Newcastle writer reunited with 200-year-old piece of family history

A chance find has reconnected a Newcastle writer with a 200-year-old piece of her family history

Cindy Lightburn with the 200-year-old baromete
Cindy Lightburn with the 200-year-old barometer

A chance find has reconnected a Newcastle writer with a 200-year-old piece of her family history.

Cindy Lightburn, whose ancestors ran a well-known clockmakers’ business, is now the proud owner of a mahogany barometer, bearing her Maule family name, which was discovered in an antique shop in Northumberland.

Maule – which is Cindy’s maiden name – made clocks and watches on the High Street in Wooler for more than 100 years before the business moved to Blackett Street, Newcastle, in 1855, operating as a watchmakers and jewellers shop.

The family name remains well-known in Wooler and when Hamish Dunn, owner of a local antique shop opposite where the Maule family’s premises used to be, learned that a nearby antique dealer had chanced upon a barometer which bore an engraved plate reading “I. Maule, Wooler”, he called Cindy.

She said: “I’d never heard of a barometer in the family and when I went up there and saw it, it was unbelievable – a lovely surprise.”

She added: “They think it came from an estate, some property in Alnwick. It could have been a one-off, somebody may have ordered it – we’ve no idea.”

The banjo-shape instrument which dates, she thinks, from almost 200 years ago, has a hygrometer, measuring humidity; a mercury-filled thermometer; a clock; and a setting knob and spirit level next to the I Maule nameplate. It measures air pressure to forecast short-term weather.

“I Maule was my great-great-grandfather John and the ‘I’ was regularly used in place of the ‘J’ back in the day,” explains Cindy.

But the instrument was in a sorry state and needed major restoration.

Local clock and barometer enthusiast Peter Fenwick, from Morpeth, did most of the technical work while Cindy herself got hands-on in cleaning the blackened brass rims, covered in decades of built-up grime.

Several weeks of meticulous work later and the transformed barometer, re-silvered and polished, is now hanging in the hall of her home, a very special addition to the family-made clocks and watches the writer and freelance journalist has collected over the years.

The family business came to an end with Cindy’s grandparents, the long-gone shop in Newcastle’s Old Eldon Square a victim to changing fortunes during two world wars and cheaper imports becoming available from America.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer