The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts


Compass and navigational instrument making


The manufacture of handmade compasses and other navigational instruments.


Status Critically endangered
Historic area of significance UK
Area currently practised Hull
Origin in the UK
Current no. of professionals (main income) 1
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Current no. of trainees 1
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Not known
Current total no. of leisure makers
Not known
Minimum no. of craftspeople required



The magnetic compass, in navigation or surveying, is an instrument for determining direction on the surface of Earth by means of a magnetic pointer that aligns itself with Earth’s magnetic field. The magnetic compass is the oldest and most familiar type of compass and is used in different forms in aircraft, ships, and land vehicles and by surveyors.

Over the centuries a number of technical improvements have been made in the magnetic compass. Many of these were pioneered by the English, whose large empire was kept together by naval power and who hence relied heavily upon navigational devices.

Compasses are often contained with a binnacle, a waist-high case or stand on the deck of a ship which protect the instruments.





Local forms




  • Azimuth making
  • Binnacle making
  • Clinometer making


Issues affecting the viability of the craft


Support organisations


Craftspeople currently known

Individual craftspeople:

  • Brian Walker – at B Cooke & Sons
    Sylvester Perera – apprentice to Brian Walker at B Cooke & Sons

Note: Francis Barker & Son were notable as a supplier of precision equipment to allied forces in Europe during the Great War and Second World War, particularly compasses and sextants. Francis Barker & Son is now a trademark of Pyser Optics who specialise in precision military grade instruments.


Other information