded instrument maker who was active in his workshops in London’s The Strand between 1745 until his death in 1776. He mainly produced large-scale instruments, notably including an 8ft quadrant at The Royal Observatory, Greenwich, making this smaller ‘desktop’ example a rarity.

Bird’s trade label appears to the fitted mahogany box and the instrument itself is signed J Bird. However, it may be that the instrument was sourced from another maker rather than fashioned in Bird’s workshops.

It had been bought as a gift in the mid-20th century for the vendor’s brother-in-law, whose parents both worked at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington in the early 1900s.