Porteous top whistles surfaced during the 1860s in the UK and do not appear to have been used in any other country. They were named after Richard Porteous by Martin Gilchrist. Richard Porteous had been designing whistles for some years prior, however his design to a unique shaped cap gave rise to Martin Gilchrist naming these ‘bulbous’ tops on early GSWs as Porteous tops. The earliest known examples are stamped on a label attached to the side of the whistle in some combination of :
Stevens and Son
Stevens and Sons
Porteous’s whistle ( earliest )
London & Glasgow
Southwark B ‘road
The earliest Porteous tube shaped whistle to date, is a large GSW ( without a partition ), circa 1850-60. It has a applied label with the stamp – Porteous’s Whistle. Who manufactured this particular whistle ?? We don’t know if Stevens did at first or another manufacturer that was prior to Stevens.
Yet, Stevens would at a later period stamp the same label with the added word ‘manufacturers’ on the same model whistle, this time installing a partition as seen below. Partitions were already introduced during the period prior, especially seen in Beauforts.
However in this case the label says Stevens and Sons ( 1871 ) indicating manufacturing of this same model perhaps some ten years after the original. His earliest GSWs have a flat top cap.— Soon after, ‘Porteous’ top round whistles and GSWs would emerge as follows:
Here we see clearly the Porteous name connected to Stevens and Son ( prior to 1871, 1871 it would be Stevens and Sons – plural ) It appears they were actively associated during the 1860s.
As we see ‘manufacturer’ stamped on the label. There appears to be no question that there was an association with Porteous and Stevens before any other manufacturer began using this design of the ‘Porteous’ top.
In searching collections and catalogs we find just four total manufacturers would go on to use a Porteous top design on their whistles. All are from the UK. Listed below are known tops as they appeared from the 1860s through the end of the 19th century and just beyond.
John Stevens —— three types
William Dowler –– one type
Joseph Hudson –– four types
Alfred DeCourcy — two types
We find that John Stevens’ bulbous ‘Porteous’ tops do not stray much from a standard design. It is true that CPWs on page 58 pictures a large GSW ( large at 96mm ) with a larger than normal Porteous top. However it is the exception to their manufacturing.
Perhaps fittingly it is only Stevens that attempted to use this top on a round whistle as seen in the second picture.
It could be said that certain Russian or eastern European whistles did borrow this look for the military as follows.
In particular the first round from Estonia looks close to a DeCourcy top, the second looking like an exaggerated bulb top.
Here we see an older Stevens Porteous and a newer Stevens. The tops do not vary but a little.
DeCourcy Porteous tops display two different tops, corresponding to his 1913 patented partition and his 1916 patented partition. The first has a deeper groove at the connection point.
Dowler tops are singular in design characteristics.
Hudson on the other hand worked on many variations as they were wont to do.
We note :
- A very smooth and rounded top – one piece ( a cast mouthpiece )
- A round top with groove at the connection point – one piece ( also a cast mouthpiece )
- A round top with groove at the connection point — two piece patented top ( a cast mouthpiece)
- Unstamped later example ( with a machined or rolled mouthpiece )
- A round, one piece with three grooves ( a machined mouthpiece )
- A rounded top with two grooves ( a cast mouthpiece )
Unknown whistles are coming to light all the time. We would hope this helps in our classification of Porteous top whistles. Please send in pictures of variations you find so that we can add them to the worldwide fund of whistle knowledge.
In the meantime here are some variations for comparisons encountered ….
- Stevens round
Posted December 5, 2017