1880 Siebe & Gorman Diving Helmet



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Siebe & Gorman helmet with matching serial number 2336, which puts it circa 1880, has been unearthed from the storage of an Auckland antique dealer.

Responsibility for its poor condition apparently lies with the tractor of its former owner, which used to knock it around as it was a garden ornament in Kerikeri, a small settlement in the Bay of Islands, Northland, New Zealand.

The helmet is missing glass, a brale, studs and nuts. Given parts will be difficult (impossible?) to find opinion is divided on whether an attempt should be made to restore it. Leon Lyons has helmets in this condition in his collection which he is happy to leave "as is", however, most of these have been recovered from wrecks. Chairman of HDS UK, John Bevan, notes "opinions on restoration will vary. At the end of the day it is a personal choice. Some will say that if you replace a missing component, you must make it obvious it is not original. For example, the replacement parts could be brightly polished whilst the original parts keep their patina. Purists will say you should keep it in the original condition or as close as you can. Personally I think a bit of beating to bring it closer to its original shape would be beneficial. Polishing it would cause a purist to faint. The aim is to do the minimum of restoration that will still keep you happy. It would be nice to reveal the name stamped on the corselet as tastefully as possible. A good cleaning would help including the removal of loose material. Tinning should be retained. Some like to oil the surface lightly to bring up the patina. Do not varnish!"

The exhaust has been moved from the back to the side. John Bevan advises that this was sometimes done as an "upgrade". This one was not carried out by Siebe & Gorman and was probably done locally. The exhaust valve looks like a modification of the W Gorman valve or a copy. John advises to leave it where it is, as it is part of its history.

On the outer surface of the neck ring of the bonnet and breastplate is stamped "8". John Bevan says he has not yet found any significance to these numbers.

There are no markings on the rim of the faceplate, apparently these were introduced later.

Stamped on the breastplate should be "SIEBE & GORMAN PATENT", however, we cannot see this and hope that it is there underneath the corrosion.

Leon Lyons and John Bevan agree that this helmet is circa 1880, "one of the last "SIEBE & GORMAN PATENT" (1870 - 1880), before it became "SIEBE GORMAN & CO PATENT" (1880 - 1904)." Augustus Siebe's closed helmet production started in 1839 and produced helmets under the A. Siebe name until 1870, with the breastplate stamped "A. SIEBE PATENT 5 DENMARK St LONDON" (like the helmet on the cover of Leon Lyons' book Helmets of the Deep).

Sadly there is no history available for helmet number 2336 prior to its time in a graden in Kerikeri.