Concorde Memorial Galiled (sic) Telescope, 2003

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This is quite an effective, but modern telescope, produced as a corporate gift and specially engraved by some trading house to be a tribute in memory of the Concorde airliner. It is therefore engraved with the Concorde name in the BA logo form, and etched with a Concorde silhouette.

dscn4882Just in case you thought this was a well-engineered British product, that myth is dispelled as soon as you see the title on the box is “Galiled Telescope”, so maybe it was made in space by Martians, or maybe Chinese people, who cannot spell Galileo. Inside it claims to be designed exclusively as part of the British Airways Concorde Collection, to celebrate 27 years of commercial supersonic flight. However it is a very highly polished, chrome-plated brass, with what appear to be two plastic lens cartridges in conventional positions in the first draw. Plus the focal action is a combination of pull out to full length, and then twist to gradually adjust into focus, because the first draw has some sort of preferred spiral/screw thread action (which can be over-ruled by a definite push intended to close the draw.

Description

On the box and on the other side of the objective ring to the Concorde name logo it states the magnification x field as 25x 30mm.

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The scope is a three draw, 5.5” when closed, and 13” when open fully, The objective is a fairly standard doublet: the third draw unscrews from the main barrel conventionally, and the mounting slider is retained by a plastic end cap: it is removed over the eyepiece. The slider itself is a smooth run along the draw, since the mount has a plastic liner. Even the inside surface of the barrel is chrome plated and highly polished.

What I have not managed to do is dismantle the first and second draws to get at the second lens cartridge! Modern stuff is not as straightforward in assembly as Victorian models!

Extending the market

Despite the exclusive design claim, I have also seen variants of this scope offered on Ebay, not just with a Concorde logo and tribute, but also with a version offering a tribute to the Hubble space telescope. This one was new, and cost about £48, in 2005, which was then a fairly standard price.

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The manufacturer’s model number is quoted as LP-888, with the BA Warehouse Code of OP, and Product Code 1402. There has been another offered on Ebay recently labelled as made by Opticron. My Accession Number was #108.

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Spencer & Co Victorian telescope

dscn4875A well-known name in London telescope making at the end of the C18 was the partnership of Spencer, Browning & Rust, based in Wapping, near the Pool of London. They started working together from 1784, but the original founders had all died by 1819, and their respective successors continued in business, effectively separately. Spencer, Browning & Rust operated from 66 High Street, (Hermitage Bridge) in Wapping.

William Spencer, one of these founders, retired in 1815, and died in 1816: his successor, possibly one of his sons, who also may have been called William, continued in the business, and from around 1816 to maybe 1820 operated under the name “Spencer & Co”. There were so many people named ‘William Spencer’ in this time that the relationships are confusing: one of them had been apprenticed to Samuel Browning in 1801, so possibly he took over in 1815 – and was said to have continued working (under his own name) until 1839. Another partnership, Spencer, Browning & Co, was quoted to have started work at #66 in 1840, they are also quoted to have used the alternate name of Spencer & Co: the company was later known as Browning & Co.

The telescope

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This telescope is a single draw, oak-barrelled model, nearly 2.5” diameter at the objective: closed it is 19” long, and open it is 34” long. The large diameter draw tube splits in the middle to give access to the second cartridge of lenses, and at the eyepiece itself there is another cartridge around 2” long.

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The engraving on the drawtube says “Spencer & Co, London, Day or Night”.

This design appearance is more typical of early Victorian fashion, than the 1820 Georgian period. It is therefore considered to date from around 1840, rather than 1820. Another story on this website features a more advanced design of Spencer, Browning & Co telescope, which came from the wreck of the ‘Eagle’.

Restoration history

The telescope was acquired on Ebay, for repair, from a reseller in Bexhill-on-Sea, in March 2016. Only four of the original five lenses were present, and unusually it was the first eyepiece lens, along with the eyepiece itself, that was missing. The eyepiece lens and assembly that screws into and holds the first lens cartridge in place was replaced by a gilded eyepiece that came from an apparently US built telescope acquired in 2001, a four draw unit made by the Criterion Co of Hartford, Connecticut. This latter one was found on a Yahoo auction site, and was shipped from North Carolina.

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The rather ugly steel screws previously used to hold the brass end fittings to the wooden barrel were replaced with more modern brass screws: The diameter of the brass shoulders used suggests that the telescope was designed to have these shoulders fitting over the OD of the barrel – but it was obviously felt to be too tight to fit, and the barrel has been turned down at the ends, making a poor fit on the brass shoulders.

Subsequently the barrel length has been reduced by 0.25″ at each end, allowing both shoulders to extend further onto the barrel, and fit smoothly over the wider OD of the main barrel section. This actually shows the versatility of these wooden barreled designs for naval use, they could be repaired or modified by a ship’s carpenter, repositioning the brass fittings as needed.

Hermitage Bridge

The map of London in 1805, shown at Chawton House in Hampshire, shows Hermitage Bridge crossing Hermitage Dock on the North bank of the Thames, just East of the Tower of London. I have not found High Street as yet.

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Accession Number #271

A Ripley of Wapping 1775 naval telescope

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This telescope continues the pattern of late 1700s mahogany barrel three draw telescopes set by the earlier stories on the Gilbert & Co and the George Willson models. But while Gilbert & Co were operating from Leadenhall Street, and George Willson from Wardrobe Place, Doctors Common, which is between St Pauls and the River, these two show the gradual move of the nautical instrument supply business West, into the heart of London, ending up with the Victorian manufacturing and shops in Fleet Street and Piccadilly in the 1800s. Earlier, in the 1700s, ships chandlers, and suppliers to the merchant travellers, were based closer to the Pool of London – which stretched from London Bridge to Rotherhithe. London bridge effectively was the furthest up river that tall-masted ships could reach. Wapping was the prime location for such business, and this telescope was made by Thomas Ripley, who was based in The Hermitage, Wapping, from 1765 to 1790.

Thomas Ripley

Thomas Ripley was an apprentice to John Gilbert, the optical instrument maker, in 1755, alongside Gilbert’s son William. In 1763 he joined the Guild of Grocers, but then branched out into Mathematical and Optical instruments. After 1790 his business became Ripley and Son, with his son James, until 1805. This telescope however is marked clearly, engraved as made by “Thos. Ripley, (of the) Hermitage, London”. He worked from 364 Hermitage throughout his business life, under the sign of the “Globe, Quadrant and Spectacles”. Needless to say, the engraving is on the right side, ie the initial letters start next to the eyepiece.

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The engraving on the first tube: plus this is a Troughton flat faced eyepiece

The telescope

So dating this model is difficult: it was made somewhere between 1765 and 1790. It uses the dual element objective, as per the Dollond patent, in a swaged mount. It uses two separate cartridges, for the eyepiece elements at either end of the first draw. It works beautifully, with a high magnification. There is no objective lens cap now, although once it probably had one.

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The telescope with the eyepiece as supplied!

As supplied to me, via Ebay, the actual eyepiece looks wrong, totally. The end cap is of the wrong style for the 1700s: it has an internal thread, designed presumably to take a lens in its mounting, plus an external thread, which is typically used to screw into a bell type eyepiece lens housing, as fashionable in the Georgian/early Victorian period. So this would appear to be a later addition, where the internal thread just happens to fit the screw thread of the eyepiece, and it has been used to replace a lost original eyepiece cover. But this leaves the ugly external thread exposed, visible, and not used.

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With the Watkins eyepiece

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With the Troughton eyepiece

The extra photos here show the telescope with a flat faced eyepiece, which I consider is the right style for this period: one is taken from a Watkins scope, and one from a later Troughton and Simms scope, both of which fit, but only just well enough to show how it would look (ignoring the different patina of the brass).

Overall dimensions are: closed 9.25”; open 29.5”; OD 1.9”, Objective visible dia 1.5”.

Accession Number is #150, acquired 2011 from an Ebay trader in Dumfries & Galloway.

For this excellent 250 year old telescope, the current resale value in an antique dealer would be in excess of £500.

The Hermitage

DSC06352aThe Hermitage is seen below on an 1805 map of London on show at Chawton House Library in Hampshire. On the North bank of the Thames, Hermitage Dock is shown in the centre, and The Hermitage is on the west side of the dock. The Tower of london is just off this map top left, at the end of St Catherine’s, as can be seen on the smaller picture of the map.

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The Pool of London

Wikipedia explains the significance of the Pool of London, and importation of goods for duty payment via the official “Legal Quays”: the photos below are from Wikipedia.

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Imports from France, 1757, to the “Legal Quays”near the Tower, by Louis Boitard

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Pool of London, 1841, by W Parrott, looking East past Tower Hill – from London Bridge?

Pocket telescope by Bate, circa 1840

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This is a little telescope, but still a very effective one. When new, it had a decent sharkskin covered case, now all that remains is the bottom half: it still has the paper label from the original supply.

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R. B. Bate

Scientific Instrument Maker

Wholesale, Retail & for Exportation

No 21 Poultry, London

The number ‘21’ is on a paper sticker, which covers the previous address, which was 17 Poultry. Internally there is no paper lining: in many other cases this can be made from old documents, which give further dating information.

Construction

Closed up, the telescope is only 5”+, so it might be described as a pocket telescope. It is in fact an effective three draw, mahogany barrel telescope, that extends to 14.75”, and has an OD of 1.3”. It is engraved “Bate, London” on the first draw.

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The wooden barrel is still in beautiful condition, and has not been re-polished by me. All the screws in the end fittings are original, and still function.

The telescope works fine, ie very well, there is still an internal slider in the eyepiece to protect the top lens from dust, when stored.

Sizing: fully open 14.75”, closed size 5.25”: visible objective lens diameter is 1.125”.

Manufacturer

dscn4860Robert Brettell Bate was at 21 Poultry from 1824 to 1847 – he died in 1847. He had associations with WC Cox and Geo Stebbing, both notable marine instrument makers from the provinces (Plymouth and Portsmouth). He also transferred one of his apprentices to William Gilbert (2) (see the previous story. His sons John and Bartholomew Bate were also working in the business.

Accession Number #265

The scope was bought from an Ebay dealer in Lydbury, Gloucester, in 2015.

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A silver plated Gilbert scope, ~1800

Possibly designed to compete for the “Sporting Gentleman” market, like the Berge/Ramsden silver plated scope described earlier (July 30 2016), this is another telescope dating from 1800, but made by ‘Gilbert & Co’. The telescope itself does not give much more useful info, in the engraving, which says

” KINGS PATENT

Gilbert, & Co

LONDON “

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The first thing to notice is that the engraving is on “the right hand side” of the telescope, ie the writing starts with the first letter of each line nearest to the eyepiece. This was the effective standard format from say 1760 to 1790: subsequently it seems this ‘unwritten standard’ gradually changed. From the early 1800s most of the engraving was placed on the opposite side, ie with the last letter of each line ending nearest to the eyepiece. So straight away it can be suggested that this telescope is maybe C18th.

It is likely that ‘Gilbert & Co’ was the name used by William Gilbert (1), at around 1800, when he had four of his sons working in the business with him: these were William (2), from 1795, Henry Robert from 1798, Thomas from 1801, and Charles from 1803. They worked from the Navigation Warehouse, at 148 Leadenhall Street, London, with William and Thomas subsequently setting up their own businesses as instrument makers from around 1809/1813, and later working together as partners.

There were other complex partnerships, where William Gilbert (1) worked with Gabriel Wright from 1792-1794, and again from 1802-1805, and then there were triple partnerships, in Gregory, Gilbert & Wright from 1790-93, and then Gilbert, Wright and Hooke, from 1794-1801 – all of these were in 148 Leadenhall Street. Possibly different names were used on different styles of instrument, which therefore drew on different expertise within the partners – or maybe the group of trades-people working together from this warehouse site. William Gilbert’s father John had also traded as an instrument maker and optician, working from around 1745: William was an apprentice to this John Gilbert (2), alongside Peter Dollond and Thomas Ripley, both to become famous. John himself was the son of a mathematical instrument maker, John Gilbert (1), who had worked from Tower Hill earlier, 1716 to 1749.

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I have not found what the Patent quoted in fact refers to: but the pedigree shows William Gilbert was a major player in optical instruments at the end of the 1700s and early 1800s, and this telescope is arguably better than any similar Dollond.

Construction

dscn4854-smThe whole telescope says “Quality”, starting with the silver plating and decoration around the eyepiece and objective lens. Pick it up and it feels right, but the big surprise is looking through it – the magnification is about twice what you might have been expecting. The lenses in the internal cartridges look good, and must be very carefully sized. One of the draws, the third, obviously what not quite snug enough, so the slider is padded with very thin felt. The sliders themselves have the threads about an inch down in the draw, with a shoulder at the top end, to make a two point mounting for each joint, keeping them tight in line.dscn4847-sm

dscn4853-smSizing is the sort of standard for this style of three draw scope, 29.5” fully open and 9.5” closed, OD is 2”. The mahogany barrel is still polished well, so that has not needed any rework: there is one longitudinal crack. The only quirk in the design would seem to be the extra ring which acts as a 5mm spacer near the objective – this might just be a spacer to enable a focus to be made even on very close objects (20 feet), where the extension required  is close to the fully expanded length of the scope.

Origin

We have no info about any owners. It was bought on Ebay, in September 2006. What surprised me was that it came from a farmhouse in Gulval, just east of Penzance, very close to where my daughter lives! I wonder what stately home it came from!

Accession number is #118. What value would you put on it? The retail value is certainly well over £500.

2018 Comment:

I love this telescope, so it isn’t yet for sale: but there is a similar one for sale on Ebay UK for around £625, by Gilbert & Wright, so maybe even a little earlier. See the dealer “silkandsawdust1” or Ebay item #273599051869…..

Footnote: Navigation Warehouse

The building at 148 Leadenhall Street is now a suite of 92 serviced offices: it is accessed by the left hand door in the picture below.

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A reference to the Navigation Warehouse at 148 records that John William Norie (1772–1843), a writer on navigation, was a Partner with Charles Wilson in publishing naval books and charts and also a dealer in nautical instruments at the “Navigation Warehouse” in Leadenhall Street at the end of the C18.

As the 2016 estate agent blurb says, the offices are “Set in the crossroads of the insurance and financial districts of London, directly opposite Leadenhall Market, and just around the corner from the Lloyd’s building and the Gherkin”.

Next door is a very sumptuous, even exotic bar (the Steam and Rye), with private dining rooms: one of these is the clock room (see below), which maybe harks back to the history of the area.

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George Willson telescope, ~1800

dscn4842-smI left this telescope languishing in a box for ten years (after buying it in 2005 on Ebay), not quite understanding why it would not work. In addition it had a problem with one of the mounting rings, the top “flange” edge had come away from the cylindrical slider. Obviously I had not spent enough time looking at it, as I hadn’t noticed the name stamped on the flat face of the eyepiece, under the grime, which turned out to be “Willson G, London”.

George Willson was apprenticed to James Moulding in 1797, and joined the Guild of Stationers. However by 1798 he was working as an optician, and had several apprentices, one of which was George Dixey. From 1799-1802 they worked in Wardrobe Place, Doctors Common, London – and from 1802-1809 they worked as a partnership, as Willson & Dixey, opposite St James’s Church, on Piccadilly, London. Willson & Dixey was a more prolific telescope maker.

This telescope, labelled just as Willson, is likely to date from between 1798 and 1802.

Construction

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The telescope is a fairly standard design, with three draws, a mahogany barrel, two lens cartridges in the first draw, and a flat faced eyepiece. All the screws into the barrel are original, and everything unscrews well. Total length when fully extended is around 29”, and when folded it is just over 9” long, with an OD of 1.9”. It could have been intended for Naval use, or for use by an Army or Cavalry officer.

How to make it work!

The problem was fairly obvious in retrospect! The lens cartridge near the eyepiece did not fit properly, it was too small in diameter to achieve a tight fit inside the draw, but was held in place by the eyepiece cover. The mounting thread on the eyepiece did not attach anywhere. At the other end of the first draw, there was no cartridge, one lens screwed into the thread at the end, and another lens was positioned 2” inside the draw, apparently as a push-fit. Eventually I realised this was in fact at the end of the cartridge which should have been next to the eyepiece, it had just been pushed down along the draw. The eyepiece lens which should have fitted this cartridge was in fact the lens that was screwed into the objective end of the first draw.

So move everything back to where it should be, and of course it all works perfectly!

Slider Repair

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Hopefully the slider on the second draw can be soldered back into place, and still slide along the draw-tube. I later solder tacked it into position, then sanded down the solder inside just enough to get it back fitting the second draw tube, so its in position, at least.

The sliders holding the draws in line have the threads at the outer edge, so this is just an average quality telescope of its day, unlike the next example which is the same date, ie 1800, but super quality, from a maker with a long pedigree……

This Willson is Accession Number 110

A tapered Dollond, from 1770

This is a really beautiful old Dollond, with a long tapered mahogany body. It is estimated to be around 250 years old, i.e dating from maybe 1770, and designed for use on a sailing ship: as you would expect from such an era of Dollond supply, the image is great and the focus is very easy. The single draw tube contains all the four eyepiece lenses, at the ends, and at the two joints in the tube itself. There is no end stop, so this draw pulls straight out, if it were to be pulled too far.

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Unpolished, as received: two joints in the draw, labelled Dollond, with bash marks!

The draw tube does have some signs of previous trauma, having been bashed on something, or someone!

The telescope came from the grandson of a Naval officer who owned and used it in WW1, presumably on a Royal Navy ship, or maybe a merchant ship: we do not know his name to trace where he actually served. Unless he was a high rank naval officer with his own cabin etc, he would not have been allowed to take such a large item on board a WW1 Royal Naval vessel – so it is more likely he was in the merchant navy.

As can be seen from the pictures below, showing before and after photos of the brass cleaning, the leather sleeve on the wooden barrel has done its job, and protected the barrel, but has suffered significantly in doing so.

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Telescope as received

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After polishing the brass end fittings!

The big question to ask, is whether Dollond would have supplied this scope with the leather cover, ie with the mahogany body bare. It looks like Dollond would not have had a leather cover: maybe this was added to protect the barrel, as there do look to be several cracks in the wood, under the leather.

So the decision is whether to cut the leather off and re-polish the wood, after gluing up any/all of the cracks! It would just look so much better.

Dimensions

The scope is exceptional in its unwieldy-ness. Maybe that is why it has been bashed about in its time. But there is a lot of room on the deck of an old fashioned C18 sailing ship! The barrel itself is 36” long, so even closed up tight the overall length is 38”. When opened up to focus the scope, the length is maybe 47”. Maximum OD is around 2.5”.

Inside the barrel there is an orifice, to restrict the outer fringes of light from the objective: the orifice is relatively close to the objective, around 10” inside the taper. It is interesting that the leather cladding has a circumferential crease, or shows up a ridge round the barrel, at this same distance from the objective, almost indicating a joint. The internal bore is evenly tapered, all the way, presumably using a wood boring tool, or chisel.

Accession Number 297, acquired December 2016.

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The different brass discolouration was caused by the close fitting mount slider, while the draw was permanently closed in storage

Removing the leather

Great news: the barrel red mahogany is beautiful: it has some cracks, one of which is open, – it can easily be glued – but other old glue lines that protrude, etc, are coming off with sanding. One area of slight separation between layers can be dealt with…. The leather came off as if it were a loose skin!

Currently (21/12) the barrel is wrapped with rubber bands to hold the cracks in place, while the glue sets, then there will be yet more sanding and eventually French polishing. Suitably sanded, the mahogany now (23/12) has two coats of polish, and is looking good. The old rusty screws (that were too big for the holes, see the top photo) will be replaced with brass ones at least.

Looking good

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This is a couple of coats of French polish into completion, and the telescope is looking good. At least I am of the opinion that this is better than equipped with the battered leather cover.

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The screws will be replaced with small brass ones shortly, when the polishing is completed. The main barrel is shown below!

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Now at last the various coats of French polish have dried and the whole thing is polished and assembled again, with new screws!

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Britex/Orion Spotter from 1950

My first telescope was the one I used for aero-spotting in the early 1960s. It was aluminium, anodised black, made by N&B (Newbold and Bulford, also referred to as “Enbeeco”: this firm eventually disappeared into the Pyser Group). The model was called a “Petrel”: and it lived (extended and focused) on my bedroom window-sill, ready for use on passing aeroplanes, while doing my homework. This was pancratic, ie variable magnification, which worked well, going from 25x to 40x, but needed wedging in my bedroom window to hold it still when using 40x, looking over the two miles distance to the aerodrome on the next hill at Yeadon. Normal aeroplane use was at 25x.

Recently I have been collecting other 1960s/post-war manufactured versions of telescopes, from N&B and from Britex/Ottway – the latter seemed to produce brass built versions, rather than the aluminium ones produced by N&B.

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This “Britex Spotter” looked interesting on Ebay, which overcame the normal reticence that arises when I see any scope, usually a gunsight or other typically military equipment, usually from Ottway, with grub screws. Maybe the knurled bit was a clever focusing ring, it looked OK in the Ebay pictures.

Now researching the name I discover that Britex was actually a trade name of W. Ottway and Co, of Ealing, which maybe explains the design style. The Britex Spotter was produced after WW2 for the wholesale trade market, ie for retailers and multiple resellers I guess, and the range also included names like the ‘Orion Spotter’ and ‘Headquarter & General’. (See the postscript for the Orion Spotter)

The Britex Spotter

The Spotter is a neat two draw short telescope, ie one focusing draw and a pancratic magnification adjustment tube near the eyepiece. It is really solidly built in chromed brass, with the main barrel and sunshade being finished in ‘hammered’ paint. It has a double capped leather strap to protect each end, when not in use, or in transit. With the solidity comes weight, and it is heavy: so I was pleased to have chosen the lighter Enbeeco unit for my own telescope!

The focus on the lowest magnification setting, which says 15x, is only achievable at around 50 yards and longer range, but this becomes closer as the magnification is increased. The 40x magnification is certainly achieved. It is easy to use. Overall length is 21″ extended (53cm), closed it is 11.25″ or 28.5cms. OD is 1.5″.

Nasty bits

I am unlikely to meet the designer who put this concept together, but initially you think he was not a telescope user, and had never worked with a good Victorian telescope design, or even an older design. There are so many extra bits wrapped round the tube, and he did really like his grubscrews. Luckily of the three, two still work, just, but one is messed up: you need to undo these two crucial ones however to access the lenses to clean them. Then you realise that this designer normally worked with the Ottway gunsights used on battleships and tanks – this was their main market – and these would have had to withstand extremes of vibration and shock, so that grubscrews there were probably essential?

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All the bits, except for the grubscrews!

The central cartridge is suspended back from the end of the second draw, on a long extension, but instead of the standard knurled ring we have a silly ring with various cut-outs round the edge, and then, horrors, this also has a grub screw to secure it in place! But to get to this you need to unscrew the ugly external grub screw, which actually holds three separate rings together. First is the “decorative” external machine turned ring: it has no other function, apart from also holding the grubscrew. Second, the ring below, which is on the end of the second draw (and seems to have its own thread and grubscrew onto the actual slider on the draw tube). Third is the machined end of the main barrel, which screws into the middle ring to make the connection between the barrel and the second draw.

Possibly the real reason for the use of so many “bits” to do a simple telescope was that Ottway might have made all the bits anyway for an MoD contract, and had lots of them left over, so maybe they solved a problem and were effectively free-issue, so they used them all anyway and cobbled something together!

History

This scope was acquired on Ebay in November 2016. The previous owner also bought it second hand, back in 1959, so it is certainly a 1950s model, latest. Accession Number #295.

Construction photos:

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The eyepiece and its cartridge

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The central cartridge

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The multi-layer joint

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The objective assembly and sunshade

Postscript: The Orion Spotter

OK, so it does happen, a lot more than it should: I’ve found another very similar telescope in the collection, and this one is engraved as “Orion Spotter” and also says “Made by W Ottway & Co Ltd, Ealing London. Number 52363, British Made”. This is my Accession Number #228. This is identical in construction, and all the major bits, of the Britex Spotter, it is just renamed.

It has the same leather end cups on a strap as the Britex Spotter, and apart from the engraving the only other difference is that the barrel and sunshade are covered in a good quality tan leather, stitched together along the seams.

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Ottway labelled Orion Spotter, with leather cladding

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Ottway’s Orion Spotter