History of Davis Derby





John Davis visits Derby for the first time staying for a few weeks. He opened a shop in Rotten Row


John Davis visits Derby again, his advertisement in the Derby mercury mentions Microscopes, Telescopes, Barometers, Camera Lucidas, Drawing Instruments and Surveying Instruments. On this visit he was based in Irongate opposite the old National West Bank.

1835 to


On another visit to Derby, in an advertisement, John makes mention of Surveying Levels, Theodolites and Sextants

1837 to 1843

More visits follow but these are not well documented. On at least one visit he was based at 3 St Mary’s Gate.


John opened a shop in Cheltenmam and married Emelia. It is believed that John’s Father also lived in Cheltenham.


John Davis closed his Cheltenham shop and relocated to Derby on a permanent basis, he took the premises known as Haslam House at 21, Irongate.


Benjamin Biram visited John Davis who explained he had invented an instrument to measure air flow called an Anemometer.


John Davis announced in the Derby Mercury that he would be making Biram’s Patent Anemometer.


In the 1840’s it is also documented that the company manufactured Davy, Clanny and the Upton Miner’s Safety Lamp.


There is also reference to the Dumpy Levels and Steam Engine Vacuum Gauges.


John received a visit from John Hedley, an Inspector of Mines who suggested to John a new type of Miner’s Dial with a swinging limb. Versions of the Hedley dial were produced until the late 1950’s.


There is a surviving price list of 1860 which covers medical instruments.


John Davis died aged 63, his son Henry took over the business retaining the name John Davis and Son.


A stock take in the year revealed three categories; Mining Optical and Mathematical Instruments.

Mention is made of Theodolites, Anemometers, Steam Pressure gauges, Spectacles, Opera Glasses and Telescopes. Home entertainment products included Magic lanterns and Kaleidoscopes.


The list also includes electric bells and medical implements.


The business was relocated from 21, Irongate to Amen Alley to provide more space.




There is some evidence that a telescope was added to the Hedley Dial.


The catalogue refers to the Davis Improved Hedley Dial, 17 types of Theodolite, Miners Dials, Aneroid Barometers, a Pocket Aneroid Barometer, a new Clinometer and Biram’s Patent Anemometer. The catalogue also includes Pedometers, various Thermometers, Miners Lamps of the Davy, Clanny and Stevenson type. Pit Barometers are also included.


Detonators and Fuses were also included in the product range at this time.


Turret Clocks and Fire, Thief and Burgular Alarms, Dynamo Electric Apparatus for factory and mine lighting systems are also included.


A lighting system was installed by an unknown supplier at Stanton Iron Works.


Davis Derby supplied a system of Electric Bells was supplied to Derby Free Library.


Modified Hedley Dial introduced with vertical arc replaced with external 1¾" diameter dial.


Lighting systems were installed in the Earnock and Pleasley Collieries by unknown suppliers.


Davis Derby supplied it’s first lighting system at the Mill Close lead mine in Darley Dale.


Davis Derby supplied electric power to local shops and offices.


The Federated Institution of Mining Engineers visited the company on 22nd of February 1893 followed by the Special Commissioner of the Mining Journal on the 25th February 1893. A published document records both visits. “Visit of The Federated Institution of Mining Engineers” and “An Hour at All Saints Works”.


Various products are described in the visit reports:

Improved Hedley Dial, Miner’s Dials, Dumpy Levels, Theodolites, Anemometers, Self Timing Anemometers, Self Recording Barometers, Clinometers, Mine Surveying Aneroids, Telephones, Bells and Naval and Mining Signalling Apparatus.


Miner’s Lamps included the Bonneted Clanny, the Mueseler the Marsaut and Ashworth’s patented Hepplewhite-Gray. In addition to the Deputies Fire-Triers Lamp, a Shot Firers lamp and Wolstenholm’s Safety Lamp Cleaning Machine was also seen and described.


The Davis-Stokes safety electric motor for gassy mines was also seen in addition to Night Watchmans Time Checking Apparatus.


During this period Davis Derby were the UK agents for Jeffery Coal Cutting Machines. The product range also included colliery endless rope haulage systems.


A note book records that the company produced 4600 miners lamps in 1889, rising to 8467 in 1901


Herbert Davis, Henry’s Brother travelled to the US to set up a US Agency operating out of Baltimore. The company also had Agencies in Johannesburg, Natal, Canada and Australia.


Henry travelled round  the World representing the  local Chamber of Commerce, in particular visiting Australia, during the voyage he met and married a Miss Marion Campbell Bowen.


Henry resigned his position shortly after his return at the age of 58, appointing his son Wilfrid as Managing Director in his place.


In the US Herbert resigned his position and formed his own business in Baltimore.


Davis Derby appointed J F McCall in New York as Agent for the company.


Davis Derby opened a Slide Rule Manufacturing plant, having previously sold German and Japanese products.


Wilfid patented the Davis Sun Lamp and the Edison-Davis lamp which included an Edison accumalator.


Henry Davis died.