Victorian Registration Marks

Victorian Registration Marks

Shortly after I started collecting fishing tackle, I came across my first Victorian Diamond Registration Mark. I remember asking a few people what they meant, but I remember clearly that no one could give me a precise answer. 

I might not have asked the right people. Later, I came across another set of letters and numbers that started REG, followed by numbers and REGD Again, I asked more questions, and after a time, I had formed an idea of what it was all about.

The application and granting of patent rights ensured that an inventor would be protected if a competitor infringed his idea.

The problem was that the patent process was expensive, and the invention had to be unique. There was another problem: you could not apply for a wallpaper or cloth design patent. No one had established the concept of intellectual copyright.

Therefore, by Act of Parliament in 1839, Representation and Register of Design was introduced and split into various categories.

Representation is either a sample, picture, sketch, or picture of the design. The register includes:

  • The number allocated.
  • The person’s name and the address of the owner of the design.
  • The quantity of items registered.

The quantity is known as the bundle, and the owner of the design was not necessarily the designer.  

When I first commenced serious research, I went to the Public Records Office in Kew, where all these items are stored, to look for a design.

The Registered Design in question was The Slater S.E.J. Flyfishers winch. I had the year of introduction and expected to be there for an hour or two. After thirty-five years, I have still been unable to find the details.

Slater SEJ Fly Fishers Winch with Victorian Registration mark.

Slater SEJ Fly Fishers Winch with Registered REGD Mark

In 1842, two things changed by another Act of Parliament: first, the introduction of a material classification and second, the Diamond Mark came in.

The material classification began in 1839 and covered approximately 5,000 designs, mainly paper hangings.

Someone must have realised that this system would soon run into problems. Two material classes were paper hangings with or without a certificate; the others were non-paper hangings without or without a certificate.

In 1842, we saw the introduction of 13 classes, and only the first two should concern us. Class 1 was metal, and class 2 was wood.

One potential problem is that humans classified these items, and mistakes appear. One of the best-known is a design for a carpet, which is a book binding. 

If you have a registered design number, it is possible to find the submission.

For example, REG 537033 is a design by Percy Wadham and Albert Scott, which I found after a few hours of searching.

Registered Design No 537033 full details as held in the National Archive.
Registered Design No 537033 full details as held in the National Archive. Full written details.

Registered Design No 537033 full details as held in the National Archive. Left front view right reverse.

However, a word of caution to budding researchers: do not expect to find reams of paper with the complete life story, including the reasoning behind the design. Those designs give very little information and, in some cases, are very disappointing.

We now come to items which have the REGD stamped on them. These can be extremely difficult and, in the case of some, almost impossible to find. I did come across a design whilst looking in the wrong place. It is a very long process.

I will now go out of chronological order and cover Trademarks. As you will have seen, I have started to include them for the last few issues on the inside front cover. 

In 1876, the same legislation saw the introduction of Trademarks introduced. Many British companies traded overseas, often to countries where most people could not read or write English. The trademark identifies a product by the picture on the packaging. 

For those companies that wanted to break into a new market, it was simple: put their goods in a similar package, and away they went. This loophole was quickly closed with the introduction of the Act.

Next, we come to the Diamond Mark. Introduced in 1842 by the Patent Office and discontinued in 1883. Therefore, any item of fishing tackle with a Diamond Mark falls in this timeline. 

The purpose of the mark was to identify that someone had registered the item, which was British. One problem not foreseen at its introduction was the same that the Government met with car number plates. What do you do when using a letter to indicate a year after 26 years?

Consequently, we have two different ways to identify the year, but first, we will refer to the Diamond Mark illustrated.


Victorian Registration Marks 1842 - 1883
Victorian Registration Marks month codes 1842 - 1883
Victorian Registration Marks year codes in chronological order.

Every mark with Rd in the centre indicates this was a Patent Office Registered Design. For 1842 to 1867, the following applies to identify a mark.

In the top half of the circle marked “a”, the material class is indicated: 1 for metal and 2 for wood.

Below this marked “b” is a capital letter indicating the year. 

On the left-hand side, “c” is another capital letter indicating the month. 

On the right, “d” indicates the actual day. 

At the bottom, “e” is a number for the bundle, i.e. the number of items registered.

In 1868, the system required something new. The month letter “c” swapped places with the bundle number “e”. 

The year letter “b” swapped with the day number “d” The rest stayed the same.

There were some mistakes and anomalies. In 1857, for the period 1-19 September, items were stamped with an R rather than D. 

In 1860 K was used for December when it should have been A. 

Between 1-6 March 1878, W indicates the year rather than D and G for the month rather than W.  


Victorian Registration Mark on a Hardy Creel

Victorian Registration Mark on a Hardy Creel

We see the Diamond Mark on the strap of Hardy Carry All creel, and in addition to the mark, we have the registration number and the date.
We also came across the case where 17 items were submitted for registration, classed as II for wood, when they should have been 11 for printed fabrics on furniture.
I would like to hear from anyone who has managed to decipher the codes on any item with a Victorian Registration Mark.
I took many photographs of stampings, including some found on Perth Pattern reels belonging to Stephen Seymour, but I could not read them due to their tiny size. Possibly, a higher magnification glass might do the trick.
The potentially exciting thing about the stamps on Steven’s reels is that we might be able to discover who designed the Perth reels.
First Published September 2002.