Presented is a very rare telegraph with a single control
handle mounted on the top with a very large external bell at the rear. We have only seen one other of this design made by
the famous Chadburns Company of Liverpool. It is made from aluminum which was a much more expensive metal, and an unusual
Chadburns at one time accounted for over 75% of the worlds marine telegraph production and is
still in business today making a diversified list of products for the marine industry. It is our opinion, that their earlier
telegraphs had the CHADBURN name which was later Chadburn’s and in 1946 the apostrophe was dropped i.e., Chadburns.
This aluminum enunciator was mounted in the pilot house and rang bells to the
engineroom where a similar telegraph recorded the commands for execution. It has a single black enameled dial with the
standard Ahead and Astern commands AHEAD TO THE RIGHT AND ASTERN TO THE LEFT: STOP, SLOW, HALF, FULL.
Moving the handle clockwise moves the control through the speed range and rings the large external
DIMENSIONS:Height 39 1/2″ plus 4″ for handleDial face outside 12″Dial face inside 10″Depth of instrument head 10″Bell size 12″ which is hugeWeight 48 poundsSerial Number 38427 043 294CONDITION: It bears the marks, and scuffing of having come
off a ship and having seen service at sea, but I can’t find anything to cite as a fault. The bell rings louder than any other
telegraph because of the large externally mounted gong on the back.
1870. London, 01 September 1870 – patent No.2384 applied for, in the names of Chadburn,C.H.
and Chadburn,William. Thus started the business for: telegraphs, mechanical – for use in ships, but also in railway stations,
mines, buildings etc..The joint inventors hailed from Sheffield, Yorkshire, as opticians, with at least 50 years experience!
1875. The first vessel fitted with their Telegraph appears to be SS IONA III, built in
1884. By this year, 3000 installations had been made.
1898. CHADBURN (SHIP) TELEGRAPH CO. LTD was formed and the pedestal telegraph was
by now well established. It included vertical levers and scales for Bridge use, with a reply telegraph in the Engine room,
but also steering and docking telegraphs.
1900. 6000 commercial and 850 naval vessels (400 in the Royal Navy) had been fitted, The cumulative
record of 90,000 installations was publicized in the mid-1930s, to coincide with the launching of ocean passenger liners such
1903. A large four storey factory was acquired in Bootle, a harbour town just north of Liverpool,
and a non-ferrous foundry was built nearby. Innovations such as: steam whistles, engine revolution counters and rudder angle
indicators were also designed and registered. The company sales areas now included the Americas, Russia and the Far East
(mainly the Japanese navy). Famous liners, i.e.”Mauretania” and “Lusitania”, used Chadburn instruments.
1920. Electric telegraphs, steam whistles and fog bells were developed to meet demand from new
motor ships – by now competition was discernable, but Chadburn still held a 75% monopoly worldwide. The company also made
oil separators and milling machines. Searchlight controls also proved a success. William’s son, Roy Chadburn took over
the helm as M.D. as World War I ended and he was the instigator of these two product lines; he left to start up a sister company
in Canada eight years late.
1930. With a workforce in excess of 450 the company was still family controlled
1941. A traumatic year, due to enemy action over Merseyside. The expansion, with 24 hour working
at Chadburns, came to a sudden halt when the factory was bombed in the final night of the week long air raid on 07 May. All
records, tooling and stock were destroyed. Drawings had to be re-couped from customers, including the Admiralty. Fortunately,
all the employees survived
1946. Production had been scattered in a number of small premises for five years. now
was consolidated in their 5 acres/2 hectare single storey plant at Park Lane, Bootle. To offset changes in demand from marine
to land-based industries, the Company also built cranes and made rod gearing etc.. The name was soon to be changed to CHADBURNS
Post-war the ‘Synchrostep’ telegraph/rudder position trademarks were now registered. Bridge
control for the engine room could now be foreseen. The Company acquired a competitor,Mechans Telegraphs of Glasgow, and re-organized
the branch network in the UK. As the post-war boom continued there were more than 100,000 installations of their mechanical
1968. The well-known aircraft and boat controls maker, Bloctube of Aylesbury UK, was acquired
and relocated to the main factory and HQ. Soon afterwards the other local telegraph engineers A.Robinson & Co. joined
the Group. The marketing company was now named CHADBURN BLOCTUBE LTD.,and remained under this name for the next 20 years.
There was a third Liverpool manufacturer, J.W. Ray’s telegraphs,well respected even though their telegraphs were fitted to
the ill-fated “Titanic”, and her two sister ships.
1980-1988. During the shipbuilding crisis in the UK and EU the Company inevitably suffered a
decline, and the last director/chairman, Denby Chadburn Bamford, retired in 1983. Bloctube was spun off from its plc owner.
The Company moved to Leeds, where an instrument company led by a Swedish businessman incorporated the marine division
under one roof, in a modern, high-tech factory. Appropriately, the firm was named BLOCTUBE MARINE LIMITED, as successors to
Chadburn Marine Development.
In 2006 the business is still making telegraph systems and electronic instruments, sold predominantly
for export. It is directed by Yorkshire people – the company has returned to the roots it first started and flourished in
Courtesy of Chadburns Ship Telegraph Society