Troughton and Simms presentation telescope for Capt Robert Beattie in 1862

Troughton and Simms Naval telescope

Troughton and Simms Naval telescope

Edward Troughton and William Simms formed a partnership in London, both of them having come from established families of mathematical instrument makers. Two Troughton brothers seem to have established themselves in this profession in London at the end of the 18th Century, having come from Cumberland, where their father was a farmer. Possibly Edward Troughton developed the interest in optical instruments from around 1804, when their offices were located in ‘The Orrery’ at 136 Fleet Street.

Troughton and Simms Naval telescope

Troughton and Simms Naval telescope

The Simms family had a similar history, but several branches of optical and mathematical instrument makers were operating in the early 1800s, and it was only William Simms who entered a partnership with Edward Troughton in 1826, to form Troughton and Simms. William seemed to do quite well, and from 1851-60 he was quoted as having a residence with its own Observatory in Brambleshaw, near Carshalton, Surrey. The partnership was successful, possibly with a lot of naval and Government work.

From 1826-43 the partnership operated from 136 Fleet Street, then moved to 138, and added other premises at the rear of 138, at 2&4 Peterborough Court: they stayed there until 1915, but added a factory at 340 Woolwich Road, Charlton, SE London. Then the company was absorbed into Cooke, Troughton and Simms.

The Presentation inscriptions

Because of the long inscription on this telescope, we have a record of when it was made, and why it was presented to the first owner. Such presentation units were popular in the 19th Century, sometimes from grateful passengers recognizing the skill of the ship’s Captain after a perilous voyage, sometimes, as in this case, from the Government, recognizing a humanitarian act in saving people or crew from a sinking ship.

Inscription on the first draw

Inscription on the first draw

Here the inscription reads: ‘Presented by Her Majesty’s Government to Captain Robert Beattie of the Schooner “Kelton”of Dumfries in acknowledgement of his humanity to the survivors of the Crew of the Schooner “Elizabeth and Jane” of St Andrews N.B [New Brunswick] whom he rescued from their waterlogged Vessel on the 23rd of August 1862’. The word ‘Vessel’ is written with an ‘f’ for the double ‘s’, as was common at the time.

Also on the single draw the makers name is engraved, ‘Troughton and Simms – London’.

The ships  

The Canadian ship involved, the Elizabeth and Jane, was a wooden Schooner of 108 tons, built in 1860 at St George [New Brunswick] on the east coast of Canada, then registered in New Brunswick.

The Kelton was built at the Kelton Yard on the River Nith (which flows into the Solway Firth south of Dumfries on the west coast of Scotland) at the premises of G & R Thompson in the village of Glencaple. It was quoted as an outstanding vessel, three masted, launched in around 1860 for the Sloan Brothers of Dumfries, and always commanded by Capt Beattie. The Schooner traded normally from the Dumfries area to Liverpool and the Cumberland coastal towns of Whitehaven and Maryport.

So it seems the rescue quoted on the inscription must have been made in the northern part of the Irish Sea: the Elizabeth and Jane could itself have been headed for Maryport or Whitehaven, which were major export ports for chemicals etc.

The Telescope

The telescope is totally brass bodied, but both ends of the main barrel and the first draw are silver plated. It was presumably manufactured in around 1860-62 by Troughton and Simms, and is 35” long when fully open, and 27” when closed up: the objective housing is 2″ OD. There is a sliding cover over the eyepiece lens, but no cover exists for the objective lens. The main body/barrel is slightly tapered, and retains its bare brass colour, ie is not plated: it would have been covered with canvas or a string binding when supplied. To simulate this and improve the hand grip on the barrel I have bound it with a natural jute string.

Where does this fit with other contemporary telescopes?

This is definitely a naval telescope, similar to the ‘Officer of the Watch models’ introduced later by manufacturers such as Ross, but it follows the pattern of other naval scopes from Dollond and others. It is easy and quick to focus so can be brought into use very fast.  It has a good magnification and field of view. It also has the flat eyepiece end of the 18th Century style of scope – it does not have the Victorian ‘bell-end’ shape of eyepiece. The sunshade is fairly standard, presumably to act as the words imply.

The sun shade

The sun shade

Return to the Family

This telescope was acquired in 2005 from an Ebay listing, and was my Accession Number 101. I have used it with the jute string binding I applied, which is fine, but this could be improved by someone more competent. It works well, as you would expect from a Presentation scope, silver plated, and from a reputable maker. It is a fine example of the Victorian approach, to honour someone who showed human compassion, when called upon. It is a fine example of this approach, with the presence of the inscription: there are not many more like this! In 2018 the telescope was returned to the descendants of Robert Beattie, as a family heirloom.

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2 comments on “Troughton and Simms presentation telescope for Capt Robert Beattie in 1862

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