A Berge/Ramsden Gentleman’s telescope

DSCN3898How do you describe such a magnificent telescope?

It is made of three silvered draws, pulling out of a black enameled barrel.
It just oozes elegance, but then on closer inspection you see the detailed machine engraving around the eyepiece and the objective lens holder, and it escalates to a Georgian drawing room display item, alongside the classic black enamelled cane walking stick with silver point and handle!
DSC04729I assume the decorations at either end are  machine engraved, but for 1800, that must have been pretty skilled: it reminds me of the silver serviette rings used by my grand-parents, or their parents maybe.

Note one of the chips out of the enamel on the barrel, the only sign of any wear!

Engraved information

The engraving on the first draw is a nightmare to analyse.
DSCN3902Jesse Ramsden worked at 196 Piccadilly from 1792 till his death in 1800.He was the son of an innkeeper from Salterhebble, in Yorkshire, but married Sarah Dollond, sister of Peter Dollond, in 1766.He was the leading instrument maker of his day, ie 1790-1800 at least, if not before. Matthew Berge was one of his employees, and he took over the business when Ramsden died. So maybe the telescope was work in progress when Ramsden died. The engraving is offset, almost not of the quality of the rest of the telescope. It says
But the two words on each line are not aligned, not even the same type-size. It looks like the original engraving was the low key ‘LONDON RAMSDEN’, and then Berge added the other two words when Jesse Ramsden died and he took over. That would date the telescope at almost exactly 1800.
Slightly confusing therefore, the initial letters, ‘B’ and ‘L’, are next to the eyepiece, which is typical only of earlier telescopes, ie 1790 and earlier, as later in the decade the accepted standard was to put the engraving on the opposite side of the telescope, with the end of the line nearest to the eyepiece. Ramsden in his latter years had placed his signature in this way, so this one is a little unusual. Obviously you can postulate that it was built earlier, but was expensive and did not sell for many years, until Berge took over after Ramsden died, when he had a clear-out of old stock?
So I would still date this scope at least as leaving the Berge/Ramsden establishment at almost exactly 1800.

How does it perform?

This is a beautifully presented scope, and its optics are up to the amazing standard you would expect from the Ramsden stable. It is powerful, easy to focus, and has a wide field of view when used next to the eye. It is not meant to be used with glasses, the extra distance reduces the field.
The condition is excellent, everything unscrews easily, the lenses are all perfect. The engineering design concept shows brilliant touches: for example the second cartridge for example is screwed into place on the eyepiece end of the cartridge, making it held in optical alignment much more closely than the conventional design. After 216 years, the only criticism is that the objective lens doublet is peened into the mount, so there is no way to clean between the lenses. It was the standard approach in those days, to stop people messing around with the doublet I suppose. But luckily it is not necessary to clean in there at the moment.
The enamel on the brass barrel is very unusual, looks excellent, but has suffered some dings where the enamel has chipped off. This is the only area where 200 years of hand use is evident.
DSC04733The silvered eyepiece has been difficult to clean/polish perfectly, but I will keep trying. There is no shutter, which I consider is aok. There is no objective lens cap – it’s not lost, the design suggests, with a ridge around the far end of the holder, that there was no lens cap supplied.
I’m going to use this one as my standard ‘go-to’ telescope for spotting aeroplanes over here: previously I used the 8-sided 4 foot Dollond of the 1760s, but that one now needs some reinforcement. This telescope is more powerful, maybe has a narrower field of view, but is as easy to use, because it is not too long, and is light in weight.

Dimensions and value

The telescope dimensions are: the closed length is 7″; open it is 20.75″; outer diameter is 43mm; the visible objective lens diameter is 37mm.
I bought this telescope on Ebay in Summer 2016, as the only bidder, at the starting price. I consider with the name, the condition, the quality and after cleaning, on Ebay it would now make £250. If it were at the Scientific Instruments Exhibition, or a retail environment, the marked price would be somewhere between £750 and £1250. I would not be able to afford that, so I’m delighted to be the custodian for a few years at least.
Accession number 283

A pristine Dolland, still in a tin

s1600This is a classic telescope as sold in an Ebay sale of antiques, a Dolland three draw leather covered brass telescope. Run of the mill, lots about, not a high value product, mass produced in the early 1800s.

So why did I buy it, at a very inflated price compared to any others? Because this one is different.

s-l1600Readers of this site will be aware that the name Dolland possibly became a generic name for telescopes with an achromatic objective lens, giving the better performance of the telescopes originally patented by Dollond in the 1760s. So Dolland telescopes became cheap copies of the Dollond standard. However, while this telescope might be a lower cost version of the real thing, it has been kept in an air-tight tin (metal) case for over 150 years, I would guess.

The telescope is pristine, it has no corrosion to the brass, and the leather is looking healthy, and with no stretch to the stitches. What is more the edges of the sliders on the objective and the eyepiece feel sharp, they have not been worn smooth by use or wear. It looks like the telescope has never been used. No old polish secreted in the corners either.

s-l1600 (3)

Dimensions are: opened length 34.5″ without sunshade extended, or 37″ total: 12″ closed. Overall diameter 2+3/8″, container diameter 2.5″. Came from a house clearance in Bury St Edmunds.

So perhaps it should be put in a glass case in a Museum? I may be one of the few people who have looked thru it, and it works really well: the lenses have no dust and have never been cleaned, they have never needed it.

s-l1600 (5)The screw threads are not as good as they could be, ie not as good as the Dollond versions, but this is what characterises the Dolland units. The tube walls are probably thinner than the Dollonds, so will not be as robust in use, but in this example are looking good!

There is no way I am going to touch it further, except for trying to wipe off some recent fingermarks: it is to stay bottled up. Even the photos used here are from the Ebay sale page. One day there will be some Museum that needs such a brilliant specimen!

s-l1600 (2)

Accession number 281.

John Jervis scope, in Alresford!

Whatever you collect, it is always of particular interest to find an item that has a particular relationship with the village or area where you live. For me this was slightly more difficult than usual, I thought, as I collect terrestrial telescopes, ie the sort of hand-held telescopes that were used on ships. So living inland, in Alresford, there would be quite a limited number of naval telescopes linked to here.

My one real hope was Lord Rodney, George Brydges Rodney, who was brought up by his godfather, George Brydges of Avington Park. After winning some prize money at the battle of Finisterre in 1747, when in command of the 60 gun “Eagle”, Rodney purchased land near Alresford Church, and built Alresford House. His life is described in the 1991 Alresford Displayed story by John Adams, see www.alresford.org/displayed/displayed_17_01.php. Lord Rodney died in 1791, at Alresford House.

Admiral Lord Rodney

1744-beare-poss-capt-g-b-rodneyRegrettably Rodney was at sea only up to the 1780s, which is right at the start of the boom in telescope production, which started following the Dollond patent of 1760, a development that made them far more efficient. So any telescope he might have used would these days be very expensive, where they have survived, and they would probably out of my price range! Incidentally, none of the later portraits of Lord Rodney show him with a telescope, which is unusual, for paintings of Admirals in those days. But surprisingly, I’ve found a portrait of him as a young man, with a telescope that looks like a 1730/40 model – very expensive now!

However, I did find a bit of Lord Rodney’s past, on a visit to see my daughter in Cornwall. If you walk down the main streets of Helston, near Porthleven (the nearest decent harbour) you will find the The Rodney Inn, with apparently a picture of Lord Rodney hanging outside! The picture does look like the many portraits of him, painted in around 1791.


The Rodney Inn sign, with a copy of a standard portrait of Lord Rodney, with seagull adornment. Below are some views of  the exterior of the pub.

DSCN3396  DSCN3397

Hinton Ampner House

Mary Ricketts

Portrait of Mary Ricketts

This week I visited the National Trust at Hinton Ampner, and read about the ghost stories that relate to the original house on that site. In 1765, Captain William Henry Ricketts and his wife Mary rented the original Tudor house on that site. Captain Ricketts had estates in Jamaica, and was presumably in the Navy: his time in the West Indies was coincident with that of Admiral Rodney, and his wife Mary was the sister of Admiral John Jervis, who was also in the Royal Navy, and active in the West Indies at that time. So presumably there were frequent visits between Hinton Ampner and Alresford House.

Indeed in 1770, John Jervis came to stay at the house in Hinton Ampner, with a friend, Captain Luttrell, when Captain Ricketts was away in Jamaica. The two of them tried to keep guard over the house one night, to find an explanation for the ghostly noises and appearances that were regularly disturbing the household. Unable to explain the happenings, and thoroughly frightened, John Jervis advised his sister to move out.

The John Jervis Tucker telescope


The link to a telescope results, although it does turn out to be tenuous: a year or so ago I acquired a telescope signed Captain J. Jervis Tucker, believing it to be linked to Admiral Jervis (later known as Earl St Vincent, and commanding officer in charge of one Commander Nelson at the battle of Cape St Vincent: Nelson was as a result of this battle appointed an Admiral). But for John Jervis to be the rank of Captain, the telescope would be dated around 1760, and this telescope was younger than that, it looked early 1800s.

Admiral Jervis had a personal secretary (or ADC, or Batman, or whatever a PA is known as) called Benjamin Tucker, who went on to be Second Secretary to the Admiralty. He christened his son, born 1802, John Jervis Tucker: JJT joined the Navy in 1815, and became Captain of HMS Royal William in 1838: and that is about the right date for this telescope, which is unique in that it is over 4 feet long!


So John Jervis Tucker probably never brought this telescope to Hinton Ampner, nor Alresford. Never mind, the search goes on!

This story is a straight copy of another story written for the AlresfordMemories.wordpress.com website in 2016.

Other Lord Rodney pubs!

There are several!

The first one is in the middle of the British Isles, nowhere near the sea: an ‘Admiral Rodney’ is situated near Martley, Worcestershire

Then all the others:

  • The Admiral Rodney, 592 Loxley Road, Loxley, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S6 6RU; The Admiral Rodney was built during the 1950’s, next to the site of another pub called The Rodney, which was demolished at the time. The pub is named after an old local hero, George Brydges Rodney who as an admiral defeated a Spanish fleet in 1780 and a French fleet at the Battle of the Saints in 1782.
  • Admiral Rodney Hotel, Eatery & Coffee House – Horncastle, LN9 5DX 01507 523131.
  • Admiral Rodney, Wollaton Road, Wollaton, Nottingham, NG82AF: Historically, Admiral Rodney was one of Nelson’s right hand men and a good friend of the owners of Wollaton Hall which is just down the road. Hence the naval name so far from the sea! Inside is open plan with stone floors, wood panelling and a really nice fireplace which is lit during the winter. This genuine pub has avoided loud music, sports and the like, opting to encourage a relaxed, comfortable environment where visitors can enjoy a quality drink or have a tasty meal with friends. We have Cask Marque status which means this is ‘the’ place to come for that choice real ale. The clientele are a good mix of ages with students, professionals and retired people all coming here. Why not see for yourself what a great place this is.
  • The Admiral Rodney Hotel, King Street, Southwell, Nottinghamshire NG25 0EH
  • The Admiral Rodney, Main Street, Calverton, Notts NG14 6FB:  The Inn dates back to the mid 1700’s and is an unmodernised country pub. Named after Admiral Rodney who harvested local oak from this area for his ships and who was subsequently honoured by a pillar which was built on the adjacent hill. Indeed the pub is used as a base for walkers exploring this area to see the pillar and the Breidden Hills.
  • Admiral Rodney, Criggion, Shrewsbury, Wales: The Inn dates back to the mid 1700’s and is an unmodernised country pub. Named after Admiral Rodney who harvested local oak from this area for his ships and who was subsequently honoured by a pillar which was built on the adjacent hill. Indeed the pub is used as a base for walkers exploring this area to see the pillar and the breidden hills.
  • Ye Old Admiral Rodney, New Road, Prestbury, Macclesfield, Cheshire, SK10 4HP.