Matthias Wisker & The Golden Spectacles

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Receipt for 12 Gallons Best Sperm Oil for Mr Foulis of West Heslerton, with letter heading. Mathias Wisker, 13 Spurriergate, York. optical &c. 1857. Signed by Jno Wisker. Science Museum Group

250 years ago, our 5th Great Grandfather, Matthias WISKER (1742-1829), purchased a glass grinding and scientific instrument manufacturer in Spurriergate, York. The retail business was called The Golden Spectacles! It passed to the eldest Wisker son for four generations of the family, each son qualifying as an optician.

Spurriergate is built on top of a Roman road aligned with Coney Street, Nessgate, and Castlegate. Originally called Little Coney Street, the name Spurriergate was applied in the middle ages when the street became renowned for its spur makers, Spurriers. Prior to 1770 the street will have resembled the Shambles or Finkle Street, with overhanging medieval buildings, but they were demolished to double the width of the street and make way for a Georgian Terrace with shops on the ground floor and tenements above and behind. The Golden Spectacles was relocated, along with the Wisker family, to this new property which was sufficient in size to allow the rental of the rooms, or suites of rooms, to lodgers.

During this Georgian period, Castlegate became one of the city’s most fashionable residential streets and many of the surviving houses and facades date to this period. Similarly Coney street became the fashionable shopping hub of York, with businesses designing and creating clothes for the nobility, many of whom came to York for the popular horse races. The Golden Spectacles was perfectly situated between the two neighborhoods.

The Medieval City of York still persisted in C18th. Ouse Bridge, York, Antique Print 1784, Samuel Hooper (1735-1809) 1stDibs.com
Golden Spectacles aka Wisker’s, 13 Spurriergate, York, 1852. InteractiveMaps.uk

1st Generation: Matthias WISKER (1742-1829) & Elizabeth JACKSON (1750-1811)

Matthias WISKER apprenticed with York Glass Grinder, George Cowley, becoming a freeman in 1774. Precisely 250 years ago, it was a year of milestones. Typically, an apprentice could not marry, so becoming a freeman allowed Matthias to marry Elizabeth JACKSON. Also Matthias purchased the business of the late Mr Berry, The Golden Spectacles, and relocated it to 13 Spurriergate.

Matthias is listed with an occupation of Glass-Grinder in multiple baptism records of St Michael’s Church, Spurriergate, (across the street from their home and business) for the couple’s eleven children, seven of whom reach adulthood.

Freeman, a member or an apprentice who has been granted freedom of the company, or is a rank within livery companies

Wikipedia.org

As a glass-grinder Matthias would manufacturer optics/lenses for a range of scientific instruments. In addition to spectacles and medical instruments the business produced and sold reflecting and refracting telescopes, single and compound microscopes, and various scientific devices.

We must assume Matthias purchased the business with a hand driven grinding machine similar in principle to that of a potter’s wheel. A large flywheel is driven by a hand-operated crank, with a leather drive belt transmitting the rotation to a small wheel, thus multiplying the speed. As technology advanced the business acquired a stationary steam engine to power their workshop and tools.

Here are three of Matthias’ barometers which recently sold at auction.

Barometer Descriptions
  1. 18th century mahogany stick barometer. The silvered brass scale is calibrated from 27″ to 31″ and features a sliding vernier with a brass knob and pointer. The dial is also engraved with weather indications ranging from Very Dry to Stormy. The mahogany case has an exposed mercury tube, veneered either side with herringbone mahogany veneer. The mahogany cistern cover is unusually inlaid with ebony and satinwood. The pediment is typical of the period with a moulded architectural top and central brass finial. British Antique Clocks
  2. Late 18th Century Mahogany Stick Barometer. Broken architectural cornice centred by a brass urn finial over a waisted trunk with moulded edge outlined in boxwood and ebony herringbone inlay, terminating in a hemispherical cistern cover, set with a mercury thermometer with engraved silvered scale, the signed silvered main scale with visible upper glass section and manually adjusted vernier 1.01m (40in) high. Bonhams
  3. Georgian mahogany Stick Barometer circa 1780. The ‘break-arch’ pediment over engraved silvered brass register plate signed by the maker and bearing manually operated vernier slide. The trunk, of book-matched herringbone mahogany veneer, edge-moulded and with exposed cistern tube terminating behind hemispherical cover. BADA

2nd Generation: John Wisker (1774-1822) & Elizabeth Rigg (1777-1854)

John Wisker, Matthias’ eldest son, trained as an optician and started work in the family business in the late 1790’s. Matthias retired to Huntington and became a gentleman farmer in 1804, leaving John in charge.

The business expanded to sell lamps, oils, and wax candles. The first major change in candle-making since the Middle Ages occurred when spermaceti, a wax obtained by crystallizing sperm whale oil, became available in quantity. The spermaceti wax did not elicit a repugnant odor when burned, and produced a significantly brighter light. These more expensive candles were bright enough to allow better use of the microscope by candle light.

In addition John signed exclusive retail agreements for measuring instruments such as a patented hydrometer for proving the strength of spiritous liquors. In order to promote the expanding retail inventory John began advertising in the local newspapers, York Herald & Yorkshire Gazette.

The spermaceti wax candle light is concentrated by a bullseye condenser onto a mirror which reflects the light up through the specimen, Pritchard Engiscope, Microscope-Antiques

John became a respected member the York business community, serving on the grand jury of the County Assizes. His shop also served as a launching point for the Sheriffs Riding, an antiquated tradition for the Sheriffs, Lord Mayor, and Military Bands, along with prominent members of York society, to parade through the ancient city of York, shortly after Martinmas.

From eleven till twelve on Wednesday, the friends of the Sheriff assembled at Mr [John] Wisker’s in Spurriergate, where they partook of a cold collation and burnt wine. Colonel Sherlock, the Commander of the 4th Royals, now station in the Barracks, near this city, politely offered the Band of the Regiment; part of which accepted. About twelve o’clock the procession moved from Mr [John] Wisker’s in the following order:–part of the band of the 4th Royals; next the City Waits in their scarlet uniform, one of them wearing a tattered rag cap, a badge (says Drake) of so great antiquity that the rise or origin of it cannot be found out; then the Sheriffs, dressed in black gowns, with each a wand of office and a servant to lead his horse, with another carrying a golden truncheon, festooned with orange ribbons…

SHERIFFS RIDING, Yorkshire Gazette, 27 Nov 1819

Barometers appear to be the primary scientific instrument remaining from the Golden Spectacles and these four John Wisker models recently sold in salesrooms and auctions.

Barometer Descriptions
  1. George III mahogany mercury stick barometer with hygrometer Wisker, York, circa 1800 The ebony banded case with swan-neck pediment and cavetto cornice above inset silvered Vernier scale calibrated in barometric inches and with the usual observations beneath signature Wisker, York to upper margin set behind flush-fronted glazed door, the trunk with hygrometer over conforming inset silvered Fahrenheit scale mercury tube thermometer with decorative border to the bulb aperture and leaf crest to upper margin behind flush glazed cover, the rounded base with circular moulded domed cistern cover, (part dis-assembled), 96cm (37.75ins) high. Provenance: Private collection Hampshire (B163). The Saleroom
  2. A good 19th century mahogany bow-fronted stick barometer and thermometer by John Wisker, York. 99cm (3ft 3in) high. The Saleroom
  3. An early 19th century mahogany stick barometer, J Wisker, York. Broken swan neck pediment centred by a cast brass pineapple finial over a hinged door, slim trunk set with hygrometer, thermometer and turned cistern cover, the signed silvered dial with manual vernier and 27 to 31 inch scale 99cm (3ft 3in) high. Bonhams.com
  4. An early 19th century feather banded mahogany stick barometer signed J.Wisker, York. The broken architectural pediment centred by a turned brass ball finial over an opening glazed hood door and visible tube terminating in a turned hemispherical cistern cover, the signed silvered scale with manual vernier reading against seven weather predictions, 97cms (3ft 2in) high. Bonhams.com

After his untimely death at 48 years of age, “much and deservedly respected, and severely lamented”, John’s widow stepped up to run the business with support from their son Matthias. Advertising in both the Yorkshire Gazette & York Herald, Elizabeth reached out to thank her customers and also notes rooms are available to rent:

E. WISKER, Optician, Spurriergate. In returning thanks to her friends, for that liberal support she has received since the death of her husband, begs leave to state, that in addition to a large and valuable stock of mathematical instruments, spectacles, telescopes, opera glasses, barometers, thermometers, passage, drawing room, and other lamps, &c.; she has purchased a large quantity of the finest genuine sperm and seal oils, wax and sperm candles, which she is enabled to sell considerably lower than in former years.
N.B. Genteel furnished Lodgings, comprising every convenience, distinct from the family, including drawing and dining room, with six lodging rooms. York Oct, 16th, 1824.

16 Oct 1824 Yorkshire Gazette & York Herald

3rd Generation: Matthias Wisker (1802-1859)

Working alongside his mother from 1822, Matthias eventually took over in 1827. Expanding upon his father’s lamp business, Matthias offered lamp rentals, catering to grand balls, dinners, and large parties where dozen of lamps were required to illuminate the expansive ballrooms. These annual social occasions would be listed in the local newspapers where notable guests were lauded before the article would credit the caterer, decorator, and illuminator.

There was the Bramham Hunt Ball, Harewood Hunt Ball, Blue Tea-Parties and Balls, Yorkshire Agricultural Show Public Dinner, 1st Dragoon Guards and 7th Hussars Officer’s Ball, The Eighth Hussars Grand Ball, Heir of Nun-Appleton Celebrations, to name but a few!

THE MISSES CROMPTON’S GRAND BALL.–A splendid ball was given by these ladies, on Tuesday evening last, at their residence, in Micklegate, in this city, to the Officers of the Yorkshire Hussars and those of the the Tenth Hussars, together with the most of the distinguished families in the vicinity… and the ball-room was brilliantly light under the superintendence of Mr [Matthias] Wisker…

York Herald & Yorkshire Herald, 8 Oct 1836

Further diversification including taking contracts with the city to supply oil to the Police and acquiring a share in the MIDDLESBRO’ STEAM TUG Company.

Matthias continued to serve the Castlegate Parish as a Church Warden, sit on the Grand Jury for the City Assizes Court and, as a well known business man of York, would always appear on the donation lists for church repairs, victims of disasters, international aid, etc.

In the late 1840’s Wisker’s started offering Magic Lanterns, an early form of projector, for sales and rental. The invention of Argand Lamps, also sold by Matthias, had provided sufficient light to power the Magic Lantern Projectors. In one reported instance, Matthias partnered with a local astronomer who presented a lecture in the Merchant Adventurer’s Hall in Fossgate. The lecture on the wonders of the heavens was illustrated by a number beautiful astronomical diagrams in motion… his clever dioramic illustrations.

Barometers remained popular items and three Matthias Wisker’s examples recently sold in auction:

Modern Magic Lanterns and their Management, R. Child Bayley, Second edition, c. 1890s. Luikerwaal.com
Barometer Descriptions
  1. English barometer of mahogany wood with ebony threads signed Wisker York from the early 19th century, complete with reading vernier for checking the variation in pressure, large mercury thermometer and hygrometer. Height 103 cm (40.55 inches), width 12.5 cm (4.9 inches), depth/thickness 8 cm (3.14 inches). Excellent condition, fully functional. Antik.it
  2. Antique mahogany stick barometer, M Wisker, York circa 1830. eBay.co.uk
  3. Early 19th Century Walnut Stick Barometer By M Wisker Of York with ivorine registers and a mercury thermometer. Walnut, 36.5 inch high, 4 inch wide, & 2.75 inch deep. John Beazor Antiques

In addition to Barometers, Microscopes, etc. Matthias also partnered with the London firm, Troughton & Simms, an instrument-making firm to produce rules, including this set of ivory drafting rules which reside in the Collection of Historical Instruments at Harvard University. Troughton & Simms would later merge with the York firm, Thomas Cooke & Sons, this in turn would become Vickers Instruments.

Maker:
Troughton & Simms (1826 - 1923)
Maker:
William Elliott (fl. 1807 - 1853)
Maker:
Robert Cooper (fl. 1830 - 1850)
Maker:
Matthias Wisker (II) (1822 - 1859)
Ivory drafting rules 1830-1840, CHSI Harvard University

4th Generation: John Thomas Rigg Wisker (1830-1862) & Mary Rachel Beckett (1835-?)

John started working with his father in 1850… In this 1857 receipt we see the transition with Matthias Wisker letterhead signed by John Wisker.

Receipt for 12 Gallons Best Sperm Oil for Mr Foulis of West Heslerton, with letter heading. Mathias Wisker, 13 Spurriergate, York. optical &c. 1857. Signed by Jno Wisker. Science Museum Group

Matthias Wisker retired [died] in favour of his son, John Thomas Rigg Wisker in 1859 – another business which lasted well beyond the Great Exhibition, and by which time it claimed that it had been established in 1762. This was a relatively common theme in advertisements, longevity implying reliability. In York, the Wiskers had no real competition, in the instrument line, until Thomas Cooke (1807-1868) founded his business in Stonegate in 1837.

The Scientific Instrument Trade in Provincial England during the Industrial Revolution 1760-1851, Alison Dorothy Morrison-Low, University of York, October 1999

John Thomas was expanding upon his father’s success when he tragically died aged 32 years, only three years after taking over the family business. John Thomas left his widow with three infant children. Without anyone to assume control of the business, all stock was advertised for sale at discounted prices, including their stationary steam engine, and associated tooling. Within six months the newspaper listings and requests for claims against the estate disappeared and other businesses started advertising Magic Lantern shows with the Wisker equipment.

Postface

The Golden Spectacles was a fixture in the City of York for 88 years. Opened during the reign of King George III, the business thrived through the French & American Revolutions, Peninsula & Napoleonic Wars, and the Abolition of Slavery in the Britain. It witnessed the short reigns of King George IV and King William IV, and into the (at the time) unprecedented reign of Queen Victoria. The shop powered through the introduction of commercial railways and transatlantic steam ships, inventions including the internal combustion engine, electric telegraph, refrigeration, Faraday’s electric motor and dynamo, Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine, and Ada Lovelace’s first computer program! From the publication of Oliver Twist, introduction of the penny black stamp, and the first printing of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species.

Between 1774-1862, the revolutions of society, politics, industry, and science, all competed for dominance. This one family business bore witness to the ever-changing world from the virtual backwater of the City of York.

Family Tree

Our family line is descended from our 5th Great Grandparents, Matthias WISKER & Elizabeth JACKSON, via their youngest surviving son Matthias WISKER (1790-1873) and his wife Hannah DOBSON (1782-1859). Our family line were farmers in Huntington who later purchased land to farm in Westow, near Malton, in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

  • John WISKER (1713-1792) & Alice YOUNG (1715-1790)
    • John Wisker (1734-?)
    • Mary Wisker (1736-1741)
    • Matthias WISKER (1742-1829) & Elizabeth JACKSON (1750-1811)
      • John Wisker (1774-1822) & Elizabeth RIGG (1777-1854)
        • John Thomas Wisker (1799-1801)
        • Elizabeth Wisker (1802-1872)
        • Matthias Wisker (1802-1859) & Harriet Thorpe (1803-1880)
          • John Wisker (1829-1829)
          • John Thomas Rigg Wisker (1830-1862) & Mary Rachel Beckett (1835-?)
            • John M H Wisker (1860-1861)
            • John T Wisker (1861-1893)
            • Robert H Wisker (1862-1934)
        • Thomas R Wisker (1806-1842)
        • Henry Loftus Wisker (1809-?)
      • Robert Wisker (1776-1854)
      • Elizabeth Wisker (1777-?)
      • Mary Wisker (1780-?)
      • Ann Wisker (1782-1785)
      • Jane Wisker (1784-?)
      • Matthias Wisker (1786-1788)
      • William Wisker (1787-1787)
      • Matthias WISKER (1790-1873) & Hannah DOBSON (1782-1859)
      • Henry L Wisker (1791-1791)
      • Isabella Wisker (1792-1829)

References

Wisker inventory of recently auctioned devices

Wisker Inventory Online

Wisker in Directories & Business Listings, Polls & Parish Records
Matthias Wsker (1742-1829)
John Wisker (1774-1822)
Widow, Elizabeth Rigg Wisker (1777-1854)
Matthias Wisker (1802-1859)
John Thomas Rigg Wisker (1830-1862)

Newspaper Archives

Matthias WISKER (1742-1829) & Elizabeth JACKSON (1750-1811)

N/A

John Wisker (1774-1822) & Elizabeth Rigg (1777-1854)
  • 3 Aug 1804 Sun (London): The PATENT HYDROMETER, For proving the strength of SPIRITOUS LIQUORS. Invested by the late John Dicas, and made by his successor, M Dicas, Mathematical Instrument-maker, Liverpool.
    This instrument is the most simple and correct in its application of any extant. It has met with universal approbation, is adopted a standard in the United States of the America, and is in general use in the United Kingdom of England, Ireland, and Scotland.
    To be had of M Dicas, Liverpool;… Mr Wisker, Optician, York;… at the following prices:
    Patent Spirit Hydrometer, gilt, with Thermometer, in Mahogany Box and Comparative Rule, 5l
    Ditto, ditto, in larger box, with Trial Glass, 5l. 5s.
    Patent Brewing Hydrometer, gilt, in mahogany box, 3l 13s. 6d.
    Ditto, ditto, with Thermometer, and Ivory Proof Rule in ditto, 5l. 5s.
    Ditto Lactrometer, for determining the qualities of milk, discovering the best breed of cattle for the dairy, and also what food is most profitable for the Winter Season, 4l 4s.
  • 18 Aug 1804 York Herald: J. [John] WISKER, Optician, and Looking-Glass Manufacturer, at his General Lamp and Spermaceti Oil Warehouse, Spurrier-Gate, York,
    Begs leave to inform the Nobility, Gentry, and Public at large, that he has succeeded his father in all the above branches, in which he has humbly solicits a continuance of their patronage, and which he will use his best endeavours to deserve.
    N.B. J. Wisker is appointed Vender of DECAS’ PATENT HYDROMETER for ascertaining the strength and value of Spirituous Liquors.
  • 24 Jan 1807 York Herald: To the CLERGY, &c.
    A gentleman wishes for a CURACY (where a house is to be had) in the Diocese of York, ??? in the ensuing Spring. As emolument is not much the object of the Advertiser as convenience, he would be willing to compromise for another Clergyman/’s undertaking the duty in the interval, should he meet with a situation already vacant.
    Apply or address to A.L.U. at Mr. Wisker’s Spurriergate, York.
  • 3 Oct 1812 York Herald: WISKER’s General Lamp Spermaceti Oil and Wax Candle Warehouse, Spurriergate, York.
    J [John] Wisker most respectfully acknowledges the numerous favours which he has received from the nobility, gentry, and the public in general, ?? especially informs them that he has now on sale the new-invented and ?? ?? ARGAND LAMPS with one circular cotton which will burn common oil without smoke or smell. They ?? a most brilliant light…
    He has likewise LAMOPS and LANTERNS of every description, calculated for Halls, Passsages, Stair-case, Side-??, Shops, &c., together with LIVERPOOL LAMPS of various shapes and sizes.
    ***Genuine SPERMACETI and other OILS with WAX and SPERM CANDLES of the first quality.
  • 7 Feb 1815 Hull Packet: The First Schedule: On the East side of Spurriergate, in the same Parish. A front Messuage or Dwelling house, being on the North of Mr. Fowler’s house, and between it and Mr Wisker’s Dwelling-house, with the Appurtenances and now belonging to, and in the tenure or occupation of Mr. William Peacock. One other front Messuage or Tenement, adjoining the Premises last above described, and being on the North side thereof, with the Appurtenances, and now belonging to Mr. Matthias Wisker, and in the occupation of Mr. John Wisker.
  • 25 Jul 1818 York Herald: CITY OF YORK SESSIONS. Notice is hereby given, that the midsummer general quarter sessions of the peace for the city and county of the same , will be opened at the Guildhall… To Answer… John Wisker, of York, optician, in… £40
  • 27 Nov 1819 Yorkshire Gazette: SHERIFFS RIDING.–Much of the pomp in [sic] antient times attending the Magistracy of England, has of late years been greatly diminished. In this city the attendance on the Sheriffs used to be very grand when they appeared on a public occasion, having four Serjeants at Mace, and each of them six or more livery-men with halberts to attend them. It is, we apprehend, some ages since the Sheriffs dispensed with so large a retinue, but till within 17 years, it had always been an annual custom for the Sheriffs to ride certain boundaries in public procession. This Riding, (says Drake,) “is usually on Wednesday eight days after Martinmas;” but he adds, “the Sheriffs are not strictly tied to that day.” Barnard Smith and Cooke Taylor, Esquires, our present spirited Sheriffs, having determined to revive this exploded practice, gave notice of their intention to ride in public procession on Wednesday last.–From eleven till twelve on Wednesday, the friends of the Sheriff assembled at Mr [John] Wisker’s in Spurriergate, where they partook of a cold collation and burnt wine. Colonel Sherlock, the Commander of the 4th Royals, now station in the Barracks, near this city, politely offered the Band of the Regiment; part of which accepted. About twelve o’clock the procession moved from Mr [John] Wisker’s in the following order:–part of the band of the 4th Royals; next the City Waits in their scarlet uniform, one of them wearing a tattered rag cap, a badge (says Drake) of so great antiquity that the rise or origin of it cannot be found out; then the Sheriffs, dressed in black gowns, with each a wand of office and a servant to lead his horse, with another carrying a golden truncheon, festooned with orange ribbons…
  • 9 Mar 1822 Yorkshire Gazette: DEATHS: On Tuesday last, much and deservedly respected, and severely lamented, aged 48, Mr [John] Wisker of Spurriergate, in this city, optician.
Widow, Elizabeth Rigg (1777-1854)
& Son, Matthias Wisker (1802-1859)
    • 16 Mar 1822 Yorkshire Gazette: E. [Elizabeth Rigg] WISKER, Widow of the late John Wisker, Optician, Spurriergate, York,
      Begs leave to return her grateful thanks to the friends of her late husband, for their liberal support during his lifetime, and wishes to inform them, that she purposes, with the assistance of her son, carrying on the business as usual, in all its branches, and hopes by a strict attention, she will be able to merit a continuance of that patronage bestowed upon her late husband, and the support of her future friends.
      All persons who have any demands on the late JOHN WISKER, are desired to send in their accounts.
      N.B. Fine sperm oils, wax candles, lamps of various descriptions, and optical instruments of all sorts.–Looking glasses, spectacles, &c. &c. of all qualities
      York, Spurriergate, March 14th, 1822.
    • 16 Oct 1824 Yorkshire Gazette & York Herald: E. [Elizabeth Rigg] WISKER, Optician, Spurriergate. In returning thanks to her friends, for that liberal support she has received since the death of her husband, begs leave to state, that in addition to a large and valuable stock of mathematical instruments, spectacles, telescopes, opera glasses, barometers, thermometers, passage, drawing room, and other lamps, &c.; she has purchased a large quantity of the finest genuine sperm and seal oils, wax and sperm candles, which she is enabled to sell considerably lower than in former years.
      N.B. Genteel furnished Lodgings, comprising every convenience, distinct from the family, including drawing and dining room, with six lodging rooms. York Oct, 16th, 1824.
    • 19 Feb 1825 York Herald: YORK, Saturday Feb 19, 1825. To the Right Hon. Lord Mayor. We the undersigned beg leave to request your lordship will call a general meeting of the inhabitants of this city and suburbs, for the purpose of taking into consideration the propriety of Petitioning Parliament for a REPEAL of the HOUSE and WINDOW TAX, and also other ASSESSED TAXES.
      … M. [Matthias Sr? 1742-1829] Wisker…
    • 24 Feb 1827 York Herald: BRAMHAM HUNT BALL.–The noblemen and gentlemen of the Bramham Hunt gave, on Friday week, a most elegant entertainment, considering of ball and support, at Farrer’s Hotel, Boston… The arrangements for support, &c., reflected the highest credit upon Mr Farrer, as did the lighting of the ball-room upon Mr [Matthias] Wisker, of this city…
    • 28 Apr 1827 Yorkshire Gazette: The Property in Spurriergate, belonging to Mrs. [Elizabeth Rigg] Wisker, which was advertised in our last weeks’ Paper to be sold by Auction, on 3d of May, IS DISPOSED OF.
Matthias Wisker (1802-1859) & Harriet Thorpe (1803-1880)
    • 9 Jun 1827 York Herald & Yorkshire Herald: E. [Elizabeth Rigg] WISKER, Optician, Spurriergate, begs leave to return her most grateful thanks to the nobility, gentry, and public at large for the liberal support that she has met with since the decease of her late husband, and wishes to inform them that she is declining business in favor of her son, who is now in London selecting a fresh assortment of goods in the above trade, and for whom she most respectfully solicits a continuance of their future favors.
      N.B. Part of the House, Shop, and Warehouses to Let. York, June 9, 1827.
    • 3 Nov 1827 Yorkshire Gazette & York Herald: I P VAILE, Late of Scarborough. Auctioneer, Appraiser, Estate & General Agent. Mr Vaile… has taken premises lately occupied by Mr [John] Wisker, Optician, No. 13 Spurriergate, and that he intends to commence as above immediately…
    • 19 Mar 1831 Yorkshire Gazette: M. [MATTHIAS] WISKER, Optician, &c. No. 13 Spurriergate, returns his most grateful thanks to the Nobility, Clergy, and Gentry, for the very liberal support with which he has been favoured since he succeeded to the old established OPTICAL BUSINESS, and begs most respectfully to acquaint his friends, that he has made considerable additions to his general stock, particularly in gold, silver, shell, and steel spectacles, reading glasses, elegant eye, and opera glasses, telescopes, microscopes, barometers, thermometers, &c., &c.
      Hall and passage lanterns, Lamps, Cenumbria, Do. for dinner tables in great variety; Genuine sperm and seal oils, wax, spermaceti, and composition candles, prime in quality, and at reasonable prices.–York, March 11th, 1831.
    • 20 Sep 1828 Yorkshire Gazette & York Herald: York Grand Music Festival. M. [MATTHIAS] WISKER, WORKING OPTICIAN, Barometer, Thermometer, and Mathematical Instrument Maker, at the old-established Shop, Spurriergate, York.
      Most respectfully announces to the Nobility, Gentry, and Clergy visiting York during the Festival that he has received, in addition to this usual stock, a large and elegant assortment of opera glasses, gold, silver, and tortoise shell spectacles, eye glasses, &c.
      M.W, is aware that in the Optical Business, great deceptions are [sic] practised on the public by individuals who sell inferior or imitation articles as genuine, but all goods purchased from M.W. are warranted of the best quality, being purchased by him from the first manufacturers in that branch of business.
      N.B. Rectified sperm and seal oil; Wax and spermaceti candles of the best quality.
      Lamps lent out for Routes, &c. and fixed so as not to injure the most delicate paper.
    • 7 Feb 1829 York Herald: BRAMHAM HUNT BALL.–A splendid ball was given at Mr Bickerdike’s Hotel, Thorp Arch, on Friday week, by the gentlemen of the Bramham Moor Hunt. The room was beautifully decorated with evergreens, and brilliantly lighted by Mr. [Matthias] Wisker, of this city…
    • 13 Feb 1830 Yorkshire Gazette & York Herald: THE BRAMHAM HUNT BALL.–This ball was held at Mr Bickerdike’s Hotel, Boston, on Wednesday evening: and was very numerously and fashionably attended… The ball-room was beautifully decorated with evergreens and flowers;–and lighted up with great taste under the superintendence of Mr [Matthias] Wisker, of this city…
    • 14 Feb 1835 York Herald & Yorkshire Herald: BRAMHAM HUNT BALL.–A most splendid ball and supper was given at Farrer’s Hotel, Thorp Arch, on Thursday evening: and was attended by all the rank and beauty of the district for many miles round… and the decorations and lighting of the rooms reflected equal credit on the taste of Mr. [Matthias] Wisker, of this city.
    • 28 Mar 1835 Yorkshire Gazette: BLUE TEA-PARTIES AND BALLS. The third of these parties, to Bootham Ward, took place on Tuesday… Many of the ladies were most elegantly attired, and “blue” was the prevailing colour of the evening.
      Among the gentlemen present we noticed several who at teh late election were sticklers in the yellow cause; but we doubt not that the charms of the Conservative ladies would have the desired effect of converting them from the evil tenor of their ways; and that at another election we should see them as active in the true blue cause… Not less than 1000 persons were present, of whom 700 were ladies…
      The decorations of the rooms have been already described; but we omitted to mention the lighting of the rooms was managed by Mr [Matthias] Wisker with great credit.
      … It is rumored that the Orange party were determined to try what they can do in imitation of the Blue Balls, and we sincerely wish them success, in giving entertainment to their fair friends.
      1835 United Kingdom general election, Wikipedia
    • 19 Mar 1836 Yorkshire Gazette: M. [MATTHIAS] WISKER, OPTICIAN, Lamp, Sperm Oil, & Wax Candle Dealer &c, No. 13 Spurriergate.
      In returning his most grateful thanks to the Nobility, Clergy, and Gentry, for the very liberal support with which he has been favoured since he succeeded to the OLD ESTABLISHED OPTICAL BUSINESS, most respectfully Cautions his Friends against the impositions which are practiced by Individuals, who, under the pretence of new discoveries for the Eye, contrive to obtain from the Public extravagant prices for common and well-known articles.
      M. W., with confidence, asserts that his Stock contains every modern improvement in the art of manufacturing and grinding of Glasses, and having made considerable additions to it, he solicits from the Public a call, and inspections of his Goods.
      His Stock comprises as Elegant Assortment of Gold, Silver, Shell, and Elastic Blue-Steel Spectacles; Reading-Glasses, Eye and Opera Glasses, Telescopes, Microscopes, Barometers, Thermometers, &c., &c., &c.
      Hall and Passage Lanterns, Lamps for Tables, Side-Boards, &c., &c., in great variety. GENUINE SPERM and SEAL OILS, Wax, Spermaceti, and Composition Candles of the Best Quality, and Selling at as Low Prices as any House in the Trade.
      N.B. Lamps lent out for Balls, Routs, &c., &c.
      8 Oct 1836 York Herald & Yorkshire Herald: THE MISSES CROMPTON’S GRAND BALL.–A splendid ball was given by these ladies, on Tuesday evening last, at their residence, in Micklegate, in this city, to the Officers of the Yorkshire Hussars and those of the the Tenth Hussars, together with the most of the distinguished families in the vicinity… and the ball-room was brilliantly light under the superintendence of Mr [Matthias] Wisker…
    • 1 Apr 1837 Yorkshire Gazette: Election of Churchwardens… St. Michael, Spurriergate–Mr Matthias Wisker and Mr Geo Britton.
    • 27 May 1837 Yorkshire Gazette: St. MARY’S CASTLEGATE:–With a view to contributing to the festivities in honor of the Princess Victoria’s Birthday, a few of the respectable inhabitants of this parish commenced a subscription, on Thursday week, for the purpose of treating the females of teh humbler classes in the parish with tea and cake. Upwards of 100 guests were thus entertained; and from the statements of some of our correspondents we learn that the zest and hilarity of the party was very great… the Robin Hood, handsomely contributed a cup of delicious punch of each of the party to drink the health of the Princess Victoria. The churchwardens of the parish…. [Matthias] Wisker, and the overseers, also gave their attendance to promote the feast. The churchwardens’ ladies, we learn, though absent, were evincing their loyalty in another way, by givign each another subject of the realm.
    • 1 Jul 1837 Yorkshire Gazette: YORK CITY SESSIONS. The general quarter sessions of the peace for this city were held yesterday … The following gentlemen were sworn upon the GRAND JURY… Mr Matt [Matthias] Wisker…
    • 18 Nov 1837 Yorkshire Gazette & York Herald: ST. MICHAEL’S CLOCK.–The dial of the clock of St Michael’s, Spurriergate,, in this city , has been illuminated with gas, the light of which is thrown upon it by a reflector, the ingenious fitting up of Mr. [Matthias] Wisker — We cannot but think that a lens would better suit the purpose than the reflector.
    • 10 Feb 1838 Yorkshire Gazette & York Herald: BRAMHAM HUNT BALL. This annual ball took place on Wednesday evening last, at Farrer’s Hotel, Thorp Arch, and was numerously attended by the distinguished families in thei neighbourhood. The ball-room was beautifully decorated with flowers and evergreens, and it was brilliantly lighted, under the superintendence of Mr. M. [Matthias] Wisker, of this city…
    • 1 Sep 1838 York Herald: YORKSHIRE AGRICULTURAL SHOW… PUBLIC DINNER. As we have stated above, the first anniversary dinner of the Society was held in the Riding School and a spacious Marquee adjoining… The Riding School was very neatly fitted up for the occasion, and formed an admirable cool and convenient dining-room for the large assembly; nearly 70 elegant lamps were suspended by Mr. Wisker, to light up the building, but this was not found requisite…
    • 12 Jan 1839 Yorkshire Gazette & York Herald: BRAMHAM HUNT BALL. This annual ball was held on Wednesday evening at Farrer’s Hotel, Boston: the company was numerous, consisting of nearly 200 members of the principal families in that area… The spacious ball-room was brilliantly lighted with wax by Mr M [Matthias] Wisker of this city…
    • 6 Jul 1839 Yorkshire Gazette: FATAL ACCIDENT. Coroner’s Inquest. On Tuesday last, a painter named Bruitt, in the employ of Mr Brown, of this city, was engaged in painting… in Coney Street, for which purpose he had to ascend a twelve yards ladder. During the forenoon, the “Lowther” omnibus… was driven past when as unfortunate collision took place, by which the ladder was thrown down and Bruit was precipitated to the ground. He was conveyed to hospital… and died… “I saw the Lowther omnibus coming; it was about Mr. [Matthias] Wisker’s shop; it was coming at a brisk trot…”
    • 8 Feb 1840 Yorkshire Gazette & York Herald: OFFICERS’ BALL.–On Tuesday night last, a splendid ball was given by the officers of the 1st Dragoon Guards and 7th Hussars, at York Barracks, which was attended by about 130 of the first families in the city and county. Dancing commenced about ten o’clock, and Hardman’s quadrille band fully sustained its well earned reputation. The military band from Leeds Barracks also attended, and gratified the company by their excellent performance. The fitting-up of the lamps was entrusted to Mr. [Matthias] Wisker of Spurriergate, and the brilliancy of their effect proved the good taste that was shown by that individual…
    • 4 Jul 1840 Yorkshire Gazette: YORK CITY SESSIONS. The midsummer general quarter sessions of the city of York were held at the Guildhall… the following gentlemen were impannelled on the Grand Jury… Matthias Wisker…
    • 29 Aug 1840 Yorkshire Gazette: M [Matthias] WISKER. Optician, Lamp Sperm Oil, and Wax Candle Dealer &c., &c., No. 13, Spurriergate, In returning his most grateful thanks to the nobility, clergy, and gentry, for the very liberal support he has been favored with since he commenced business, being carried on in the same family and situation for upwards of 60 years, begs leave to acquaint his friends that he has onn hand a large assortment of gold, silver, shell, and elastic blue steel spectacles, railroad eye protectors, reading glasses, eye and opera glasses, telescopes, microscopes, barometers, thermometers theodolites, levels, drawing instruments, globes, &c., &c.,
      Hall and passage lanterns, lamps for tables, sideboards, &c., in great variety.
      Genuine sperm and seal oil, wax, spermaceti, and composition candles of the best quality, and as low in price as any house in the trade.
      N.B. Has just received a large assortment of the patent solar argand lamps for tables, Halls, passages, &c., warranted to burn and give a brighter light to any light as yet invented, free from any offensive smell, and will burn the cheapest oil.
      Wax mortars for night lights. Lamps lent out for balls, roots, &c., &c.
    • 7 Nov 1840 York Herald: DARING ROBBERIES. On Friday forenoon week, a robbery was committed in the shop of Mr. [Matthias] Wisker optician, Spurriergate, in this city. At twenty minutes past ten o’clock he went out on business, leaving the shop door open, and Mrs. [Harriet Thorpe] Wisker sitting by the fireside, in the kitchen immediately adjoining. About twenty minutes afterwards Mr. Wisker returned, and he was surprised to find that a glass case on the counter near the shop door had been disturbed, and he immediately discovered that part of its contents were taken away, viz., some gold and silver mounted eye glasses, a reading glass and a pair of spectacles, the whole worth at least £10. The thief, by lifting up the case, had inserted his hand underneath, and he bad been very speedy in his operations, as during the interval in which Mr.[Matthias] Wisker was absent his wife had served a customer, and there is every reason to believe that if Mr.[Matthias] Wisker had returned a few minutes sooner, he would have caught the villain in the act. Immediate search made at the pawnbrokers’ after the stolen property, but without effect. Considering the public situation of the shop, and the time of day when the robbery was committed, it is of a very daring character, and we would urge, as we have done before, that tradesmen and others cannot be too vigilant, as there are persons ever ready to pounce upon their property. In confirmation of this fact, a a silk handkerchief was stolen a few days before from the shop of Mr. Gray, which is situated nearly opposite to Mr. [Matthias] Wisker’s.
    • 26 Jun 1841 York Herald: THE HEIR OF NUN-APPLETON – Majority of William Milner Esq. Sunday last, 20th June, being the day on which William Milner, Esq., eldest son of the highly respected Baronet, Sir William Mordaunt Milner, of Nun-Appleton, attained his majority…
      THE FESTIVITIES AT NUN-APPPLETON. On Wednesday and Thursday splendid entertainments wefe given at Nun-Appleton, on the same occasion. On the former day for the principal tenantry and friends of the family: and on the second day for the smaller tenants, labourers, and others connected with th tenantry, &c. The large tent from the Yorkshire Museum was placed upon the lawn near the Mansion… The tent was beautifully ornamented with festoons of flowers and evergreens, and was illuminated in the evening by fifty lamps, tastefully arranged by Mr Wisker of York.
    • 26 Mar 1842 Yorkshire Gazette: YORK CITY ASSIZES. Wednesday March 23… The following jury were impaneled and sworn:–… Wisker Matthias
    • 28 May 1842 York Herald & Yorkshire Herald: GUILDHALL. Thursday, May 26, Present–The Lord Mayor, Sir W.S. Clark… Information under the city improvement act.–Mary Carr, wife of Henry Carr, was charged on the information of Mr [Matthias] Wisker, Optician, with having, on Tuesday, obstructed the free passage of Spurriergate, by allowing a loaded rully to remain there for one hour. She is fined 1s and 9s costs.
    • 13 Aug 1842 Yorkshire Gazette & York Herald: WATCH COMMITTEE. The following payments have been made on account of the police force during the past quarter, viz.:–… Mr. M [Matthias] Wisker his bill for oil… £6 16s. 0d.
    • 11 Feb 1843 Yorkshire Gazette & York Herald: WATCH COMMITTEE. The expenditure on account of the police force during the past quarter has been as follows:… Mr. M [Matthias] Wisker, for Oil… £6 6s 6d
    • 1 Jul 1843 Yorkshire Gazette: YORK CITY SESSIONS. The midsummer general quarter sessions of the peace for this city, were held at the Guildhall… and the following gentlemen were impannelled on the Grand Jury… Mr Matthias Wisker…
    • 11 Nov 1843 York Herald & Yorkshire Herald: MIDDLESBRO’ STEAM TUG COMPANY. The annual meeting of the proprietors in this company was held on Friday week, at the Exchange Hotel, in Middlesbro’. It will be remembered that at the former meeting, held in November of last year, a very stormy discussion took place as to the past management of the Company’s concerns, and new committee, consisting of several York Shareholders, was then appointed… the year had been one of commercial depression, the financial statement showed that a profit had been realized sufficient in amount to justify the committee in recommending a dividend of £5 per cent. upon the amount of paid-up capital… The whole of the vessels were stated to be then fully employed… the following gentlemen were appointed the committee for the ensuing year, viz… Mr Matthias Wisker of York… being the same committee which acted last year…
    • 13 Jan 1844 York Herald & 13 Jan 1844 Yorkshire Gazette: COUNTRY NEWS. THE HAREWOOD HUNT BALL. The members of the Harewood Hunt gave their annual ball on Tuesday evening last at Farrer’s Hotel, Thorp Arch… The room was splendidly listghted for the occasion by Mr. [Matthias] Wisker, of this city, and reflected great credit on his excellent judgement and taste…
    • 2 Mar 1844 Yorkshire Gazette: The Eighth Hussars – Grand Ball. A grand ball and supper was given by the officers of the Eighth Hussars (now stationed in York), one Tuesday night, at Farrer’s Hotel, Thorp Arch, to the nobility and gentry of the neighbourhood. The ball room was tastefully decorated with the banners of the regiment, numerous carbines, star of swords, &c. &c. The room presented a most brilliant appearance, and was lighted by Mr. [Matthias] Wisker of York…
    • 15 Jun 1844 Yorkshire Gazette: YORK MINSTER GREAT BELL AND STRIKING CLOCK…. Amount already advertised… £1242 15s. 5d. … St Michael, Spurriergate… Mr M [Matthias] Wisker £0 10s. 0.
    • 18 Jan 1845 Yorkshire Gazette & 18 Jan 1845, York Herald & Yorkshire Herald: HAREWOOD HUNT BALL. This ball took place at Mr Farrer’s Hotel. Thorp Arch, on Friday week… The supper was provided by Mr Farrer, under the superintendence of Mr Johnson, of York. The room, as usual, was lighted with wax by Mr [Matthias] Wisker, of York…
    • 12 Jul 1845 Yorkshire Gazette & 12 Jul 1845 York Herald & Yorkshire Herald: CITY ASSIZES. Guildhall, Friday July 11. Mr Baron Rolfe took his seat on the bench this morning… the following men were sworn upon the GRAND JURY… Mr Matthias Wisker, Spurriergate, merchant… only one case for your consideration… a boy, thirteen years old, is charged with manslaughter of another boy, a child of eight years old…
    • 18 Oct 1845 Yorkshire Gazette & York Herald: TESTIMONIAL to George Hudson, Esq. M.P. in pursuance to promote railways to York… Subscriptions… Mr M [Matthias] Wisker, Spurriergate, York … £5 0s 0d.
    • 24 Jan 1846 York Herald & Yorkshire Herald: HAREWOOD HUNT BALL. This annual grand ball was held on Tuesday evening last, at Farrer’s Hotel, Thorp Arch, and passed off with éclat. A supper of a first-rate description was provided by Mr Farrer, under the superintendence of Mr Johnson, of York, whose abilities in the culinary art are well known. The lighting to the ball room, supper room, &c., was again entrusted to Mr [Matthias] Wisker, of York…
    • 4 Mar 1848 York Herald & Yorkshire Herald: Election of Assessors and Auditors.– On Wednesday last, the following assessors and auditors for the city were elected for the ensuing year:…Mr M [Matthias] Wisker, optician…
    • 1 Jul 1848 York Herald: SESSIONS’ REPORT. York City Sessions. On Monday last, the quarter sessions for this city were held at the Guildhall… The following gentlemen were sworn on… The Grand Jury… Mr Matthias Wisker…
    • 21 Oct 1848 York Herald: M WISKER, Optician, Lamp, Oil, and Candle Dealer, 13 Spurriergate, York.
      Respectfully informs his friends and the public, that he is appointed agent in this city for the PATENT ANEROID BAROMETER, constructed without mercury or any fluid, perfectly accurate, will act in any position, and not liable to get out of order. This instrument is a simple and accurate indicator of atmospherical changes, constructed on an entirely novel principle. It is so extremely sensitive that the height of a building is indicated by it; and exclusive of the adventages of extreme accuracy and portability, it cannot be deranged by travelling, A call to inspect the instrument will greatly oblige.
      M. W. in returning thanks for the very liberal patronage he has received for many years past, begs to add that he has always on hand a very large stock of the finest lamp oils,candles, &c.
      In the optical department, M.W. has had great experience, and his stock includes glasses of all descriptions in great variety of mounting.
      Mathematical instruments on the best principles.
      M.W. has on sale a fine collection of dissolving views, astronomical slides, & chromatropes, with lanterns complete, which he can arrange to let out for Public Evening Entertainments.
      Ball rooms fitted up with lamps on the shortest notice.
    • 10 Feb 1849 Yorkshire Gazette & York Herald: WATCH COMMITTEE. During the past quarter the following payments have been made by your committee on account of the police force viz:… Mr. M [Matthias] Wisker, for oil… £10 2s.
    • 23 Jun 1849 Yorkshire Herald, 30 Jun 1849 Yorkshire Gazette & York Herald: GUILDHALL, YORK. Monday, June 25. Before the Lord Mayor, Sir W.S. Clark… DISORDERLIES… William Dodsworth was charged with being drunk and disorderly and breaking a square of glass of the value of 2s. 6d. in the window of Mr. [Matthias] Wisker, optician, Spurriergate.–Dodsworth had paid for the square and he was discharged…
    • 15 Mar 1851 Yorkshire Gazette & York Herald: THE CITY ASSIZES. Guildhall, York, Monday, March 10. The Grand Jury. The following gentlemen were sworn to serve upon the Grand Jury:… Mr M. [Matthias] Wisker…
    • 28 Feb 1852 York Herald: SUBSCRIPTIONS in Aid of the sufferers by the CALAMITY AT HOLMFIRTH… Matthias Wisker… £1 0s 0d.
    • 17 Jul 1852 York Herald, Yorkshire Herald & Yorkshire Gazette: THE CITY ASSIZES. The Court at the Guildhall was opened on Monday morning, as nine o’clock… THE GRAND JURY… Mr Matthias Wisker…
    • 8 Jan 1853 Yorkshire Gazette & Yorkshire Herald: YORK CITY SESSIONS. The Christmas Quarter Sessions for this city took place at the Guildhall… The GRAND JURY… Mr Matthias Wisker…
      WM BLANCHARD was charged with having forged and uttered a receipt for money, with intent to defraud the Electric Telegraph Company… In April last he sent a receipt for £2 8s. purporting to be signed by a man named Crossbill, but it was discovered that this signature was a forgery…
      Mr M. [Matthias] Wisker, optician, Mr C Holloway, innkeeper, and Mr Alfred Hazlitt, superintendent of the Great Northern Railway, were called to give the prisoner a good character for honesty.
      The jury consulted together for several minutes, and expressed a wish to retire. Before they did so, his Lordship… cautioned them against paying attention to what they had heard out of doors ither for or against the prisoner, and to treat the case as if he were an entire stranger. The jury then retired, and they arrived art the Castle… and found the prisoner guilty.
      His Lordship said it gave his great satisfaction to find that that was their verdict, for in the whole course of his experience he never knew a case of forgery more clearly proved….
      On the prisoner being asked if he had anything to say, he remarked that he had no intention to commit a fraud. He only wished to please, in extenuation, that he had a wife and four children who were left perfectly destitute.
      The Lord Chief Justice said a very painful task devolved upon him. The prisoner seemed to be a man who had enjoyed a very fair reputation, that he had long maintained a position in society very creditably, that at last he proved unworthy of the confidence which had been reposed in him, and that he most [sic] fraudently conducted himself towards his employers, and those who were employed under him. This was one of several charges brought against him, and there was quite reason to believe that those others would have been supported. As to the correctness of this charge, there was not the shadow of a doubt, and the prisoner unquestionably forged the receipt, and used it for a fraudulent purpose. He (the Chief Justice) should very ill perform the duty reposed in him by the constitution, if he were to pass over such a case with passing a slight sentence. The character the accused had hitherto enjoyed, was only an aggravation of his offence. It was a sad thing for him to be separated from his country and family, but he should not discharge his duty if he did not sentence him to transportation. The sentence was that he be transported beyond the seas for the term of ten years.
    • 9 Sep 1854, 16 Sep 1854 & 23 Sep 1854, 30 Sep 1854 Yorkshire Gazette: SPURRIERGATE & FISHERGATE, YORK, To be sold by auction… Lot 1. A CAPITAL DWELLING-HOUSE and shop, with yard and other outbuildings, situate in Spurriergate, in the city of York, in occupation of Mr Matthias Wisker. Also all that tenement and yard at the back of and adjoining the above mentioned premises, now occupied by Henry Carr. These premises are situate in the best part of the City for business and are well worthy the attention of parties seeking safe investments.
    • 9 Dec 1854 Yorkshire Gazette & York Herald & Yorkshire Herald: YORK CITY ASSIZES. Guildhall, Monday, December 4… the following gentlemen were sworn to serve upon The Grand Jury… Mr M. [Matthias] Wisker…
    • 3 Mar 1855 Yorkshire Gazette , 3 Mar 1855 York Herald, & Farmer’s Friend and Freeman’s Journal: Election of Auditors and Assessors.–the annual election of auditors and assessors under the Municipal Act, took place in this city on Thursday last. The following are the appointments: … Ward Assessors… for Castlegate, Mr M [Matthias] Wisker, Spurriergate
    • 3 Nov 1855 York Herald & Yorkshire Herald: YORK MUNICIPAL ELECTION. Castlegate Ward.–Before Mr Ald. Meek, jun., and Mr M [Matthias] Wisker, optician, and Mr. W. Briggs, grocer, the assessors, in the justice room of the Guildhall, Mr J Shilleto, butcher, and Mr Thos. Lambert, ironmonger, were re-elected.
    • 10 May 1856 Yorkshire Gazette & York Herald: THE ILLUMINATIONS. Towards sunset the streets became more crowded than before with spectators, who were anxious for the time arriving when the various designs in gas, transparencies, &c., would be illuminated… and before nine o’clock every illumination in the city was lighted, and all were on the qui vive to witness them. The thoroughfares in many parts were almost impassable, such was the density of crowds… The illuminations were many of them very fine and in point of extent have not been equalled in our city since the time when peace was proclaimed forty years ago. [Napoleonic Wars 1803-1815]
      SPURRIERGATE.–… Mr [John Thomas Rigg] Wisker, optician, a crown and letters “V.N.” [Victoria Napoleon] lighted with gas…
    • 27 Dec 1856 Yorkshire Gazette: MALTON AND DRIFFIELD RAILWAY. The Late Murderous Attempt to Turn a Train Down an Embankment.–Examination and Committal of the Prisoner. Last week we recorded the occurrence of an accident on the Malton and Driffield line of railway, cause by the removal, either wilful or accidental, of one of the rails… the whole train and passengers were placed in the most perilous position… The rail was lying exactly parallel to its right place… The keys of the rail next preceding… were removed, but the rail remained in place… The key were laid nearly opposite their former positions. The keys of the rail preceding were merely knocked out..
      John [Thomas Rigg] Wisker said:–I am an optician, living in York. I examined the hammer and the keys, but particularly the key most marked, by microscopic power. I have measured the smooth face of the hammer and the marks on the keys. The other face has indentations. I have examined the marks on the keys produced; they seem to have been made by a blow from a smooth, heavy surface. I have measured them by dividers, and find them agree. I have examined the marked of the small edge of the key, and find them correspond with the rough face of the hammer. There is a raised portion of the surface of the face with certain marks, but one mark in particular. There are two marks on the at key which exactly correspond with the indentations of the last spoken of.
      THe Bench were of opinion that sufficient evidence had been adduced to justify them sending the case for trial , and they committed the prisoner to York Castle to await the next Gaol Delivery.
    • 17 Jan 1857 York Herald & Yorkshire Herald: LECTURE ON ASTRONOMY.–Yesterday evening, W Tomlinson, Esq, F.R.A.S., of this city delivered a lecture in the Merchant’s Hall, Fossgate, on the wonders of the heavens, in aid of funds of the Working Men’s News and Reading Rooms… illustrated by a number beautiful astronomical diagrams in motion… thanks of this meeting to be presented to… Mr. [Matthias] Wisker for his clever dioramic illustrations…
    • 17 Oct 1857 Yorkshire Gazette: FUND FOR THE RELIEF OF THE SUFFERERS BY THE INDIAN MUTINY… Collected by the Minister and Churchwardens of the St Michael, Spurriergate… Matthias Wisker £0. 10s. 0d… [Indian Mutiny, Wikipedia]
    • 31 Oct 1857 Yorkshire Herald & Yorkshire Gazette: YORK CITY SESSIONS. On Monday last, the Michaelmas quarter sessions for this city were held at the Guildhall… the following gentlemen were empannelled to serve upon The Grand Jury… Mr Matthew [Matthias] Wisker…
John Thomas Rigg Wisker (1830-1862) & Mary Rachel Beckett (1835-?)
    • 11 Jun 1859, 17 Sep 1859, & 24 Sep 1859 Yorkshire Herald, 17 Jun 1859, 18 Jun 1859, 17 Sep 1859 York Herald & 17 Sep 1859, 24 Sep 1859 Yorkshire Gazette: ESTABLISHED 1762. M [Matthias] Wisker, Optician, &c., 13 Spurriergate, York, most respectfully returns thanks for the nobility, gentry, and the public generally, for the favors so liberally conferred upon his during a period of 32 years he has been in business, and wishes to inform them he has retired in favour of his son, for whom he solicits the same patronage and support.
      J. T. R. [John Thomas Rigg] Wisker in entering upon the business which has been successfully carried on by the same family for a period of 97 years, most respectfully solicits the patronage and support of the nobility, gentry, and the public of the city and county of York, assuring them that no exertion on his part shall be wanting to merit a continuance of those favours so liberally bestowed on his predecessors.
      The stock contains an immense assortment of spectacles, double and single eye glasses with warranted Brazilian Pebbles, grey, and tinted glasses. Good spectacles from sixpence the pair. Double and single opera and race glasses, exceedingly portable, and of great power. Telescopes and microscopes of every description.
      Barometers and thermometers in great variety. The Model Barometer 20s. each.
      Magic Lanterns, stereoscopes, and views, &c.
      Moderator lamps, in china, bronze, Bohemian glass, &c.
      J.T.R.W. particularly invites the public to the inspection of his 16s. full-sized Moderator Lamp, complete with stand, engraved globe, and chimney, which is warranted to burn from six to eight hours without attention, and giving a brilliant light, the interior being equally as strong as those of the most expensive lamps.
      Genuine sperm, and pure Antwerpian colza oil, as low in price as any house in or out of London.
    • 24 Sep 1859 York Herald: LENDAL BRIDGE. MEETINGS TO OPPOSE THE SCHEME. On Wednesday evening last, two meetings were held in the vestries of St. Michael, Spurriergate, and St. John’s, Micklegate, in this city, to take into consideration the proposal of the council to erect as iron bridge over the Ouse at Lendal.
      St. Michael, Spurriergate.
      At this meeting, Mr Bulmer, one of the churchwardens, was occupied the chair, and there wereealso present… Mr [Matthias?] Wisker…
      … Some objected too it in toto, whilst the objection of others was either the city rates should not be applied for the purpose, or that some persons will be compelled to pay, and others residing outside the walls will not be responsible for the payment… The interest and advantage to be derived from it would be gained by residents in Bootham, in the township of Clifton, in the Groves, and in the Liberty of St. Peter, the whole of whom do not pay a penny to the city rates…
      Elevation plan and section of the proposed lattice girder bridge over the Ouse at Lendal Street
    • 8 Oct 1859 Yorkshire Gazette & York Herald: DEATHS. On Monday, the 3rd inst., at his residence, Clarence Street, in his 58th year, Mr. [Matthias] Wisker, late of Spurriergate, in this city, highly respected
    • 29 Oct 1859 York Herald, 22 Oct 1859 & 29 Oct 1859 Yorkshire Gazette & 29 Oct 1859 & 5 Nov 1859 Yorkshire Herald: THE GREAT EASTERN. Splendid Stereographs of the above just published. The passage down the river, saloons, eminent men connected with the ship, scenes after the explosion, &c., &c. Also magnificent views in North America, Falls of Niagara, Streets in New York, &c.
      May be had, with Stereoscopes in great variety, very low in price, at J. T. R. [John Thomas Rigg] WISKER’s, Optician, &c., 13 Spurriergate, York. [Explosion onboard the Great Eastern 9 Sep 1859]
    • 10 Dec 1859 Yorkshire Gazette & Yorkshire Herald & 16 Dec 1859 Yorkshire Gazette & 17 Dec 1859 Yorkshire Herald: Mr MATTHIAS WISKER, Deceased. ALL PERSONS having any CLAIMS against the estate of the late Mr Matthias Wisker of the City of York, are requested forthwith to send the Particulars of the same to Mr William Walker of the City of York, Solicitor, or to Mr James Lancelot Foster, of the same City, Printer and Publisher, the executors under his will, in order that the same may be examined, and if found to be correct, Paid. All persons indebted to the late Mr wisker are request forthwith to Pay the Amounts due, to either of the the above Executors or to Mr. JOHN THOMAS RIGG WISKER, Optician, Spurriergate, York 9th December 1859.
    • 14 Apr 1860 Yorkshire Gazette: THE VOLUNTEER MOVEMENT. Muster Roll of the 1st West Riding Rifle Volunteer Corps.–(York)… PRIVATES… John T. Rigg Wisker, Spurriergate…
    • 9 Feb 1861 York Herald & 9 Feb 1861 Yorkshire Gazette: YORK VOLUNTEER AND CITIZENS BALL. A grand ball, under the auspices of the officers, non-commission officers, and privates of the York companies of the 1st West York Volunteer Rifles, took place in the Assembly Rooms, in this city, on Tuesday evening last… brilliancy of illumination, but from the gay and charming variety presented by the varicolored uniforms of the gentlemen, and the tasteful and rich attire of the ladies. Amongst the uniforms of course, the rather sombre one of the York corps predominated, but we were also glad to notice presence of the light grey of the North York volunteer corps, the dark green of the Cheshire corps, and the bright blue of the York and Leeds artillery corps. Various regular and militia regiments were represented by their scarlet uniforms… 330 persons present… Mr [John Thomas Rigg] Wisker (York Volunteer Rifles) & Mrs [Mary Rachel Beckett] Wisker…
    • 22 Mar 1862 Yorkshire Gazette: DEATHS: WISKER–On the 21st inst. aged 31, Mr John [Thomas] Rigg Wisker of Spurriergate, in this city, optician.
Widow, Mary Rachel Beckett (1835-?)
    • 19 Apr 1862, 26 Apr 1862, 3 May 1862, 10 May 1862, 24 May 1862 Yorkshire Gazette & 26 Apr 1862, 10 May 1862, 24 May 1862 & 31 May 1862 York Herald: PUBLIC NOTICE Spectacles, Opera Glasses, Telescopes, Microscopes, Thermometers, Barometers, Lamps, Sperm and Colma Oils, &c., &c.
      The entire stock of the late Mr [John Thomas Rigg] Wisker 13 Spurriergate, is now selling off at greatly reduced prices, and is offered on terms calculated to secure an early clearance.
      All claims against the Estate to be sent to Mrs. [Mary Rachel Beckett] Wisker and payment of oustanding accounts is particularly requested.
    • 21 Jun 1862, 28 Jun 1862, & 5 Jul 1862 York Herald & 14 Jun 1862, 12 Jul 1862 Yorkshire Gazette: SELLING OFF. Spectacles, Opera Glasses, Telescopes, Microscopes, Thermometers, Barometers, Lamps, Sperm and Colma Oils, &c., &c.
      The entire stock of the late Mr [John Thomas Rigg] Wisker 13 Spurriergate, is now selling off at greatly reduced prices, and is offered on terms calculated to secure an early clearance.
      All claims against the Estate to be sent to Mrs. [Mary Rachel Beckett] Wisker and payment of oustanding accounts is particularly requested.
    • 18 Oct 1862 & 25 Oct 1862 Yorkshire Gazette: To be sold by private contract. One four-horse horizontal engine and boiler, one lathe, 8in. centre, 15ft. bed; and several other tools. Apply to Mrs Wisker 13 Spurriergate, York.
    • 20 Dec 1862 Yorkshire Gazette: Amusement for long evenings! A pair of excellent Magic Lanterns (formerly belonging to the late Mr [John Thomas Rigg] Wisker can be hired for evening entertainments at the following charges… Lawson & Groves, Booksellers, 7 Spurriergate, York.
    • 16 Sep 1893 Yorkshire Gazette: March 5–Mr Wisker, optician, Spurriergate, York, died on this date, much respected and sincerely lamented.

Literary References

Because of York’s relative decline, the city had many fewer firms of instrument-makers in the late eighteenth century even than had Bristol in fact, a more telling comparison can be seen by comparing York with Bath at this period. Both contained shops and amusements catering for the wealthy, and thus provided wares at the luxury end of the market rather than the tools of industrialisation or scientific endeavour – the exception being the case of William Herschel, for whom, see below. In York, however, ‘RICHARD EGGLESTON, Spectacle-Maker from London ..” advertised his ‘new Improved Dioptrical Telescope in a local newspaper in October 1740. He had served his apprenticeship with the London optician Richard Roak, but it is not clear why he chose to move to York. In 1768, his son Nathaniel, who had served his apprenticeship with Mary Eggleston, optician’ (presumably his widowed mother) also advertised himself as a spectacle maker in York, making and selling ‘all Sorts of Spectacles, Telescopes, Microscopes…’

In March 1774, his brother-in-law John Berry announced, shortly after Nathaniel Eggleston’s death, that he continues to make and sell all sorts of reflecting and refracting Telescopes, single and compound Microscopes’ and so on.” Berry himself died the following year, and his widow (born Elizabeth Eggleston) then remarried someone outside the trade. Until this happened, the business had remained tightly within the family, with the involvement of at least two women. Now, one ‘Matthias Wisker, glassgrinder and spectacle maker at the Golden Spectacles, Spurriergate, successor to the late Mr Berry’ continued this trade succession, presumably by purchase. Unlike some of the examples at Bristol, the business did not remain in the same premises, but appears to have moved around within York. Matthias (or Matthew) Wisker had served his apprenticeship with George Cowley, a York glass grinder and was made free in 1774; he was succeeded by his son John in August 1804, when the goods supplied took a more definite turn away from the scientific towards those of the general store, candles, spermaceti oil and lamps becoming the wares in preference to telescopes and microscopes, although spectacles were still on offer. John’s widow, Elizabeth, continued in business after his death at the age of 48 in 1822, with her son Matthias’s assistance, giving up in his favour in 1827. Matthias Wisker retired in favour of his son, John Thomas Rigg Wisker in 1859 – another business which lasted well beyond the Great Exhibition, and by which time it claimed that it had been established in 1762. This was a relatively common theme in advertisements, longevity implying reliability. In York, the Wiskers had no real competition, in the instrument line, until Thomas Cooke (1807-1868) founded his business in Stonegate in 1837.

The Scientific Instrument Trade in Provincial England during the Industrial Revolution 1760-1851, Alison Dorothy Morrison-Low, University of York, October 1999

Glossary

  • Argand Lamp – Oil lamp invented in 1780 with an output 6 to 10 candelas brighter than that of earlier lamps
  • Brazilian Pebble – A colorless transparent quartz, such as is used for optical purposes
  • Colza Oil – Rape seed oil especially of a refined grade
  • Magic Lantern – The magic lantern, also known by its Latin name lanterna magica, was an early type of image projector that used pictures—paintings, prints, or photographs—on transparent plates (usually made of glass), one or more lenses, and a light source
  • Seal Oil – Lamp fuel made from the blubber of dead seals. From 1749, the import of seal oil to England was being recorded annually, and was used as lighting oil, for cooking, in the manufacture of soap and for the treating of leather
  • Sperm Oil – waxy liquid obtained from sperm whales prized as an illuminant for its bright, odorless flame and as a lubricant for its low viscosity and stability
  • Spermaceti – a white waxy substance produced by the sperm whale, formerly used in candles and ointments. It is present in a rounded organ in the head, where it focuses acoustic signals and aids in the control of buoyancy
  • Spurrier was originally a person who made spurs (in Spurriergate, a street of Spurriers)

Web References

Julian

Family archivist, genealogical researcher, writer, and always open to receive questions, comments, and feedback via JulianClark@mac.com

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