Nelson’s Telescope: lost, or hidden?

This is not the normal sort of telescope story shown on this site. It’s all the opposite way round.

The telescope shown in the photograph below, taken from a newspaper, was sold in early 1920, at an auction, probably in London. The only logic for that conclusion is that the newspaper was The Times Weekly Edition  (Illustrated Section) published early in 1920, January we believe.


What is interesting is that the text alongside the photo suggests that the telescope had a pedigree. It said “FAMOUS TELESCOPE FOR SALE” and explained “Nelson’s telescope is being offered for sale by auction in London. It was given to Nelson by his father.”

The photo is typically a staged pic using someone who knows nothing about telescopes, and maybe had to be like that to fit the needs of the photographer, to avoid having it extended and too long to fit into a good format. The guy supposed to be using it is peeking through with it not extended at all.

Was this really Nelson’s telescope?

An earlier article explained how the National Maritime Museum had a telescope on display which was said to have been used by one of Nelson’s officers. But I have had no information about an authentic Nelson-owned Telescope on display anywhere. It would be really interesting to try to locate it.

The photo in the newspaper gives some indication of telescope size, in relation to the man’s head. I estimate that the closed overall length is 14.5”, the sunshade 5.25” long, and the OD is 2.5”, with the aperture for the lens appearing to be 1.75”. The part of the barrel that appears to be covered in string or some form of binding is around 7.5”. The photo does not show the style of eyepiece, it is obscured.

These dimensions are very close to being the same as those of the Dolland telescope described in the earlier story on this website, found in a Barrow second hand shop, and originating from the Walney Island lighthouse. See I have tried to reproduce the same sort of photo angle below, with the Walney Dolland unit. The two photos are shown below together, to compare.

DSCN2676 Nick colour


Are they the same sort of size and description? What do you think? Your comments would be appreciated….

If the two are indeed similar, then Nelson’s father had given him a relatively low cost, and not the highest quality, telescope. The Dolland unit is made in relatively thin brass, for the draws – so they would probably show some dents and damage from normal use. It has a wooden barrel, maybe this is protected by the string binding in the old photo.

Such a unit might possibly have been bought for him when he was a junior officer, before becoming of a high rank, ie when he could afford something better. So  it would not be an impressive unit to put on show,  explaining why it might not be normally on display, if it was bought by a museum. Because even in the 1920’s I would believe a National Museum would have been interested in that telescope!

If anyone knows of the whereabouts of this telescope, please let me know too!

(I just want to see it)