The Dollond & Aitchison Collection of telescopes at Yardley

Telescope display at Yardley

Telescope display at Yardley

 

This collection was originally held at the Yardley, Birmingham site of Dollond and Aitchison, a commercial organisation. Inevitable cost cuts and the retirement of the curator seemed to lead to the Museum being scrapped, and the collection held there was provided on permanent loan to the British Optical Association Museum, at The College of Optometrists, 42 Craven Street London WC2N 5NG.

The museum there can be visited by appointment, but it seems that the BOA is more interested in optical items, such as spectacles, rather than telescopes. I have yet to visit the BOA but will report back when I have had a look. A direct line to the curator there is 020 7766 4353 or use museum@college-optometrists.org.

The web summaries of the link between the two suggests that it shows “A collection drawn from the holdings of the former Dollond Museum in Yardley relating not only to the Dollond family and the company now called Dollond & Aitchison (D&A) but also to the historic companies acquired by the D&A Group and to the history of optics in general. This collection is held by the BOA Museum on long-term loan by agreement with Dollond & Aitchison Ltd”

Visit to Yardley in August 1994

Small scopes at Yardley

Small scopes at Yardley

Cabinet at Dollond Yardley Museum

Cabinet at Dollond Yardley Museum

I was lucky enough to be able to arrange a visit to the Yardley museum in Summer 1994. The curator at that time was Stuart Eaden-Allen, but he was in poor health at that time and not there during my visit. A small room was packed with examples of Dollond telescopes, and also Aitchison binoculars (Aitcheson & Co acquired Dollond & Co in 1927, but the combined group name adopted was D&A, as this was more acceptable to the public!) as well as a couple of Aitchison telescopes that surprised me. The Aitchison classic binoculars used a spiral style of body, supported by a scissor like construction, and were made of aluminium: many can be seen in the photo of the cabinet. What is surprising is that not many seem to be sold on Ebay, but then I don’t search specifically for binoculars. The collection had a large number of short, ie 6” long max, telescopes, that were probably used as opera glasses or to correct short-sightedness, as an alternative to spectacles.

Telescope display at Yardley

Telescope display at Yardley

The main idea I took away from the display was the clever wall supports used to display the telescopes, using two Perspex side supports with large holes. This construction I adapted for use at home, instead of the angled-peg type support I had used previously. What they did have were several shagreen and fish-skin covered telescope bodies, and one walking stick containing a telescope. The collection did not have any library table type telescopes on a stand (the science Museum went overboard on these), and singularly did not show any 6, 8 or 10 sided wooden scopes, which I think date from the late 1700s – and Dollond made a lot of these. They also had very few polished wooden barrelled scopes that I rather like. What I have only just realized from these photos was that there is one 8 or multi-draw telescope with a green shagreen cover in one display, in the photograph shown at the top of this page, and I have never found a Dollond multi-draw unit like that for sale since then. The best model of this style I have is made by Carpenter (of London) circa 1835.

Plus the photograph directly above here has a very old green card tube type telescope, presumably by Dollond too, and they are rarely seen in Ebay auctions!

The above pictures show the displays seen at Yardley, the photos were taken with available light because I could not find a switch to turn anything else on, in the way of lighting! I could not get any pics of the telescopes that were lying inside the horizontal cabinet, seen at the bottom of the first photo above!

The peg support display used at home

What follows below is a photo of the display of the telescopes I had collected by 1995, on a wooden peg support structure on the wall. From the bottom this shows a Venetian paper tube model; a Dollond 8 sided 4 foot scope; a Dolland (sic) two draw scope from Walney Island; a Ross very handy little scope apparently previously owned by Andy McNab; a Signal Regiment military spotting scope by Broadhurst Clarkson; the Carpenter multi-draw unit; and a John Hewitson (Newcastle) scope.

Home display of telescopes 1995

Home display of telescopes 1995

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By dockraydiary Posted in Dollond

One comment on “The Dollond & Aitchison Collection of telescopes at Yardley

  1. Dolland and Aitchison had a factory in Yardley its purpose was to complete the thousands of spectacle prescription orders from all of their branches.

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