Diving Helmet

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Object detail

Augustus Siebe Diving Helmet, c.1840s
12 bolt, 3 light (window), Standard Diving Dress H elmet. This helmet may be the second oldest known to exist (each component stamped with the number '1').
CH classification MARITIME TECHNOLOGY Diving Diver's helmet
Production date
Production place
H450mm x W460mm x D310mm
Media/Materials description
Copper alloy, brass, leather, plate glass
Both the upper and corresponding lower neck rings are stamped with the number “1”.
The makers name is stamped into the front centre of the corselet and reads:
History and use
This helmet may be the second oldest known to exist. It was used in the excavation of the ship 'Royal George', sunk in 1782 off Portsmouth, England. The design of the helmet and fittings proved to be so reliable that Siebe’s ‘standard diving dress’ became the British Admiralty’s benchmark for all diving equipment. It was hand beaten from a single sheet of copper and apart from the more recent faceplate each component has been stamped with the number ‘1’. This suggests that it was the first helmet to be made in a very limited series. Two other helmets held in private collections in America have the numbers ‘2’ and ‘3’ stamped on their components, making this one of the first of the series.

The copper domed bonnet has been beaten from a single piece of copper. A circular castellation (beaten join) is evident on the crown of the bonnet and castellation lines are also visible on the front centre of the bonnet running from the front port to the crown, and along the shoulders of the corselet.

Positioned at the centre back of the bonnet is an air inlet pipe (without a non-return valve) and a non-adjustable air exhaust valve. Both are offset on an angle. A rudimentary spitcock (outlet tap) is present and positioned between the front and proper right ports (opposite the small eyelet). This has almost certainly been added after the helmet was manufactured and is presumably fashioned from a gas tap or keg spigot.

Two (2) studs are mounted on the front of the corselet for the attachment of weights, along with lanyard hooks, positioned above the neck ring on each side of the bonnet. The lanyards were also used to assist in the rigging of weights. A small brass eyelet is evident between the front and proper left ports.

Twelve (12) threaded bolts are positioned around the outer perimeter of the corselet, however the associated brails and wing nuts are not present. (Brails are metal straps which fit over the bolts, clamping the corselet to the diving suit by way of the nuts to form an airtight seal).
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