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Records of Barr & Stroud Ltd

Collection Summary

Reference Code

GB 0248 UGD 295



Extent and medium of the unit of description

124.4 metres

(volumes and boxes )

Existence and Location of Originals

This material is original.

Name of creator

Barr & Stroud Ltd | 1913-1977 | optical instrument engineers | Glasgow (Scotland)

Biographical History


Barr & Stroud became a limited company in 1913, although Archibald Barr and William Stroud had been associated from as early as 1888 when the two men were professors of, respectively, engineering and physics at the Yorkshire College (now the University of Leeds). In that year, they responded to an advertisement in the magazine Engineering to design a short-base rangefinder for infantry use. Although the resulting design was not successful at the time, the Admiralty approached them in 1891 and invited them to submit a further design for trial.

By this time, Barr had returned to Scotland and to the University of Glasgow, where he had been a student, as the Regius Professor of Civil Engineering and Mechanics. He continued to keep in close touch with Stroud. In 1892 the Admiralty adopted their competitive design for a rangefinder and gave them a contract for an initial six instruments. The mechanical parts of this rangefinder, known as NRF No 1, were constructed in the workshops of the instrument makers, James White in Cambridge Street, Glasgow. Optical parts, calculated and designed by Barr & Stroud, were manufactured up by Adam Hilges of London initially at the expense of the inventors. Stroud raised funds for the project by giving popular magic lantern shows around Leeds.

In 1895, Barr & Stroud's Patents Ltd was renting workshop space at 250 Byres Road, Glasgow but demand for the product soon necessitated a move to larger premises in Ashton Lane, Glasgow. By 1904, 100 men were working for the company in a new purpose-built factory in Anniesland, Glasgow. Shortly thereafter, in 1909, Stroud resigned his chair at University of Leeds and moved to Glasgow to work for the company full-time. Barr, in spite of a distinguished teaching career, followed his example in 1913. Together they formed Barr & Stroud Ltd. In 1914 they began extensions to the Anniesland works in order to meet the sharp increase in demand for their rangefinders that followed on the outbreak of the First World War. The war years saw the development of other products, including a torpedo depth recorder, a periscope rangefinder and a dome sight for aircraft.

After the war, instruments with military applications continued to be developed and produced by the company, such as in 1930 they were awarded a contract to supply binoculars to the Royal Navy. They also diversified production into instruments for civil use, particularly aerial and topographic survey.

Scope and Content

Scope and Content

The records of Barr & Stroud Ltd consist of:

  • administration records (1888-1984)
  • financial records (1888-1974)
  • photographs (1890s-1980s)
  • production records (1890-1988)
  • staff records (1901-1930)
  • plans (1909-1972)




Businesses and Organisations


[View administrative information]

Components of this collection