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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.