Ross Stereo Telescope (!)

Binoculars are really good at giving a sense of perspective, or depth in an image, particularly when looking at garden birds or whatever else is in the undergrowth… so a Stereo Telescope should be much better, shouldn’t it?

In military circles, the problem is that the enemy is much further away, particularly when you are worried about artillery ranging to a target. The problem is always estimating the range of the target from the weapon, and then in estimating how close the last shot landed – does the range need to be increased by 50 yards or 100 yards? In WW1 telescopes were used by spotters in barrage balloons, to direct the guns…. the elevation gave them the triangulation needed to make more accurate estimates of the position of the shots and the target.

Stereo telescopes were presumably a development of this technique, and possibly made their first appearance in WW1, but this example, made by Ross, appears to me to be more likely introduced between the wars, and was possibly used in WW2. Very little comes from searches on Google, although a video from explains the principle of operation, in that it extends the distance between the eyes of the operator by around a factor of 10x, so extending his own sense of binocular vision. The example they showed was of German manufacture, I believe: also on the web I found a photo of a German soldier up a stepladder using one of these for artillery ranging.

Description of this Ross model

This Stereo telescope, or binocular pair of telescopes, was acquired in 2010, and is Accession number 135. Undoubtedly military, in camouflage green, they come in the sturdy type of wooden box – on that you might have expected to find ammunition inside. The wood inside is covered with green baize, and contoured to fit round the instrument.

The “ammunition box” image and the broken hinge reflect very well on the size and weight of these binoculars, which are about 5.5Kg (12lbs). How the German soldier climbed his rickety ladder and then lifted up and used such a pair is not explained! They really feel that there should be a tripod, or at least a mounting point on the binoculars, but nothing is evident.

The two 30cm long arms of the dual telescope each form the barrel of one telescope:  on the ends the two “eyes” are the 40mm objective lenses, each having a 90 degree prism behind the lens so that they look out perpendicularly to the barrel axis. At the other end of each barrel there is another 90 degree prism directing the light through an eyepiece: the two eyepieces are two hinged halves of the central hub, where the observer can look through both eyepieces, positioned the correct distance apart to fit the operator’s face. There are two eyepieces available, presumably giving the different magnification powers.

Markings on the dual telescope

Most of the markings are on the rear face of the central hub, where they read as follows:

Stereo Telescope

X 10 & 20  Ø 4°

Ross, London

No. 83966

I interpret this second line as the magnification levels of 10x and 20x achieved thru the two sets of eyepieces, and the viewing angle seen through the scope, of 4 degrees. The serial number of 83966 I can’t believe was a production number of this type, it must have been a general construction number of all of Ross’s military hardware.

Use of the Stereo Binoculars

Being so heavy, they are very difficult to use without a suitable balustrade or wall to rest it on! Or a suitable stand.  Plus they would only really be useful looking at objects on the horizon or similar, so not much use trying to find a low flying aircraft!

If anyone has ideas of wanting to try them on some battlefield, I’d be delighted to pass them on!


  1. A similar Ross stereo pair, No 67695, was offered in a Barnebys auction in 2020 for £100.
  2. The German officer picture was described as: “A German Artillery officer using a stereo telescope at the top of an Artillery Observation Ladder, hidden behind a haystack”. From Rickard, J (1 October 2007), Stereo Telescope on Artillery Ladder,

Telescope family dynasties: Dollond / Ramsden

One evening we entertained my boss and his wife to dinner, at the time in the 1990s when I had just started in my quest to buy some original old telescopes. There were probably five of them on display on one of the dining room walls, so naturally he asked about them. It turned out that one of his extended family worked for Dollond & Aitchison, in the finance department at their Birmingham offices, and that led to hime producing a copy of this 1985 publication about the history of the firm – and also an invitation to visit their factory museum, which had good displays of several examples of most of the styles of Dollond telescopes – plus some from Aitchison as well!

Dollond & Aitchison was later absorbed into the Boots Group – in 2009 – and by 2015 the name of this famous chain of Opticians and Spectacle makers had disappeared from the High Street completely.

What I found of interest in particular was the account of the early days of the Dollond business, which was founded by John Dollond (the first) in 1750. In fact five generations of the Dollond family looked after this business, “steering the House of Dollond through the years of its greatest distinction”, until finally William Dollond sold it to a former employee, J R Chant, in 1871. The family tree presented in “Eyes Right” is shown below.

Of interest in this chart is that Susan Dollond became Susan Huggins, but her sons John and George joined the business, and eventually took over the business leadership…. so both branches decided to change their names back to the Dollond family name.

By the end of the Century the Dollond business had changed significantly, in that production was mainly devoted to field glasses, or binoculars, which had replaced telescopes – except in the Navy. In addition the major markets for Dollond were in Europe, and demand increased when supplying both sides in the Russo-Japanese war. Approaching the First World War the supply of optical glass from Europe became difficult. In 1927 the firm was ‘acquired’, and finally became Dollond and Aitchison. This changed the business emphasis into High Street shops dealing with photographic equipment and spectacles, and the Aitchison binoculars were added alongside the Dollond telescopes.

Jesse Ramsden – and his Successors

Jesse Ramsden, who appears in the Dollond family tree above, was born in Salterhebble, Yorkshire, where his father was an Innkeeper, but came to London and worked for telescope makers like Peter Dollond, George Adams and Jeremiah Sisson: he was also appointed as an associate of Nevil Maskelyne, the Astronomer Royal. He started business on his own account in 1763 – having been a major part of the Dollond engineering team much of his initial work was probably as a sub-contractor for the Dollond company. Presumably also he had some arrangement that he could use the Dollond Patented achromatic objective lens designs. He married Sarah Dollond in 1766. The Ramsden business also had many notable apprentices, including William Cary. By 1772 he was working at 199 Piccadilly, with a workshop at #196. He was appointed FRS in 1786, and won the Copley Medal in 1792. When Jesse Ramsden died in 1800 his most senior employee Matthew Berge took over the business, and it continued at least until 1851, covering nearly 90 years of operations in total.

Jesse Ramsden 1763-1800

Matthew Berge 1800-1819

Worthington & Allan 1819 – 1834

Nathaniel Worthington 1834 – 1851

There are five stories showing Ramsden telescopes I have been able to acquire, some of which have needed a little renovation to the wood etc. These can be found using the search feature on this website.

Matthew Berge continued Jesse Ramsden’s business, working from the same address of 199 Piccadilly. He labelled his telescopes “Berge, Late Ramsden”, presumably out of respect, but also to trade on the famous name. He was said to have kept Ramsden’s Dividing Engine, but this might not have been true. He had an apprentice, and later an employee, called Nathaniel Worthington. Berge died in 1819, and Worthington took over the business, in partnership with James Allan.

There are many different models of Berge telescopes described in the renovation stories on this website: this reflects the large number I have been able to acquire, presumably because his name is not as well known as that of Ramsden, so the prices are not as high – but the Ramsden quality remained!

Worthington & Allan are recorded as operated as a new business ‘officially’ from 1821 onwards, operating from 196 Piccadilly, which had been Jesse Ramsden’s workshop premises (that therefore had been also in use by Matthew Berge). James Allan had been working in Fetter Lane, London, since 1802, making sextants and dividers, a business he had inherited from his father. This new partnership had the Ramsden Dividing engine, and operated until 1834, as from then the business was rune by Nathaniel Worthington alone.

There is only one story about a Worthington & Allan telescope restoration project on here: see

Worthington continued in this same optical business at the 196 Piccadilly premises, from 1835 right up until 1851, making sextants and telescopes. He therefore had worked there for around 50 years. There is currently no information as to who took over the activity, or if anyone did!

POSTSCRIPT: in one of those fascinating coincidences, the Professor at Lyon in France, called Prof Bruno Berge, was the inventor of the liquid lens technique that enabled iPads and similar devices to create the electronically focussed and “focal length adjusted” optical systems used in the cameras in these devices. No relation! See the story published in 2013 on here,


A Massive Multi-draw – by Richardson

This was a relatively recent purchase, July 2019 on Ebay, from a Hospice Charity, and quoted to be not working. That is a much better phrase than the more usual “lens missing” or “lens broken” damage report, so it sounded like a repair was possible. In addition the scope was a good length, at 28.5″, with a 45mm objective.

The basic structure looked good, with eight brass draws, a barrel covered in something like paint, and a name engraved as G Richardson, St Catherine’s, London. The address rang lots of bells, saying “around 1800”, “Pool of London” and “similar to James Chapman”. But all that contrasted with the design, which looked like 1830+.

A quick check in Gloria Clifton showed that George Richardson had worked 1807-1830, but only up to around 1820 in St Catherine’s. He had done work for Charles Lincoln, and came from a family line of opticians, taking over from his father and grandfather, both of whom were associated with Lincoln, and Chapman. A very good pedigree. So as a real multi-draw enthusiast, I bought it.

On arrival the view through the scope was of a tiny diameter, and very blurred, difficult to get a consistent focus across the image. With everything apparently original and in place, this was difficult to understand, but eventually the second cartridge was discovered to be reversed: this meant that the small orifice in between the two lenses was in the wrong position. Reversing this bit of brass made the telescope regain its normal function.

The scope was cleaned up – quite a task on a multi-draw – and the brass is in good condition. The barrel covering could be anything, but is thicker and more insulating than paint. It could be fishskin or fine leather stuck down to the barrel, but there is no obvious join/seam. It could be a coating that is baked on, as it has become crazed. No matter, it works, and is functional.

How old is it?

Dating this telescope is difficult, as the name and location suggests it is before 1820, but the design with multiple brass tubes of slightly different diameters required a supplier able to produce such exact tubing, which was only just becoming possible in around 1820-1830, and so is unusual.

There is a clue in Gloria Clifton’s information about the Richardson family, in that George’s brother Thomas is quoted as a “Brass manufacturer”, and so maybe the brothers worked together to be amongst the first to present such multi-draw telescopes, using and demonstrating his brother’s skills. So a date of 1820 is distinctly possible.

Accession number 332.

Another James Chapman Telescope

Many years ago I found a James Chapman telescope – made in St Catherine’s, London, in the 1790s. That was a real beauty, with an octagonal wooden barrel, but small, about 23” long: there is a description here on the website.

So after several years of watching ebay auction offers, to see another by James Chapman was really exciting. But this one appeared to be something totally different, a design more akin to mid Victorian naval scopes, big diameter, long wooden barrel, single draw. The engraving was just the same, and still quoting ‘James’ as ‘Jas’, and still the address is St Catherine’s. But the total length was 40 inches, and the diameter 2.5”!

(The images above are from the Seller’s Ebay page)

Whilst there was a drawback – the objective lens was cracked, apparently in several places – it was still worth buying out of interest, just to look at it.


The brass was black in places, with a thick cake of corrosion externally on the objective and eyepiece areas. The main, single draw was OK, and later polished up well, with little damage. Where this joined the brass fitting to the main barrel, the screw threads seemed to have sticky tape round them, which cracked off – with no nad effects. Inside the big lens cartridges were both present – inevitably the first eyepiece end cartridge had become unscrewed inside the barrel, so the scope was not working. The second cartridge is suspended on the end of a long tube from the far end of the draw, (as an alternative to using a split draw, which was more common then). The threads here had what seemed to have been Ptfe tape wrapped round, long ago, and the tape had decomposed into dust in places: the lenses needed a clean, and it screwed back together fairly well . Both cartridges are large diameter: the draw itself is 50mm external diameter.

Whilst no external damage was evident to the objective holder, the lens assembly there would not unscrew. There was no way to inspect or clean the inner surface of the objective lens, and while there were no screws evident holding the brass assembly onto the wooden barrel, it was fixed in place firmly with some form of glue.

Re-assembling everything and trying it out on an adjacent hill, the view was surprisingly good: not clear, because of dirt on the inside of the objective lens. Plus maybe some sunshine reflections from the cracks in the glass, but at least there was only one image, rather than multiples!

What to do next?

This looks like it is going to be a slowly developing story!

The first task as always is to clean all the lenses – at least the ones you can. Then clean the brass bits. All except the objective assembly were achieved, but not without a lot of scrubbing. 

Then the major decision was how to get the objective off, and whether to sand the barrel down and re-polish that! In that the barrel was at least six inches longer than needed, and the draw had plenty of spare extension room, after a few days thought, the saw came out and the objective was cut off the end of the barrel. This is going to mean the barrel is about 1cm shorter than before, once a shoulder is filed on the end and the brass of the objective is cleaned out, and re-attached with screws.

Removal of the objective assembly!

Inside the far end of the barrel, recessed by about 2.5 inches, there is a metal aperture of ID about 32mm, removing the outer rays from the light coming through the objective. Maybe this is what helps the telescope ignore the broken mess at one side of this lens. It will probably be a good idea to paint out or shield the edges of the lens with another aperture at the lens itself.

The lens assembly was cleaned out from the remaining wood, which was glued down solidly, but eventually peeled out. Four screw holes are evident in the assembly rim, to take such screws. At the other end of the barrel, the grub screws in the brass fitting for the drawtube do not want to move, and the slotted heads are worn away as well, so it looks like that assembly will not come off the barrel.

With the objective lens removed, the barrel was sanded down by hand to be able to re-polish the outer surface.

The picture shows the barrel during sanding. Eventually it was clean, and repolished with several layers of French polish. The external brass surface of the objective lens holder was sanded with wet fine sandpaper, then polished by hand and on a polishing wheel, which eventually made it look like brass again. While doing this the cracks in the objective lenses were covered with Blu-Tak, to prevent anything penetrating between the lenses. Then the assembly was refitted, with hopefully removable screws, so that the internal face of the lens could later be cleaned. Internally a black card aperture was push mounted behind the glass, to shield the broken edges even more effectively.

The following pictures show the final assembled telescope, looking a lot better!

Replaced objective assembly, with polished brass and new screws
Objective lens, with cracks, but working!

J Gilbert C18 telescope

This telescope was a recent purchase on Ebay. For some reason I seemed to be the only bidder! There were two John Gilberts listed on Tower Hill, in London: they were father and son, covering the periods 1719-1749, and then 1751-1791. Both were quoted as located in Postern Row, Tower Hill.

Telescope as received, uncleaned

The scope is classic C18 construction, a single draw, with a small diameter objective (single) lens, and a split draw with three eyepiece lenses. The single draw is retained in the barrel, so possibly indicating a later date in C18.

The engraving on the first draw is oriented with the first letter close to the eyepiece: it states ” J. GILBERT – Tower Hill – LONDON, and the three lines use three different fonts.

Telescope after cleaning and polishing

The body is a reddish mahogany, fairly heavy: the two brass end pieces are retained with some form of nail rather than a grub-screw, as was adopted later. Neither the objective assembly nor the opposite end supporting the single draw appear to unscrew. On the objective, which is maybe a lens of about 1cm diameter, there was once a sliding cover, but this has been lost, maybe when the mounting was damaged.

Objective sliding cover holder: cover was missing. Objective is recessed.

The overall diameter is 4 cms, and the closed length just over 13″. When extended, the total length is 20.5″. Within the barrel the three lens eyepiece has the lenses equi-spaced: this presumably makes it a Schyrlean eyepiece, as developed by a Capuchin Monk, Schyrleus de Rheita (1597-1660).

The Gilbert family

John, the son quoted above, had more sons: one was also called John (III), and also William. Both were trained as apprentices in the business, and William transferred to be apprenticed to Dollond in 1769. William and his sons eventually worked in the Navigation workshop at 148 Leadenhall Street, amongst the experts there.

Date and Purpose

There is no way to tell exactly: it is pre-1780, probably, but maybe not earlier than 1750. It was well made, solid, and has survived well – it is a good quality telescope. Probably used on board a ship of some form. It is interesting to compare this scope with the octagonal one from James Chapman, as they are much the same in sizing.

How to date an old telescope!

When trying to date very old telescopes, the obvious starting point is anything associated with a maker’s name engraved on there – often on the first draw, or eyepiece of the telescope. The plan then is to go to historical records, to see when that maker was active and creating instruments. First stop is the “Directory of British Scientific Instrument Makers, 1550-1851”, by Gloria Clifton.

Sometimes that does not help, as the maker, or his sons and heirs, worked over a long period: for example Dollond, the most prolific and long lasting name in the industry!

The next clue is where the maker’s name is engraved: if it is written with the initial letter nearest to the eyepiece, on the first draw, then this was the style adopted up until about 1800, plus or minus 10 years depending on the maker. If the last letter of the makers name is closest to the eyepiece, then the scope is probably later than 1800.

If there is no name

The design of the scope is the only pointer if there is no name. Often this produces a debate between the various ‘experts’. Areas of discussion include the shape of the eyepiece cover, the diameter of the objective; the presence of apertures inside the barrel; and whether the objective seems to be a dual/compound lens or a single convex lens. But consider the basics: what is the telescope made from? Earlier than 1800 there were mainly wooden barrels, and mostly a single brass draw: larger diameter brass tubing was not readily available in this period, so telescopes were small in diameter, and typically had one draw only. Mostly the lenses were in pairs at either end of the first draw: an alternative was to have splits in the first draw at each of three lens positions along the draw, to give access, as well as a lens at the eyepiece (and the objective).

The major discussion about the objective is whether it is a compound lens, as Patented by Dollond. Made of one convex lens (crown glass) and one concave lens (flint glass), or it is a single convex lens.

Some dates

Another reference book, “Collecting and Restoring Scientific Instruments” by Ronald Pearsall, gives some useful reference dates.

1729: Chester Moor Hall combined two lenses of opposite powers, to produce an objective lens that overcome the chromatic aberration present in single lenses, particularly at higher powers. This was the birth of the achromatic lens, although the term was not applied until 1766.

1752: John Dollond and his son Peter set up in business, and applied for a patent on the use of the compound lens in telescopes, to avoid chromatic aberration.

1758: Peter Dollond, a very astute businessman, persuades/encourages John to apply for a Patent based on Moor Hall’s (unpublished) work (nearly 30 years earlier).

1761: The Patent is granted, but John Dollond died: Peter Dollond carried on in the business. Frances Watkins, a “partner” in the Dollond business, left the business and joined many of the other independent instrument makers to petition to have the Dollond Patent revoked: these included James Champneys, Francis Watkins, Addison Smith and Henry Pyefinch. Note that supplies of the imported flint glass were difficult to obtain, typically were often low quality, but expensive.

1762: Jesse Ramsden sets up his own business, and works as a subcontractor to Peter Dollond: however the “Eyes Right” record of the history of D&A suggests that Jesse was an “assistant” to Dollond. Jesse was not one of the people who joined the petition to have the Patent revoked.

1763: Peter Dollond introduces a triple lens objective, to overcome another chromatic aberration problem.

1765: Jesse Ramsden marries Sarah Dollond, Peter’s older sister: part of his dowry was a share in the patent revenues. Ramsden arguably took the lead in telescope development towards the end of the C18, and his protegées, like Matthew Berge (Berge was his foreman, and he took over the business when Ramsden died in 1800), Thomas Jones and William Cary continued the dynasty. [There was also a John Berge apprenticed to Dollond]. Berge’s apprentice Nathaniel Worthington took over from Berge when the latter died in 1819. Ramsden also worked for George Adams at this time: Adams had joined the petition against the Patent.

1766: Peter Dollond moves to new premises (59 St Paul’s Churchyard) and is joined by brother (John). Berge’s apprentice Nathaniel Worthington took over from Berge when the latter died in 1819

1766: When the petition to revoke the Dollond Patent failed, Peter Dollond sued those who had been selling achromatic telescopes using the dual lens objective. These included James Champneys, Francis Watkins, Addison Smith, Francis Matthews and also Henry Pyefinch (who had not been a party to the petition).

1783: The Dollonds start to use brass draw-tubes, based on a Patent taken out in 1782 by Joshua Martin. By this comment I think Pearsall means the tubes became more easily available to produce two and three draw telescopes economically. He suggests this allowed Dollond to no longer use paper covered vellum tubes. (Previously it had been my impression that such paper based tubes had been phased out about 30 years earlier than that!- Ed). Interestingly, pictures of Dollond refractors dated as in 1744 and 1760 show them with square tubes and (in 1760) two square draws. Certainly a Dollond “pocket” telescope of 1785 is pictured with a brass barrel and a single drawtube.

1790s: Increased demand for telescopes for naval warfare, with the rise of Napoleon: first major sea battle is the battle of the Nile in 1798, where Nelson is instrumental in destroying most of the French fleet, when they were invading Egypt.

Other Sources

There are other reference books giving the history of various telescope makers, but these have not yet been consulted in reference to this paper – basically because I had misplaced the book, but it is now re-located! A more recent paper traces some aspects of the Dollond family history……

Hensoldt Field Glasses


OK, not really a telescope, but German Hensoldt binoculars

These Hensoldt Wetzlar binoculars were acquired in 1993. At that time I had just started this new passion, acquiring and analysing optical instruments… My son, at 19, had a Saturday job at the Rod Box, a fly fishing equipment shop in Kingsworthy, near Winchester, and one of his workmates, aged over 70, another fly fishing advisor and salesman in the shop, had some interesting binocs, 8 x 30. He had bought these binocs in a shop in Parchment Street, Winchester, in the 1950s, but was interested in parting with them, if they could be replaced by a good modern pair.


The deal was done, my son swapped some modern Praktica sport binoculars, from Argos, for these old, unknown and uninspected binoculars, for me. When they arrived, they appeared really neat, small, military style field glasses, very like the ones my Dad had in Burma in WW2 – which I have never found. Much fingered and worn on the leather, but not showing any signs of wear or damage.


Marked “Hensoldt  Wetzlar” on one side, and “Berlin & London” on the other, the base had “Sterior” marked on the centre focussing end stop. But more interesting, on either side at the base the inscription/engraving reads: “Baron Dimsdale” on one side, and “Meesden Manor   Buntingford” on the other. Plus some original, possibly military data markings, engraved on the lower end-plate, reading “N. S. L.  G167”.



There are other marks, internally: the lens units are stamped 174, and the prisms 271. There is an original factory serial number stamped under the focus bar, which says 1l963: this appears to be the normal place for Hensoldt to mark serial numbers. The second digit looks more like a plain stroke than another figure “1”.

It is perhaps relevant to set the scene for what follows, to suggest that these binoculars probably date from the early 1900s. The markings showing “Berlin & London” suggest that they were produced before WW1. The only ownership information evident is on the leather case, which has an imprint on the base that looks like “Rabjohn  SM”.

Baron Dimsdale

IMG_1267An enquiry to Cambridgeshire CC Libraries found that, despite Buntingford being in Hertfordshire, they were able to tell me that several sons of Robert, Baron Dimsdale, attended Cambridge Uni: one, Charles Robert Southall Dimsdale became Baron in 1898, but died in 1928. He was actually the last to live at Meesden Manor – he was succeeded by his son Edward Charles, and then his son, Thomas Edward Dimsdale. A letter to Meesden Manor in 1995 gained a response from Wilfrid Dimsdale, son of Thomas Edward.

The family is descended from Thomas Dimsdale, an MP and Doctor, who went to Russia in the 1760s, in order to inoculate Catherine the Great’s son against smallpox. The results were a success and Catherine rewarded Dimsdale with £10,000, a pension of £500 per annum, £2000 expenses and a Barony of the Russian Empire.

IMG_1266Meesden Manor was not quite so fortunate. It was acquired by the family in 1833. In the 1900s Thomas Edward was a regular Army officer, serving in India prior to WW2. During the war the area around the house was requisitioned for use as a camp for delinquent allied soldiers, mainly Americans. The house was not used for such, but in 1944 a V1 Flying bomb, aimed at London Bridge, missed, and hit the house. It was finally demolished after the war.

The Binoculars

These are honestly the best conventional binoculars I have ever had the opportunity to look through. They are light, easy to separate and use, and the two images can be separately focussed. They are almost as effective as the Canon image stabilised unit I have now acquired.

The objectives have a clear diameter of 24mm. Marked on the body is presumably the magnification, which is X 8.  The glasses undoubtedly had to have been acquired by the late Baron, who died in 1928: but because of the Berlin & London marking on the body, by the manufacturer, they must have been produced before the start of WW1, somewhere between 1900 and 1914.

Note that they have no stylised trade marking, the words “HENSOLDT WETZLAR” are engraved in normal caps.

These binoculars are currently being offered for sale on

Collection accession number #9.


Long single draw Ramsden, c1780, under renovation

When a colleague comes back from a seaside trip to Dorset with a couple of high definition snapshots of some old telescopes in a shop window, and one of the sales tickets on a long wooden scope body is visible – saying “Ramsden – needing renovation” – this is quite an event. So the shop phone number was also visible, and first thing Monday the guy confirms that it works OK, and is happy to take a phone order and post it off.


The single draw and tapered wooden barrel of this design set the style apart from other Ramsden telescopes in the collection – it was obviously earlier in date than 1790, and intended for naval use. In fact the design could perhaps be seen as the fore-runner to the Worthington and Allen scope described earlier in 2018, on this blog: they were the successors to the Ramsden business in the mid 1800s. The W+A unit is bigger diameter, heavy, solid – reflecting the Victorian approach to such things, maybe!



Ramsden (below) after polishing, cf the Worthington+Allen above

The wood condition looked good, and the need for a coat of wood varnish would easily be satisfied. On arrival the scope was even better than the pics: very light, really easy to use hand-held. The engraving on the first draw – actually the right way round, ie the modern way, compared to the ‘younger’ Ramsden (1790s) and Berge (1800) units in the collection – has possibly been worn down by frequent polishing over the years, and it is difficult to see on the photos.

Renovation so far has involved sanding off the barrel to gain an even pure wood colour, and then coating with French polish: the black tape round the brass fittings is to prevent the French polish affecting the brass. Actually all the external brass was fairly well polished. The photos of the single draw, with the two cartridges, each holding two of the four lenses in the eyepiece construction inside this draw, show the darker patches at the end normally inside the wooden barrel, and on the rear side of the mounting slider: the draw itself is fine.


The screws holding the two brass fittings to the barrel look original, and are really stubborn – there is no way these will unscrew. This currently gives a problem, in that the rear face of the objective needs cleaning and the lens holder itself does not want to unscrew. The final cleaning option will have to be a cloth attached to the end of a broomstick! OK, so I used the sophisticated variant, with an optical lens wipe on the end of a broomstick, but it worked well…..



Subsequently, the brass end pieces on the barrel were carefully machine buffed with polish, which removed some old varnish and new varnish spatters., and the brass shone much brighter. New pics below –



The wooden barrel is about 24.5″ long, and the wood is probably a medium European hardwood, possibly oak, and not as fine grained as mahogany. The single draw, 27mm diameter, adds another 6″ to the overall length. Max diameter at the objective is 2″/50mm. The engraving says merely Ramsden, London, in script, which is typical. What is worrying is that the engraving is on the left side of the telescope, when other Ramsden scopes I have seen have it on the right hand side! This raises the question as to whether it is a fake Ramsden. The general construction suggests it was built in the right era, around 1800, and it works well, and is light, so is still a really useful telescope.

Lovely telescope, and I believe quite unusual for a Ramsden: now restored, it is on sale for £300.

Sales of Telescopes

Sales of telescopes from my collection have started this year, in order to reduce the numbers! Eventually some items will be sent to a museum display, and plans are moving forward with that too. From September 2018 until 2020 several selected telescopes were offered for sale on, the website that provides a marketplace for all types of antique scientific instruments.


From adverts on Fleaglass and on Ebay (UK), telescopes have been despatched to collectors in Germany, Israel, Italy, Norway, Canada and the USA. As well as a couple in the UK, in exotic locations like Grimsby, Cheltenham and Lancaster, plus Edinburgh and Belfast! It is of particular satisfaction that some of the named telescopes have been returned to the families or descendants of the original owners, or makers! Other collectors have been able to find useful spares for their own repairs, from my stock of bits, as long as they can describe what is needed adequately for me to understand it!

Worthington + Allan tapered scope


This telescope was bought on Ebay in March 2018, from a guy in Aylesbury. It looked an absolute wreck: I wanted it because the maker, Worthington and Allan, was the partnership that took over the business of Matthew Berge when he died in 1820. Earlier Berge had been apprenticed to, and then taken over from Ramsden: both had made high quality instruments for astronomical observations and also general use. You will notice that some of the best telescopes in this collection have come from Ramsden or Berge, they were an offshoot business from the original Dollond family.


Nathaniel Worthington had been an apprentice to Berge, at 199 Piccadilly, London, and the partnership with James Allan lasted from 1821 to 1834, located at 196 Piccadilly.  In 1834 Allan dropped out, and Nathaniel continued working under his own name until 1851. So this telescope dates from around 1830, and indeed it has the lens quality and build quality you would expect from such a firm.

The scope is my reference #319.


s-l1600 (3)

The scope has one single draw, and a long, tapered barrel in wood, apparently mahogany. Open it is nearly 80cms long, when closed it comes down to 66cms. On arrival, both of the brass to wood joints at the two ends were loose, basically the grub-screws had rusted away, and the wood around the screws had also rotted, so the holes were too big.


Also the barrel was sleeved in a fairly badly fitting brown leather cover: the stitching was intact but it appeared to have shrunk by 1cm at each end, compared to what would have been a good fit. This did not appear to be an original part of the telescope, but a subsequent addition – possibly mimicking the metal barrelled telescope designs of the later, Victorian era.

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The major damage visible on this telescope is unusual – the brass mount at the eyepiece end of the barrel has had a major part, maybe an eighth of the circumference, torn out, without making any damage to the barrel wood beneath.

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The single draw has two lens cartridges, one at either end. The engraving on the first draw is noticeably on the “wrong” side of the telescope, as used in the C18th: this was just being phased out finally in the 1820s.


The original condition above is shown in the photos from the Ebay description, and there follow some photos taken during the renovation work.


There was not much that could be done to repair the broken area of the brass fitting: also the screws would not come out, so to secure the brass in place, and prevent the wobble, Superglue was used to fix it to the barrel. At the other end, the objective lens housing used round headed screws that were loose in the holes, so these were removed. New brass screws were fitted, in a different part of the wooden structure.


The leather cover over the wooden barrel was slipped off, and the barrel paint/varnish removed with sand-paper. It was noticeable that it was a very red varnish, in some ways resembling paint. Another large tapered scope in the collection by Dollond, possibly from this period, also has this red appearance, as does the scope that is named after Jervis: see the links quoted below.  The colour came off easiest with sand-paper at the point that would have been the hand-hold, half way along. The barrel was then coated with French polish, which brought it up with a good mahogany red colouring.


Barrel during sand paper treatment of the old varnish


Finished barrel after French polish and wax

All brass fittings were rubbed hard with Brasso, then machine polished, and then polished again with Brasso, so they have nearly recovered to a light brass colour.

Returning to the broken brass mount at the eyepiece end of the barrel, I decided a cosmetic repair would be better than a broken collar. So the holes were patched with a hard setting resin designed for metal repairs. This was solid and blue in colour: it took a lot of filing to become more or less curved on the surface, but was still blue/white. So a gold coloured Hammerite was used to hide the resin. Not brilliant, but a passable cosmetic approach.

Similar scope designs

Some of the other samples of this style of scope are present in the collection: they are prized because they are so easy to use hand-held, like the original Dollond eight sided unit from the 1760s, and because of the long length they have a good magnification.  Ideal for spotting light club aircraft flying overhead.

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The scope that shows the parentage of the design is the Matthew Berge unit, reference #112. This is described on the page

You will remember that Worthington worked with Berge and then took over the business.

A second similar unit is the Dollond, reference #58, shown on page

This unit has a split eyepiece tube, giving access to the lenses, a difficult design, but one which enabled the use of a smaller brass tube, which was presumably the best or only style available. There is then the Dollond ref #297, a more recent acquisition, shown on page

Here again the later added leather sleeve was discarded to great effect: it is rather a long scope to hand hold for use spotting light aircraft!

The John Jervis (aka Earl St Vincent, after the major battles that brought Nelson to fame) telescope, also of a similar design, is discussed in the story about telescopes linked to Alresford, where I live: see

Another story describes the telescope itself, and the renovation work on that:

The Ramsden telescopes I have tend to be smaller, three draw units: typically they are the only ones I could afford, made by Ramsden, as his models demand a high price, because of the quality. They also are not often seen on sites such as Ebay! These small units are described on this website too.

Original intended use


No way would this large scope be considered for cavalry or Army use, it is too big anything other than naval/coastguard use, where space and a handy support spar or post would be available to lean against. The magnification is high for a telescope, maybe 30+, a significant advantage when spotting sails on the horizon.