Rose engine lathe
Rose engine lathe, Lord Macclesfield, about 1740
The provenance of this machine is interesting but obscure. It is a rose engine lathe, able to cut shapes using a set of ‘rosettes’ with different profiles, cut screw threads, and carry out turning using the cross slide rest which can move axially and radially in dovetailed guides, which was becoming a standard feature of lathe design. It may also been altered during its working life, with a relatively crude flywheel at odds with the higher standard of construction seen in the rest of the machine, having an expanded rim (perhaps to be able to cut heavier material), and was designed to be clamped to a flat bench or table rather than having an integral bed. A date of 1740 is suggested for the lathe, and it is stated that the owner was ‘Lord Macclesfield’, which research suggests may have been George Parker, 2nd Earl of Macclesfield (c1695-1764), of Shirburn Castle, Oxfordshire. Macclesfield was known for being a man of science, a one-time President of the Royal Society, who built an observatory and laboratory at Shirburn. Turning was considered an appropriate hobby for the gentry, and items in several collection show Macclesfield with scientific instruments, and even two of his experimental assistants, Thomas Phelps and John Bartlett. It is possible, but not certain, that this machine was Macclesfield’s, and it is interesting to note that the donor to the museum was not very far from Shirburn.