A viameter or measuring wheel

Contributed by Knaresborough Castle and Courthouse Museum

A viameter or measuring wheel

This wooden viameter or measuring wheel with brass dial is believed to have been used by Blind Jack, real name John Metcalf, during the 18th century. He was born on August 15th 1717 into a working class family in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire. He caught smallpox at the age of 6 and went completely blind. Undeterred by this he learnt to play the fiddle and was able to make a living from this. During the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion he joined General Wade's army at Boroughbridge and marched to Newcastle and then on to Scotland. After Culloden he returned home.
In 1765 an Act was passed to build a Turnpike road between Knaresborough and Boroughbridge. Realising there was money to be made from roadbuilding Jack won the contract to build a three mile stretch of road between Minskip and Ferrensby.He was to work on road building for the next 30 years.In all he is believed to have constructed 180 miles of road across Yorkshire and Lancashire. He would have used the viameter for measuring distances during this work.It was adapted so that he could feel the dial.
Blind Jack died in Spofforth on 26 April 1810 at the age of 92 and is buried in the churchyard there.

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  • 1 comment
  • 1. At 21:42 on 29 October 2010, Grasshopper wrote:

    This must surely be one of the first mechanical devices to be adapted for a use by a blind person in this country - WOW!

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