Typical of its time - circa 1880 to 1910 - the J.T.Jarratt lathe was labelled as made in Queen Street, Leicester. However, the one known lathe maker in Leicester at the time with the name Jarratt was a John Thom Jarratt who, in 1891 and aged 36 years, lived at 15 Short Street with his wife Ann (who, rather handily, was described as a machinist) together with his daughters Alberta, Elsie and Ethel and his two sons, Alfred and Sidney. By 1901 his business must have been thriving, for Mr. Jarratt was now described as machine tool maker and employer working from premises at 21 Queen Street. Alfred, his eldest son, was described as a machine fitter and his two older daughters might also have been involved, being listed as shorthand typists.
Of the very simplest, plain-turning type, as supplied the lathe was mounted on cast-iron standard and driven by a rather light, treadle-driven 20.5-inch diameter flywheel assembly.
With a centre height of 3.25", a capacity of around 15" between centres and fitted with a slow-speed backgear, it was aimed squarely at the amateur market and would have been useful for both wood and metal turning - though the latter would have required the purchase of an expensive compound slide-rest assembly, these often costing a good 20% or more extra over the basic machine tool. Fitted with the usual - and essential - long-travel top slide the slide rest had its feed screws fitted with crank handles and lacked micrometer dials - though as these were rarely fitted at the time to other than far more expensive models, the first owner would surely not have missed their absence.
Supported in two-bolt, cap bearings in bronze, the spindle was threaded on its nose but appears not to have been bored through - though as was common at the time, this feature might have been listed at extra cost. Fitted with a 3-step pulley in cast-iron, power was transmitted to the spindle by a 1/4" diameter round leather belt that wrapped around the rim of the flywheel - a system known colloquially at the time as a "gut" drive. Although it might seem that the drive system - a foot treadle and round leather belt - would have enabled only the lightest of cuts to be taken, if the cutting tool was kept razor sharp surprising high rates of metal removal could, in fact, be obtained.
Although backgeared, the gears used seem to have been "as cast" and not machined, again, a common feature of less-expense lathes and something of a tribute to the casting skills of small foundries that they worked at all.
Although J.T.Jarratt is recorded as a lathe maker, only one example of his products is known. If you have a Jarratt lathe or other machine tool by him, the writer would be pleased to hear from you.