Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Negretti and Zambra

From Graces Guide
January 1888.
June 1890.
July 1890.
November 1890.


June 1893.
September 1893.
October 1893.
March 1896.
1898. McLeod Telescope
August 1898.
October 1903.
March c1920s. The Pilot Telescope. No 1432. (Auckland New Zealand).
1929. Photographic Temperature Recorder.
1929.Photographic Temperature Recorder.
1933. Temperature Controller and Recording Thermometer.
1942. Quick reading potentiometer.
1942. Transformer temperature controller.
1955. Vane Anemometer.[1]
1966. Barometer.

of 38 Holborn Viaduct, London, EC (1914)

of 5 Leadenhall St, E.C.3. (1921)

Factory: Half Moon Works. Barnsbury, N1 (1921)

of 122 Regent Street, London, W1. Telephone: Regent 3406. Cables: "Negretti, Piccy, London". (1921)

The firm Negretti and Zambra was a photographic studio and producer/factor of optical and scientific instruments, based in London.

See also -

1850 Company founded. Henry Negretti and Joseph Warren Zambra formed a partnership; the firm would eventually be appointed optical instrument makers to Prince Albert, the Royal Observatory and the British Admiralty[2]

The Company later gained patents to improve on the design and construction of its instruments, and in 1851 gained a patent to make thermometers.

1851 The partners were the only English instrument makers to receive a prize medal for meteorological instruments at the 1851 Great Exhibition. They were appointed instrument makers to the Queen, Greenwich Observatory, and the British Meteorological Society

1853 When the Crystal Palace was re-erected in Sydenham, Negretti and Zambra became the official photographers of the Crystal Palace Company, which allowed them to photograph the interior and grounds of the new building. The firm made use of this access to produce a number of stereographs.

Between 1855 and 1857 Negretti and Zambra commissioned photographer Pierre Rossier to travel to China to document the Second Opium War. Although Rossier subsequently was unable to accompany to Anglo-French forces in that campaign, he nevertheless produced a number of stereographs and other photographs of China, Japan, the Philippines and Siam (now Thailand), which Negretti and Zambra published and that represented the first commercial photographs of those countries.

1856 Negretti and Zambra sponsored a photographic expedition to Egypt, Nubia and Ethiopia conducted by Francis Frith.

More than 500 stereographs of Frith's voyage were produced by the firm between 1857 and 1860.

Their patents included the process of enamelling the back of thermometer tubes, a feature which at the time they did not consider important, but which quickly became standard practice.

1857 they made a pressure-resistant deep-sea thermometer for Admiral Fitzroy

1859 The firm's 1859 catalogue described 2134 items and instruments and this range doubled a few years later.

1859 Moved to a larger workshop at 1 Hatton Garden

1863 They carried out improvements at Fitzroy's suggestion to make mercurial barometers withstand the concussion of naval guns.

1863 Henry Negretti took the first aerial photographs of London from a balloon.

1864 Negretti and Zambra (themselves) photographed Shakespeare's House, Stratford-on-Avon. A sepia photograph was then pasted onto card 4" × 2.5". This was then presented to visitors to the Crystal Palace to enable them to compare it with the model erected by Mr E. T. Parr in the Centre Transept. The card itself is headed "Crystal Palace April 23rd 1864." That year they also published a book, titled A Treatise on Meteorological Instruments, (which was reprinted in 1995).

1867 Moved to 103 Hatton Garden

1869 Moved to 38 Holborn Viaduct, as well as premises in Cornhill and Regent Street.

c.1880 London agents for Bourdon's pressure gauges, Ritchie and Sons patent liquid compasses and Steinheil's patent photographic lenses and prisms.

1892 Dissolution of the Partnership between Joseph Warren Zambra, Henry Paul Joseph Negretti, and Joseph Caesar Zambra, carrying on business as Merchants, at 11, Holborn-circus, London, and as Opticians and Optical and Scientific Instrument Makers, at 11, Holborn-circus and 45, Cornhill, London, at 122, Regent-street, Middlesex, and at the Crystal Palace, Sydenham, Kent, and elsewhere, under the style or firm of Negretti and Zambra, so far as regards Joseph Warren Zambra.[3]

1908 Catalogue included various types of thermometer, barometer, binoculars, microscopes, ships compasses, mathematical instruments.

1910 Exhibited at the Physical Society's Exhibition[4]

1914 Opticians and scientific instrument manufacturers; also foreign merchants and shippers. [5]

WWI Almost entirely engaged on production of various instruments for the Ministry of Munitions.

1920 at the request of the Air Ministry produced and patented a mercury-in-steel distance thermometer for taking oil and air temperatures in aircraft, which was the start of diversification into aircraft and industrial instruments.

Similar instruments developed for use in industrial processes, boiler and marine uses.

Other instruments were developed to meet Air Ministry requirements such as boost gauges, transmitting oil pressure gauges and transmitting fuel pressure gauges for use in aircraft.

1921 George Julius Zambra left Negretti and Zambra, a partnership with Henry Noel Negretti, Paul Ernest Negretti and Marcus William Zambra carrying on business as Opticians, at 38, Holborn Viaduct, London[6]

1921 See the Telescopes Catalogue (List No. D. 2.), showing;

  • The Wee Macgregor Telescope
  • The Macleod Telescope
  • The Laird Telescope
  • The Gillie Telescope
  • The Rambler Telescope
  • The Trail Telescope
  • The Army Signalling Telescope
  • The Colonial Telescope
  • The Pioneer Telescope
  • The Army (Mark IV) Telescope
  • The Two Twenty Telescope
  • The Experientia Docet Telescope
  • The Pilot Telescope
  • The Officer of The Watch Telescope
  • The Yachting Telescope
  • The Royal Mail Telescopes
  • The Whaling Telescope
  • The Sealing Telescope
  • The Signal Station Telescope
  • The Coastguard Telescope
  • The Look Out Telescope
  • The Public School Telescope.

c1930s Negretti and Zambra (Environmental) Ltd., of Stocklake, Aylesbury, Bucks - makers of anemometers, anemographs, barometers, barographs, hygrometers, hygrographs, marine instruments, tadiation instruments, rain gauges, recording rain gauges, record cahrts, recording ink, nibs etc., registers, forms, sunshine recorders, thermometers, thermometer screens, thermographs.[7]

1930 Another very important development was the hardened and tempered steel diaphragm for boost control of aero engines. Other instruments were electrical resistance thermometers and thermocouple pyrometers, pressure and draught gauges, also automatic control instruments. At the request of the Air Ministry and several prominent aero engine manufacturers, developed and patented a fuel flow-meter.

1935 Marcus William Zambra retired from the Partnership with Henry Noel Negretti and Paul Ernest Negretti, Scientific Instrument Manufacturers and Export Merchants, at 38, Holborn Viaduct, and 122, Regent Street, and Half Moon Works, Barnsbury, London[8]

1937 Aircraft scientific instruments. [9]

1939 See Aircraft Industry Suppliers

WWII The Government provided a factory at Chesterfield for manufacture of aircraft instruments and boost controls, where 450 people were employed. Meanwhile the works in London were making other essential instruments. The Ministry of Aircraft Production also provided premises at Chobham, Surrey, where other production and research were carried out. The diaphragm boost controls were also manufactured in the U.S.A. under licence.

1946 Private company.

1947 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Industrial, Aeronautical and Meteorological Instruments. (Olympia, Ground Floor, Stand No. A.1076) [10]

1948 Company made public. Paul Ernest Negretti was chairman and managing director.[11]

1950 Negretti and Zambra had 821 employees in Britain.

1961 Manufacturers of industrial, scientific, meteorological and aeronautical instruments and aero-engine controls. 1,200 employees. [12]

1964 In order to increase production and to safeguard future development purchased a modern factory at Aylesbury for all their production.

1981 Losses worsened, especially at Negretti Automation and Sepkarn; Negretti was taken over by a group of financial institutions in the form of Western Scientific Instruments[13]

1985 Negretti was acquired by Meggitt Holdings[14] who wanted to form an aerospace conglomerate.

1992 Meggitt sold Negretti Automation to its directors plus additional investment by a Holding Company Tuncove Ltd. The books show a price of £430,000. Part of the arrangement meant that the company was able to move from its expensive site in Stocklake to two cheaper units in Bicester Road, Aylesbury.

1987 Negretti Aviation won a contract to supply aircrew respirators to the US Marine Corps[15]

1993 Meggitt finally moved all of the old Aviation business to its new premises in Fareham, Hants. Only one employee is transferred, all of the rest are made redundant. Following problems with servicing MOD orders due to the move and the loss of key employees, Meggitt changed the name Negretti Aviation to Meggitt Avionics. Negretti Automation is now the only company left in UK bearing the old name. It now employs approximately 50 people.

Jan 1997 Negretti Automation sold the remnants of the Diesel Engine Indicator and Thermocouple Business to The Brearley Group of Sheffield.

Nov 1997 Negretti Automation sold the MPC and Software Business to two employees who registered a new company: Negretti Systems. Five other employees move over to new company. The load cell part of the Weighing business was sold to Veccer. Also part of the remaining Rubber and Polymer Test Equipment was sold.

1999 Negretti Automation sold the Environmental Monitoring business to the Munro Group of Woodford Green, Essex.

2000 Negretti Automation put into liquidation; the name was changed to Zambra Ltd a few days before liquidation and a new company formed with the same name, Negretti Automation Ltd. The liquidator sold the remnants of the weighing business to Procon Engineering/Defiant for an undisclosed sum.

May 2009 Negretti Systems called in the receiver.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Oxford Junior Encyclopaedia. Volume VIII. Engineering. Oxford University Press, 1955.
  2. Negretti and Zambra [1]
  3. London Gazette 5 April 1892
  4. The Times, Dec 12, 1910
  5. 1914 Whitakers Red Book
  6. London Gazette 24 March 1922
  7. Typed donated document - 'Some Sources of Meteorological Instruments and Equipment' (date unknown but possibly circa 1930s.)
  8. London Gazette 4 October 1935
  9. 1937 The Aeroplane Directory of the Aviation and Allied Industries
  10. 1947 British Industries Fair p198
  11. The Times, Sep 20, 1948
  12. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE
  13. The Times, Jan 30, 1981
  14. The Times, Jul 02, 1985
  15. The Times, March 17, 1987