Short Brothers balloon height recorder, £2600 at Chiswick Auctions.

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Horace, Eustace and Oswald set up the world’s first aeroplane factory at Shellbeach on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent in 1909. They began production with a licence from the Wright Brothers to build six Wright ‘Flyers’ and their own Short No 2 aeroplane.

However, the instrument sold at Chiswick Auctions (25% buyer’s premium) on January 24 was even earlier, from c.1907. It was made in limited numbers (this number 168) to record the maximum height obtained by the balloons which the Short brothers manufactured and sold in their early days as aeronautical engineers.

The dial is marked MAXIMUM HEIGHT RECORDER, SHORT BROTHERS, Aeronautical Engineers, LONDON & SHEPPEY, 168, COMPENSATED, measured to 1200ft. It comes in a steel case with bevelled glass. Estimated at £400-600, it sold for £2600.

After abandoning balloon manufacture Short Brothers was eventually associated with more than 120 different types of aeroplane, particularly flying boats in the interwar years.

It manufactured war planes in both world wars – for example, versions of the Stirling Second World War bomber and later Canberra bombers.