Shuttleworth – a classic rebuild?

Any aviation enthusiast, and particularly any aeroplane photographer, knows the name Shuttleworth for their marvellous collection and displays of vintage aircraft, at Old Warden. So when you see a telescope, labelled as manufactured by Shuttleworth, it is one not to be ignored, even when only sold for spares!

This Shuttleworth example would be a classic candidate to follow the rebuild route adopted by some old aeroplane restorers, where sometimes it might only be the nameplate screwed onto the airframe that has any link to the original item it is claimed to represent! This telescope comprises what would seem to be the original three brass draws, a mahogany barrel with the two brass ends, still screwed in place with the original screws.


The Missing Elements

Inside there is one of the two lens cartridges, but without the lenses: the other cartridge is missing, as is the eyepiece end cap. The objective lens pair are both smashed, but still held in place together: the lens holder does not unscrew because of the bent rim, caused by the impact which smashed the lenses.

To replace these five lenses and the objective carrier would seem to be a step too far, the end result would have needed to require the destruction of a decent, complete C18th telescope, and the result would be a mish-mash.

So it is to stay as a space model, a shell, but with many interesting features.

The Shuttleworth business

Henry Raynes Shuttleworth was an Optician who worked in London from 1760-1797: he had been apprenticed to John Cuff from 1746-7. Two of John Cuff’s other apprentices moved over to work for Shuttleworth, one in 1761, the other in 1769, as following bankruptcy in 1750, John Cuff’s business went downhill, ceasing completely in 1770.

From 1760 Shuttleworth was to be found at “The Sir Isaac Newton & Two Pairs of Golden Spectacles, the Old Mathematical Shop, near the West End of St Paul’s, London”. So that might explain why he did not engrave an address on his telescopes, but just put “Shuttleworth, London”. After 1774 he had an address that then sounded a little boring, in Ludgate Street, London.

From 1788, Henry Raynes’ son Henry Shuttleworth became an apprentice to his father, then taking over the business in 1797 when his father died: he continued trading as an Optician until 1811.

The design features

This telescope is a sophisticated design, following that of the two Ramsden scopes described earlier. The engraving of the name is positioned on what could be described as on the left side, ie you have to move the telescope to your left to read it, which is the old standard.

EDSCN3955ach draw has an arrow, which is taken to indicate how the tubes should be aligned to get the best performance. The air hole in the top of the third draw is to let the air compressed inside the telescope discharge easily to atmosphere.

Of most interest to me are the draw lines on the second tube, where the drawing process that formed the tube has caused a surface imperfection, from either slag impurities or from sticking of the metal to the die? Here I am guessing, maybe someone will explain?

Noticeable on the brass around the objective lens assembly iDSCN3956s a blemish on the surface, where it appears a 4-5mm diameter hole has been filled in, asa repair.

All of the retaining shoulders for the draws are labelled XII, as are the two larger draws: but the first draw, which carries the engraving, is labelled XI…!

There are no marks or letters/words of any identifiable nature on the wooden barrel. There is the normal focus line scribed round the first draw.


The telescope, when fully extended, is 22.5″ (lacking the eyepiece), and when closed is 7″. Visible objective lens diameter is 37mm, and overall max diameter 43mm.


The telescope is of a 1780-1800 design and build standard. The directories suggest Shuttleworth were spectacle makers mainly, although they are known and quoted for producing a microscope. All these little blemishes, or inconsistencies, suggest to me that the Shuttleworth operation did not produce many telescopes, maybe only one or two at a time, or maybe even they were bought in, and then engraved with the Shuttleworth name before being sold. Some of the telescope and microscope makers had no retail premises – for example this applied to John Cuff after 1758, so Cuff might well have acted as a general sub-contract manufacturer.


Accession number 285


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s