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Glasgow Business . 45 A

rchibald Barr and William Stroud were a great business double act. Te strength of their partnership and what it achieved has meant

that their names are inextricably linked to this day. Barr & Stroud, the company they formed,

was a pioneering Scotish optical business based in Glasgow which played a major role in the development of modern optics, particularly for the British Armed Forces. Archibald Barr, the third son of a yarn

merchant, was born near Paisley in 1855. He was educated at Paisley Grammar School before going on to study at the University of Glasgow, graduating with a BSc in 1878 and a doctorate in 1890. In 1876, he became an assistant to the

Regius Professor of Civil Engineering and Mechanics James Tomson. He was appointed Professor of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at the Yorkshire College of Science in 1884. Barr and Stroud began their association in

1888 at the then Yorkshire College; forerunner of what is now the University of Leeds. Stroud was the Professor of Physics. Teir working relationship began on a

project sparked by an advert in the Engineering magazine to design a short-base rangefinder for use by the infantry. Te design they produced was not successful, but the Admiralty spoted the quality of the thinking behind it and invited them in 1891 to submit a further design for trial. By this time, Barr had returned to his native

Scotland to take up the post of Regius Professor of Civil Engineering and Mechanics at the University of Glasgow. Although now separated by geography, the

two men kept in close contact and this time their joint design was so successful that they were awarded with a contract for six of their rangefinders. Tis first product, known as the NRF No 1,

had its mechanical parts built in the workshops of instrument makers James White in Cambridge Street, Glasgow. Te optical parts were calculated and

designed by Barr and Stroud themselves and made by Adam Hilger of London. Initially, the two men funded this work themselves, with William Stroud providing cash for the work by giving popular magic lantern shows around the Leeds area. Seeing the commercial potential of the

work, the two men founded Barr and Stroud’s Patents in 1893 and two years later rented workshop space at 250 Byres Road in Glasgow’s west end. Te rapid expansion of the business, however, meant that this base was short-lived, with the company soon moving to larger premises in nearby Ashton Lane. In his spare time, Barr was a motoring

enthusiast and, as a member of the Scotish Automobile Club, was one of the organisers of Scotland’s first motor car reliability trial in 1901. He was also a founder of the Scotish Aeronautical Club, becoming its president in 1909, and was promoter of Scotland’s first aviation meeting held in Lanark in 1910. He also served as the President of the Institution

Like so many of our Chamber Champions, Barr gave something back as a governor of the Royal Scottish National Institution for the care of those with learning difficulties

of Engineer and Shipbuilders in Scotland in 1910-11. Like so many of the Chamber Champions

we have featured in this series, Barr gave something back as a governor of the Royal Scotish National Institution for the care of those with learning difficulties. He also giſted £8,000 towards the cost of a new organ for Paisley Abbey. By 1904, the company employed 100 men

in a new purpose-built factory in Anniesland, an area with which they were to be associated for more than a century. It was clear that the business was going to

continue to expand and in 1909 William Stroud resigned his chair at the University of Leeds and moved to Glasgow to work full-time for the company. Stroud’s departure from university teaching

was followed by a similar move by Archibald Barr four years later and, at that time in 1913, the two men founded a limited company, Barr & Stroud Ltd. Te onset of the First World War provided

a boost for Barr & Stroud, with British and foreign navies adopting their rangefinders and fire control instruments and the company began extending its Anniesland works. By this time, the company employed 500 people. Te demands of the war

saw the development of a range of other products including a torpedo depth recorder, a periscope rangefinder and a dome sight for aircraſt. One item much

in need among the British forces was binoculars and so Barr & Stroud began producing their own but it was not until around 1919 that their first pairs of binoculars were produced, which were supplied to the British Navy. In 1930, they

were awarded a contract to supply binoculars to the Royal Navy. In 1931, Archibald Barr, who was then chairman of Barr & Stroud, died. Te company

continued to develop and produce instruments with military applications. Tey also

Barr & Stroud’s Order Receiver with Bell

diversified into civilian products, particularly producing instruments for aerial and topographic survey work. Te non-military wing of the company made medical equipment like photocoagulators and electronic filters, whose customers included the BBC. Barr & Stroud had a long and impressive

record of supplying their customers from their Anniesland base. In 1977, Barr & Stroud was taken over by

the Pilkington Group. In 1992, the business base was moved from Anniesland to a new plant at Linthouse on the south side of the River Clyde, on the site of the former Alexander Stephen & Sons shipyard. In the year 2000, the company became a

subsidiary of French aerospace and defence group Tales and, in 2001, Barr & Stroud Ltd became Tales Optronics Ltd. However, the Barr & Stroud name lives

on – it was bought by Eastleigh-based Optical Distribution Services Ltd, who then re-registered as Barr And Stroud Ltd in 2008. Barr And Stroud binoculars are now made in China and distributed by Optical Vision.

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