Three small telescopes: Dollond, Dixey, and A. N. Other


These three telescopes are all small and easy to carry – they could be described as “Pocket telescopes” but you would need a deep pocket, since they are all around 6” long when folded up. All with three draws, they are the shortest units that can perform reasonably well, without going as far as having a multi-draw construction, a design that gets heavier and larger in diameter in the pocket. All three of these are the same sort of length when extended, 17 to 19 inches.

The interesting part is that these three illustrate several different aspects of design, and span around 120 years in terms of date of manufacture.

  1. The Dixey scope


So named because it is engraved “C.W. Dixey, Optician to the Queen, New Bond Street, London” on the first draw. Charles Wastell Dixey worked there (at number 3) from 1839-1862 – so the Queen was certainly Victoria – and prior to working on his own he was in partnership with his Uncle George, and supplied George IV and William IV too. Those telescopes were labelled G & C Dixey.


This scope is of a classic design, with two lens cartridges at either end of the first draw, each with two lenses in the Schyrle-Huygens eyepiece arrangement, which is the format generally adopted for telescopes after 1800. An interesting feature of this design is that the sliders mounting each draw are sized very close, making a good seal on the outside of the smaller tube. So Dixey added air release holes in each draw, to allow the air to escape as the scope is compressed. Because they are a good fit, he did not need to cut the full flap in the slider (that can be tightened using hand pressure) to enable later adjustment, that featured in many earlier designs. However he did make two parallel cuts in the slider on each side, creating a ‘double ended flap’ that can still be squeezed to tighten a little, if needed.

The different feature here is that the scope is all brass in construction, possibly reducing the maximum OD of the unit, compared to a mahogany barrel – it is about 1.25” OD round the Barrel, but 1.375” where the brass raised around the objective area. The outside of the barrel, instead of being leather covered, which became the normal covering later, is brass, with the surface scratched in a fairly irregular pattern, then coloured in a brown shade, to simulate the appearance of wood.

The objective is a dual element lens, in an achromatic combination, held in place using a threaded ring on the inner side. It would appear that originally there was a brass protective cover fitted over the objective, this seems to have been lost. The eyepiece has a captive sliding cover in the screwed on cap. This cap holds the first lens cartridge in place, which is a push fit into the first draw.

Accession Number 238

  1. The Dollond scope


This Dollond is engraved ‘Dollond London x15’, all in capitals with the angular, heart shaped “O” letters. This dates it to after WW2, maybe in the 1950s. So it is 100 years further on than the Dixey: but still the same style of lens construction. The view through has the same sort of magnification, but the image is much bigger, and appears to give a wider field of view.

This could be down to the larger diameter lenses used in the eyepiece section: the three draws are altogether larger diameter and feel much stronger than those in the Dixey. The barrel of the Dollond is also larger by a little, measuring 1.625” OD. The largest, third draw is 1.375”, compared to the Dixey at 1”.

Where the Dollond scores comes later: it just feels right in the hands and is easy to use. This one has the brass barrel covered in pseudo leather – which is probably real….

Accession number 45 (a long time ago!)

  1. The Other One


There are no markings engraved on this scope. It appears to be a standard three draw, small scope from the 1800 -1850 period, but is in remarkably good condition. This is maybe because of the substantial felt lined leather case that came with it.

It is a little unusual in that it has a brass barrel, rather than a wooden one, and this is coated with a veneer or similar covering. The surface of this veneer is textured, or roughened, to a sort of matt finish. It also has a sun shade over the objective, a third the length of the barrel, with a side sliding cover assembly over the lens that can be unscrewed. If the scope is used with this lens cover in place, but with the slider open, the diameter of the window opening onto the objective lens is only about 0.75”. The eyepiece cap screws into the top of the first draw, but this has an integral long parallel section, 11mm long, that prevents the first draw pushing further into the barrel.

The Schyrle lens system


The three lenses in the Schyrle eyepiece design. The two lenses pictured still in the cartridges are there because their threads are too tight and difficult to remove. Both cartridges pictured have external threads on the bottom, to attach to the adjacent brass fittings.

It is inside the scope that the real differences become obvious. This was a real surprise, after the outside looked like a conventional early 1800s design. First the objective is a single lens, not an achromatic doublet. Then there are only three lenses in the first draw, making up the eyepiece assembly. These are equi-spaced, by about 6cms, and the lens closest to the eyepiece cap is in fact at the far end of a 3cms long cartridge, maintaining this large distance between the observing eye and the first lens. Plus there is a ‘Field Stop’ orifice close to this lens, on the objective side. This is a different eyepiece lens system to normal, it is a Schyrle lens system. This was supposed to have not been used after about 1750, since the achromatic objective lens and the Schyrle-Huygens eyepiece then took over. The Schyrle eyepiece was popular from the late 1600s to mid 1700s, and was developed by Anton Maria Schyrleus de Rheita, a Capuchin monk in 1645.

Others, notably Chris Lord, have suggested that Schyrle three lens systems were used on telescopes well into the early part of the C19th: the construction of this scope does seem to bear that out, in that it would appear to be of the style of the early 1800s. The internal connectors between draws are conventional, but close fitting brass to brass, such that there are no cut-outs that can be pressed down to tighten the connections up.

A characteristic of the Schyrle system is that the positioning of the eye along the optic axis is fairly critical, and equally any misalignment of the lenses in the cartridges – for example by cross-threading – makes it difficult to locate the image (ie sometimes it is difficult to use the scope without just seeing a grey blurr!).

The OD of the sunshade on this scope is 1.375”, and the barrel is 1.25”. The third draw is 1” diameter, like the Dixey. But as mentioned above, the window on the objective restricts its open diameter to 0.75”, whereas the Dixey objective lens visible OD is 1.125”, so gathering more light.


Accession number 211


Three scopes, all very similar in performance, but all with their different features. All are compatible with the Ramsden small scopes from 1790, and the Andy McNab scope from the C20th. It really comes down to which ones are easiest to use and carry!

The Schyrle eyepiece system used in the third model is very unusual. It was seen once before in a James Chapman octagonal telescope in my collection, but this one really did date from the late 1700s. The scope described above looks to be a much later design, and in my opinion dates from the early part of the 1800s, maybe as late as 1840. A similar design of telescope, but one which uses the Schyrle-Huygens eyepiece system with 4 lenses in the first draw, and dates from around 1850, is the John Hewitson unit described earlier.

Hewitson scope (centre)

The Hewitson scope is the smaller, second one down: this photograph shows my first three significant purchases, back in 1992


Medium sized Dollond from 1810

This is a 3-draw Dollond with a wooden barrel, a medium sized telescope around 20” long when extended. It was acquired in August 2017, as ref #313, and is frankly the same as two previous purchases, those with Accession numbers #193 and #98.


Dollond #313 (bottom) and #98 (top)


The design is classic for a medium sized scope, very similar to the early Ramsdens or the Watkins & Hill described on the last page – although earlier than that one, dating from between 1810 and 1820. The major difference in the Dollond is that the lens mounting positions in the first draw are at either end of the draw, and then at two places where the draw is split to allow access to these lenses. The photo shows the lens mounting positions along the first draw:


At the top are the two mechanical fittings. The first draw is made from the three bits of tube, shown in the middle row. The four lenses are shown as the bottom row, they go inside the ends of the tubing sections.

The reason this design is attractive enough to buy three models is that the Dollond optics are superb. Regrettably for Dollond, the mechanical construction is not so robust: the draw tubes are relatively thin, so examples can have damaged tubes that are difficult to move, and the joints between the tubes are not soldered in place as well as is achieved in later Dollond models, or other supplier’s units. The scope ref #98 had these poor joints, and no eyepiece cap. So it is basically used as a source of spare lenses. Ref #193 was complete, although one draw was stiff and the mahogany had a crack along the length, but it worked beautifully: this one was given away.

Why buy this third model?

Ref #313 was bought to replace #193, and is complete with end cap and slider in the eyepiece, and with original screws in the barrel. The mahogany barrel has a thick layer of French polish over the original polish, and looks almost black. It does have one mechanical problem, the shoulder of the slider on the second draw is only a press fit in place.

DSC05551 mounting ringIt is interesting to note that the design of this slider and shoulder was a Dollond Patent as well, described first in around 1780 apparently! It follows good mechanical principles, and positions the mounting thread around 1” inside the tube that is the next larger on the scope. At the flange ring against the tube end, there is a shoulder making a tight fit inside the larger tube, giving the joint two separated mounting points – and so there is less likelihood of a wobble developing at the joint.


DSC05595 closeRegrettably no info is available. The scope was bought from a dealer in Littlehampton, West Sussex, in August 2017 – an Ebay Buy-it-Now item that was suddenly withdrawn, so I chased it. Presumably there was a failed sale, or other interest.

Accession number 313.

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.


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.


Telescope as received


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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



A 6 foot Dollond from 1820s

Note: This telescope was put up for Auction at Skinner Auctioneers and Appraisers in Maryland on 27th October 2017, estimated at only $500! Here is the Auctioneers description:

detail corner scope“Dollond 4-inch Brass Refracting Telescope, London, c. 1825, Bywater & Co., 58-in. main tube, ocular collar engraved “Dollond London/Sold thru Bywater & Co. Liverpool,” mounting collar, and dual tapered column mount.

Provenance: Descended in the family of Captain Theodore Corner and used at Corner’s Wharf in Baltimore by the shipping firm James Corner & Son’s in the mid 19th century. Family research accompanies the lot.
Estimate $400-500″

The condition report was not as positive, as it suggested one unspecified lens was missing. Inevitably this explained the low estimate of value, and the scope sold for around the $400 suggested.


The original text for the Telescopecollector story was as follows:

Another interesting and traceable telescope has been described by a correspondent in Maryland, USA, who has just resurrected it from her brother’s basement after 30 years in storage. It is an approx 6 foot long Dollond, which fairly unusually can be dated to the 1820s, using the minimal supplier info engraved on the flange on the eyepiece end of the main barrel.


This is a composite image, the tubes are NOT bent!

The engraving on the telescope says “DOLLOND * LONDON”, at the top, in capitals, and then underneath it adds “Sold Thru Bywater & Co, Liverpool”. Gloria Clifton’s Directory of British Scientific Instrument Makers suggests John Bywater & Co was the trading name used by this firm between 1822 and 1831 only. They traded from premises at various addresses in Pool Lane, Liverpool, in this period, and also from 42 Seymour Street from 1825-27. Further, Clifton confirms that during this period he was known to have sold telescopes made by Dollond: this comment was not made in relation to previous or subsequent identities used by this firm. In 1831 the company became known as Bywater, Dawson & Co. So the telescope appears to date from the 1820s.

img_0477-small    img_0518-small

This telescope belonged to the correspondent’s great-great-grandfather, Ted (or Theodore) Corner, born 1826, and one of ten children of Sarah and James Corner: Ted became a ship’s Captain in the company James Corner & Sons, who were trading from Baltimore in the 1840s through to the 1860s.

Telescope description

The main barrel is 5 feet long: the objective lens diameter is 4” (100mm). The single draw has a total length of 26”, and is approx. 1.625” diameter. This has another engraving, stating “Sold by Bywater & Co, Liverpool”. The second lens pair in the eyepiece tube is situated about 12-14” down the tube. These lenses are in a long cartridge, which itself is a tube around 4.5” long. This screws into the split joint in the single draw. The eyepiece unscrews from the near end of this draw and contains one lens, the second lens of this pair is mounted inside this tube. The telescope has been cleaned and assembled, but because of the size and weight (and the lack of a suitable ship and/or crew), it has not been possible to prove whether the assembled telescope functions correctly.


Around the main barrel there is a clamp ring, whose position looks to be adjustable, but would appear to be associated with a similar large screw hole in the barrel. The clamp ring and the hole in the barrel look to be adaptations for mounting the telescope on-board ship. The stand, consisting of two prongs, has a top plate, which attaches to this screw hole: it is presumed that the threaded pins at the bottom of the two prongs that make up the stand would attach to a wooden or other stanchion provided as a part of the ship structure. The mounting plate allows sideways rotational movement. A separate attachment point on the barrel is provided, presumably for a handle or rod to control the elevation of the scope, rotating round the axis of the mounting screws located onto the stanchion (See the top photo, next to, and on the left of the clamp).

img_0514-small   img_0473-smaller

It is surprising to me that such a large telescope (ie 6 feet long and deck mounted) was used on-board a Clipper like the Carrier Dove, but this certainly seems probable.

James Corner & Sons

Based in Baltimore, James Corner & Sons employed all six sons of James Corner at various times, but possibly Ted’s main role was as a captain of one or other of their ships. These included the Carrier Dove, the barque Huntington, bought by Ted Corner in 1854 and used as late as 1860, the Maria, and, all in 1859, the North Carolina, the Birchhead and the bark Seneca.

Most of their trading activity involved voyages from Baltimore to Valparaiso, near Santiago in central Chile, via Cape Horn. Normal cargoes on the way out were pig iron, or in one case at least, a locomotive steam engine was delivered to San Francisco for the young railway there. The return journeys usually involved a cargo of guano, from the droppings of seabirds, seals, or cave-dwelling bats in Chile/Peru: this was valuable as a fertiliser. (Similar freight was possibly carried by James Bichard on the East Croft in 1895, from San Salvador, see the story published on on 25 Aug 2014).

Ted Corner’s Voyages

Ted Corner started his sailing career in 1846, when the Baltimore Historical Society quote that he opened first transatlantic packet line, from Baltimore to Liverpool. Maybe he purchased the telescope (possibly second hand) on one of these voyages? Or the telescope might even have been bought by his father James, on an earlier voyage to Liverpool, to fit with the 1822-31 dating of the first sale of the telescope.

300px-carrierdoveclipperOne of Ted Corner’s later, regular ships was the Carrier Dove. It seems this was a relatively famous medium Clipper, 1694 tons, launched from Baltimore in 1855: on her maiden voyage to San Fransisco under Captain Corner, Carrier Dove was dis-masted in a hurricane just eight days out from New York. Nevertheless, she made it to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil by November 9, in 55 days, and then remained in Rio for two months for repairs. In 1856 Captain Corner was in Australia: presumably travelling from there to Peru, in 1857 he sailed the Carrier Dove from the Chincha Islands, off Peru, to Liverpool, with 1094 tons of guano: it was delivered to Anthony Gibbs & Sons.

Carrier Dove was fast, in 1858, presumably on the return journey, Captain Corner sailed from Liverpool (UK) to Melbourne Australia in 78 days, and then on to Valparaiso in Chile in a near record 30 or 32 days (Wikipedia).


The Carrier Dove, from the Noble Maritime Museum

A painting of the Carrier Dove exists in the Noble Maritime Museum, in Staten Island, New York. Later, in 1876, when no longer a part of the James Corner fleet, Carrier Dove was wrecked three miles off Tybee Island, Georgia, en route from Liverpool. See for extensive further info.

Further information

For anyone interested in further information about Ted Corner and his Baltimore Company, or in researching this telescope further, please make contact with the owner via this website.

1860 Presentation Dollond – For US Sale

A correspondent in the Milwaukee/Chicago area has an interesting Dollond telescope for sale, which dates from at least 1860. This is a classic single draw, large “Day or Night” naval unit, measuring 39” open, and 21” closed, with a sliding lens cover on the eyepiece. The sunshade is still present on the objective end.


Presentation Engraving

The draw is engraved with the normal “Dollond London” and “Day or Night”, but also has an elaborate explanation as to why it was presented to Captain G.V. Argles. This reads:



Captain G V Argles

of I G S N Co’s steamer “Agra”

for services rendered to the

Ganges Co steamer MIRZAPORE

while aground in the Chokah Channel off Kaunsul

October 1860

Singh McCardy


Ganges S N Co Ltd


This is a fairly typical reason for a presentation to a ship’s Captain, from another ship that was either foundering or in difficulties, when he offered and provided assistance. The exact place is difficult to locate now, as the area is no longer part of India, but is in Bangladesh, and many town and place names in India have been changed or the spelling adjusted.

20160925_205931It has been possible to determine that “IGSN” is the India General Steam Navigation Company (established 1844), and similarly “Ganges SN Co” is probably the Ganges Steam Navigation Company. References also show that there were many steam boats travelling up the Ganges, typically from Calcutta (now Kolkata) to Benares (now known as Varanasi, 600km NW of Calcutta in Northern India): these boats would need to stop to load more coal maybe three times during this journey. In 1849 there were 15 privately owned steamers travelling this route, three of which were 1000 ton P&O liners. The Indian Government, who supplied the coal to the intermediate coaling points, itself used ten riverboats. In fact one of the coaling stops was at a location/town called ‘Mirzapur’, close to Benares.

20160925_202125The only reference found relating to ‘Chokah’, was for the town of Choka, near Patna, on this route up the Ganges (238 miles from Calcutta), where the channel was said only to be passable by steam boats from July to October. So this could have been where the Mirzapore steamer came to grief: it is significant that the date on the telescope is for October that year!

Enquiries, please, via this website.

Photos of the telescope

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20160925_201834    20160925_204642

Octagonal and Decagonal scopes


It’s very important to a collector to actually have an example of one of these multi-sided telescope designs in any collection, as they are some of the oldest, and in some ways most interesting. So I have usually bought any that I saw that were a reasonable price: but because they are old and desirable, they were not cheap!

The story was told in the previous article about the Dollond 8-Sided telescope from 1860. The construction of this one used eight identical strips of mahogany, about 7/8” wide, with the inner edges filed down, so that they can be glued together in an octagon. This is then held together with the brass rings at each end, retained by small screws.

This style was obviously the “one to have”, so that possibly later, and maybe smaller telescopes copied the design by taking a round length of wood, drilling out the centre, then planing flats onto the external surfaces. I would suggest that most of the smaller hand-held decagonal telescopes, ie the ones with 10 sides, and ones with any larger number of flats, would be made this way, as it would be more difficult to get 10 narrow strips to glue together neatly, and it is maybe easier to plane off the round barrel into ten sides. Having said that it does seem that planing the unit into 8 flats would be easier for me, as the angles of each flat would be simpler to get right.

So let’s look at these other four multi-sided telescopes to see what emerges.

The telescope examples

  1. Small Oak-barrelled unit:

DSCN2435This one, pictured at the bottom of the group above, is an un-named oak barrel, eight-sided telescope: the wooden barrel is 12” long, 1.375” wide from flat to flat. It has a bell-shaped eyepiece, a very narrow diameter objective, at 0.625”, and the single brass draw has three joints to mount the internal lenses, plus one at the very top of the bell: this lens is designed without any protection (like a covering slide). The objective does have a sliding cover. The telescope gives a really good magnification, say x12.

This unit is constructed from a single length of wood, drilled out with a smooth straight bore. The eight joints between the flats are relatively sharp edges, simulating the appearance of a unit made from strips. Perhaps unusually for this design the draw tube is trapped in the main barrel, so does not pull out completely in use.

Reference #182.

  1. Medium-sized Mahogany unit:

DSCN2429bThis is the same design as the oak unit, but bigger, built from mahogany – and it has ten flats on the outside of the main barrel. Here the lens closest to the eye of the user is positioned as if recessed a little into the bell housing, and there is a slot for a slide to act as a cover: the actual slide is missing. The other three lenses in the barrel are mounted at two screwed splits along the length, and the last is at the objective end of the draw, which pulls out freely, it is not retained in the barrel. If I saw the machined groove at the end of this draw on a modern piece of equipment I would say it was designed for an ‘O-ring’. This might indeed have been used to give some resistance to pulling the draw right out, and it could be squashed through in the assembly of the unit – there’s no other way of getting it inserted in practice.

Left is this telescope: right is a typical example of a legible signature!

Left is this telescope: right is a typical example of a legible Dollond signature!

At the objective end, the lens aperture is 1”, and the glass is protected by a sliding cover. The remains of a signature are visible, engraved into this cover, and it corresponds with “Dollond London” in a script form that corresponds with that seen on other Dollond telescopes.

The barrel is interesting, in that the inside bore is circular, and the outside is cut with ten sides, but the transition between each of the sides is very much smoothed over, consistently along the 24.5” length. The telescope actually has a split which extends maybe a third of the way along the barrel, which follows the grain and moves from one flat side to the next. Possibly this split was caused when someone was hand-engraving his initials “E+P” on one of the flats, which remarkably is followed by “1781” which is presumably the date of this engraving work. [To put this into context, Captain Cook discovered and mapped the east coast of Australia in his voyage from 1768 to 1771, and then was killed in Hawaii in 1779. Dollond’s patent on the two-part  objective lens was dated 1760]. The distance across the flats at the eyepiece end is 44mm, whereas at the objective end this distance is reduced, to 39mm. This is effectively a reverse taper in the outside size of the barrel.


Inside, the bore of the hole is constant at 30mm, from the objective back to the orifice half way along the barrel, which has a diameter of 19mm. From there the internal diameter increases towards the single draw and the eyepiece, so mirrors the effective reverse taper seen on the outside. The brass draw is about 30mm diameter, and the brass sprung slide that holds it in place is around 3” long, inserted inside the barrel.

Magnification is only around x6. Reference #59

  1. Gaitskill Mahogany telescope.

DSCN2429aAnother longer mahogany 10-sided unit, similar to #59, but here the barrel is visibly tapered in the normal way, with the larger diameter at the objective lens. The barrel is 24.5” long, including the brass end fittings. But the flats are flat, without the obviously rounded corners at the edges of the flats seen on #59.

At the eyepiece end, the barrel is 43mm across the flats, outside, and at the objective end, this measurement is 48mm. Each flat is about 14mm wide. Inside, the internal bore is straight half way down the tube at the eyepiece end, and then slowly increases towards the objective lens position. But this is not to allow the use of a large objective lens, as very close to the objective (~20mm) there is an aperture/orifice, with a hole diameter of only 16mm. The brass housing holding the objective is 50mm diameter, and the lens itself has a visible diameter of around 30mm: but this lens appears to have a coating of some form around the edges, which might even be glue. The effectively useful diameter of the central part of the objective is around 21mm.

The objective does not appear to unscrew, to remove the lens holder from the brass screwed to the end of the barrel. So since the screws here do not look original, these were taken pout to inspect the lens. The result seems to indicate that the outer edge of the lens doublet has a different focal length to the middle section. The apparent colour difference is possibly that only the centre section is ground to the correct radius to nestle into the second lens, and where the two do not touch gives an impression of a coating, because of the different reflectivity. Having such an objective means that the close aperture inserted in the barrel would have been essential so as not to allow the outer edges of the objective to transmit light down to the eyepiece.

DSCN2431Again the single draw pulls out of the barrel completely, just after the last lens in the eyepiece set of four, so the barrel has two screwed splits. Similar machining on the end is not a groove, but a raised rim on a section of the draw tube which has a smaller diameter than the rest of the tube, so maybe it was wrapped in some material or felt to push through and make an end stop. The two draws are almost interchangeable between #59 and this one, which is reference #189. Here though the draw has the words Gaitskill, maker, Wapping, London engraved on the very first section of the draw tube, on the left, ie with the ‘G’ of ‘Gaitskill’ adjacent to the eyepiece, which is the early style. The slide over the eye lens has lost its retaining pin, so is in danger of pulling out completely and getting lost.

When focussed, the single draw is only pulled out by around 2.5”. Magnification is slightly better than the Dollond #59, at maybe x7.5. Reference is #189. Joseph Gaitskill operated as a Ship Chandler, Compass and Mathematical Instrument maker from various addresses in Wapping from 1778-1811, but was called Gaitskill & Co from 1805. So this telescope also dates from the 1790s approx.

  1. A restoration project!

It’s all there, except for one bit that’s missing, that is. The missing bit is the objective lens, and carrier: it was screwed into the end of the barrel, but has either been knocked off, or fallen off, either overboard, or otherwise it was lost.


The barrel is externally 10-sided, mahogany, with worn French polish. A third of the way down there is a brass band around the barrel, which is screwed down at one point, maybe holding the barrel together, as there is a split along this end of the barrel running down half the length. Externally the barrel is not tapered, and is about 42mm flat to flat. The internal bore is round, and is also a constant diameter, at about 36mm, but 3.5” from the objective there is an internal orifice with about an 18mm aperture diameter. So the ten sides are produced by planing down the round barrel into a series of flats – again the transition from one to the next is relatively smoothed over.

The single draw has three screwed splits, but the second split going towards the eyepiece has a cartridge containing two separated lenses: overall there are five lenses in this single draw, which pulls straight out of the barrel. While this single draw fits into the other telescopes described above, very loosely, the optical properties of this draw and the other objectives are not compatible. The lenses used do not appear to be incorrect in any way, so they are all there, but as the saying goes, “not necessarily in the right order”.

It just looks like a real problem to understand! Project ref #165.


Dollond 4 draw, mahogany barrel – a good punt!

DSCN1633aWhen you scan Ebay and find a “Dollond 5 draw”, it’s bound to be worthy of attention. This one was really different, by the shape of the eyepiece, but the description only had two pictures, not that they showed very much. It was described as “possible Navel”, which maybe described the shape of the eyepiece, rather than the intended use. The final downer was that mid way thru the auction bidders were advised “there are no lenses inside”.

Sometimes you have to take a punt. And I apologize to ‘m***m’ who was the only other bidder who also thought like that – he only pushed the price up to £47.99. The telescope duly arrived, and really did have 4 pulls, or ‘draws’. The really attractive part to me, apart from the eyepiece shaping, was that it had two joints in the first draw, to access the lens positions: DSCN1637aone lens was indeed missing, the second. hree eyepiece lenses, the first, third and fourth were present. To me, the split draw does indicate an early date of telescope, I estimate around 1800-1820. The eyepiece shape maybe pushes you to an early date too. This design introduces a problem for the user, in that it is slightly difficult to pull out quickly, because there is little to get a grip on. So maybe it predates the Georgian/ Victorian bell-end type eyepieces, which must have been a subsequent design. The engraved “Dollond, London” is on the left, the more modern style, not the right, as it would have been in the 1700s.

The missing lens

DSCN1634aSo, a lovely telescope, missing lens 2. Most of the lenses in this position are of a large diameter, very convex towards the objective: a spare lens of this type did not seem to work, ie to make the telescope focus properly. So a replacement lens assembly, consisting of lens 1 and 2 was tried, but that did not work either. Eventually a slightly smaller diameter dual convex lens in the lens 2 position was tried, mounted with Blu-tak, and the scope focused, but the field of view, ie picture size, was minimal. So the current solution is a similar, but larger lens, superglue-d into a minimal rubber ring mount, which gives a reasonable field and a decent focus. But the scope has to be used without spectacles on, the eye has to be very close. The search goes on for a better lens fitting, a larger diameter to improve the size of the visible view.

Mahogany barrel

DSCN1636The wooden barrel looked drab. This was mainly down to the brown paint that had been added over the French polish. A couple of hours of scraping removed the caked paint, down to some lovely looking mahogany, with a couple of splits along the length. Sanding, re-gluing the splits, and polishing the barrel brought it up to a beautiful deep mahogany colouring, a process which continues with further coats.

Unusually, this telescope brass responded well to machine polishing and buffing. The objective housing has had a couple of sharp cuts from knocks, but the lens screws in straight and smoothly. The eyepiece seems to be more of a bronze than a brass.


DSCN1635aThe length of the telescope is the one thing you can’t hide. When closed it is only 11.5”. Open, fully, it is 44”, or 1.22m. When in focus it is only 41” long, and the second split on the first draw is hidden under the second draw. It is actually very light to hand hold, and the focus is soft, ie a lot of movement is tolerated in the focal point. So setting the first draw at the mark made in the metal is accurate enough to use. Currently the only slight problem with hand holding is the limited field of view, meaning the flexing of the joints for the draws is noticeable.


A 41” long Dollond mahogany barrelled Naval telescope, 4 draw, unique design, dating from maybe 1800-1820. Restored to being in working order with a new lens added, but this lens probably is the reason for the limited field of view/relatively small image diameter. The search continues for a more suitable lens. The telescope would probably be worth somewhere up to £500 in a proper sale. But it was a pleasure to have seen and brought it back to life. The following pics show the before and after condition, in as much detail as the Ebay seller’s pics gave -I’m sorry I didn’t take my own “before” pics!

Ebay pic before:                                                                Then my pics after polishing!

Dollond 5 draw as sold (2)



Dollond 5 draw as sold

Peter Dollond Library scope

DSCN1279The way I define a Library telescope is that it is mounted on a stand that is intended for being positioned on a table, such that the user can sit in a chair and look through the telescope when it is pointing horizontally. The sort of scope that would be in a bay window in a library, so that the reader can look out and easily use it to investigate the activities of a passing deer or fox on the estate, or see who in the hunt is in the lead. Such telescopes are designed for terrestrial use, not naval, and not astronomical. Pretty useless really, unless you have the estate to view, but they were popular in the 18th and 19th Centuries. They also look really good on a library table.

This is a classic ornate library telescope, made and engraved by P (Peter) Dollond of The Strand, London, which leads to a date of 1760, give or take 6 years.

Description and Sizing

DSCN1284The stand is brass, with a fixed height of 17”, which puts the telescope axis at 18.5” above the table top.  The tripod legs of this stand have feet that sit on an 8” diameter circle. The brass telescope itself is attached via two knurled head screws into the lower part of the main body, which hold the telescope in a cupped bracket. Overall length is 26” extended, with an 18.5” body: this is 2.5” diameter at the objective lens, which is held in place in a copper fitting that provides the joint between the telescope body and the sunshade. The eyepiece end of the main body tapers down over 3.5” to join to the 1.25” diameter single draw. This draw caries the quoted engraving, and a line to show the typical focus point.


In the photos you will see that the eyepiece terminates in a flat ended brass fitting with a female thread onto the single draw. This fitting is my own addition, as a repair, as the telescope arrived with no lens in the eyepiece, and what appears to be a very long eyepiece fitting, with parts missing, and a damaged lens holder.

Inside the first draw a black internal sleeve, made of what appears to be aluminium, holds a standard two lens barrel, in brass, approx 5” from the eyepiece. DSCN1288Both these lenses are glued into the ends of the barrel, with black paint covering a significant part of the edges of both lenses. The two lens barrel is held in the internal aluminium tube using a single grub screw. At the eyepiece end there is no apparent method of mounting another dual lens barrel into this aluminium sleeve, but there is a shoulder to stop it entering too far into the telescope draw. It would appear that the second lens barrel would have extended towards the user further, hence the longer eyepiece construction.

The whole original eyepiece lens assembly was difficult to understand, and not of a type seen before, so a replacement sleeve with two sets of lenses in barrels (the first draw from a later Dollond scope) was inserted into this P Dollond telescope single draw (it was an interference fit) and secured in position with the flat end eyepiece cover (from a JH Steward tapered body scope). The colouring of the eyepiece is just right for the rest of the telescope, and the combination of the lenses works brilliantly.

DSCN1277The objective lens is original, and is a dual element construction, with each of the two lenses being considerably thicker than is seen in later telescopes. The optical quality of the lenses is excellent: the lack of chromatic aberration in the resulting image is noticeable!

Questions raised

DSCN1286The big question is, what did the eyepiece look like originally? The only clue is the remaining part that came with the scope, that looks of the same age. This has the remains of maybe another lens holder assembly jammed/screwed inside, with various damaged threads visible. If you know of any similar old models, please let me see pictures!

The second question is, how does the draw get extracted from the main barrel? Nothing on the main barrel unscrews, except for the objective lens holder. The first draw has a shoulder at the eyepiece end, so it cannot be removed through the main body of the scope. It seems it is not intended that it is ever to be removed.

Why is it dated 1760?

The telescope is obviously very old. The body construction is unusual, with the tapered brass main body, and the stand is very ornate, as in pre-Victorian. The lens assemblies are also unusual, complex, expensive to manufacture, and look a little “one-off”, as if built to fit, after the main outer parts had been finalised.

DSCN1289The lens is a dual element, so dates the design as probably after the publication and filing of the Dollond patent, which was in 1758: John Dollond joined his son Peter in their optical business in 1750, and slowly developed the use of achromatic lenses using the combination of the two glass types in a combination lens.

The engraving says P Dollond. According to Gloria Clifton’s Directory of British Scientific Instrument Makers, Peter Dollond was working 1752-1763 at the Golden Spectacles and Sea Quadrant, near Exeter Exchange in the Strand (opposite the Savoy Hotel); and then 1761-1766 near the Exeter Exchange in the Strand; and then from 1766 onwards at 59 St Paul’s Churchyard, near St Paul’s and the Tower.  So after 1766, he was not located in the Strand.

What’s it worth?

DSCN1281To a collector like me this is brilliant. To use a telescope that was made by Peter Dollond, in one of the first applications of his patent, 250 years ago, even though the eyepiece lenses inside are from one of his Dollond successors, is a real thrill. In reality it is a renovated item, rebuilt, and so the resale value is lower than an original version. But equally it has a good story, and makes a talking point. Plus it works beautifully.

In an antique shop this would be put on sale for £2000+, but the real sale value is probably half that. Why, because if you want one, 250 years old, only a few made, where do you go to find another one?

I bought the original unrepaired P Dollond parts on Ebay in December 2014 for under £80 including carriage. Maybe it slipped under the other collectors’ radars because it was quoted as a non-working ‘Dolland’ telescope. But it shows you can still find gems like this for reasonable prices. So keep on looking! The trouble is there are more and more people looking for telescopes now, so prices are going up, I am having to change my search targets, and specialise…….sometime I am going to have to start selling, the prices are so high.

It’s currently a favourite item in the collection, listed as #226. So that’s 200 at least to sell before I part with this one.

Maybe: This postscript was added 2020 – as reading thru the website I realised often the reader’s comments on these articles are not visible! Basically their comments bring me to accept the conclusion that this is a modern (Indian) fake, confirmed perhaps by some parts made from aluminium found inside! Enthusiasm overcoming logic maybe!

A tale of three telescopes from around 1800


These three telescopes all date from around the turn of the C19th, in other words 1800. I don’t think they can be dated better than that, but there are discussion points that can be used to suggest they are earlier.

  1. A Dollond, from well before 1800

DSC01628aThe first, the smallest and maybe the oldest is a single draw in a French polished wooden – that could be mahogany – round barrel, about an inch and a quarter diameter. The original polishing was badly damaged, so I re-polished it, and the result was really good. Closed it is 10.25” long, the main barrel being 9.5” long. The draw tube itself, without the eyepiece end, is 9” long, so occupies the whole barrel when closed up. Approx 5.5” of this draw is extended at the focus point, and there is a line scribed on the draw to show where to pull it out and stop. Maybe this was needed, because there is no end stop, the draw pulls right out: this is a characteristic of older telescopes, ie before 1800.

Five lenses in the first draw

DSC01624aTwo further aspects of the inscribed line: the focus has a fairly wide tolerance, so it can be easily set up by eye against the marked line. Second, the draw is fairly tight in the barrel (still, after 220 years), so the lack of an end stop does not let the brass section slip out when holding the telescope. There are then four further lines obvious on the draw tube, and these are all screw threads joining short tube sections. So four such break points leads to having four lenses along the body, plus various apertures to restrict the light paths allowed through. Then, under the shaped eyepiece there is a fifth lens, so I need to find out whether this was common, and when five lenses were used – it is possible this leads to an earlier than 1800 date.

DSC01625aThe eyepiece itself has a groove across the top, which would have taken a brass cover, held in place by a small screw that located in the cut-out visible. I guess this was over-engineering, as many of the users of such a telescope would have found this piece of metal sticking out either hit them in the eye when the ship lurched to one side, or maybe was flipped out of the groove when knocked at any time. Actually I’ve never seen one of these flaps in place on any telescope!

The Objective lens assembly

At the objective end the lens cover is the more conventional slide, which is still in place, but shows signs of damage, as most of these do. Such slides are always difficult to polish – unfortunate here, because the objective cover slide, rather than the first draw, carries the maker’s name. Here it is easily read as “Dollond, London”. Seeing this enabled me to identify some “scratches” seen on a similar slide, on another telescope, as a rubbed-out Dollond signature.

DSC01629aDiffering from other telescope designs, the sliding cover does not unscrew and leave the lens in place: if you unscrew the sliding cover assembly, it brings the objective lensassembly (pair?) away with it. The diameter of the glass available to collect the light is 15mm, or around 0.625”, which is very narrow, compared to later ship’s telescopes, which might have had 2” objectives to collect as much light as possible. But to do this they relied on the Dollond patented objective lens combination of crown and flint glasses.

Then, the most frustrating thing with any telescope of this age, the screws holding the brass pieces to the wood are incredibly small, and I have not found a suitable modern source. There are three screws needed at each end of the wooden barrel, and this scope has two of them, the original ones, present at each end.

The Objective lens

This scope was bought in 1997 from the London Scientific Instrument Fair, from Swindon based Tim Collins, who had a Portobello Road stall in London as well: it is my reference 39. He suggested it dated from around 1760. The Dollond patent on the objective lens combination was dated 1758. This objective is lapped into the brass, so cannot be inspected, but is not that thick: it has a convex face facing the outside world and a flat face on the rear side. If you look in the distance there is no colour fringing evident, but looking at the sky and angling to see the edge, maybe this does look yellowed. So maybe the design is using a narrow diameter objective, and small apertures in the lens assembly, to avoid the problems of chromatic aberration at the edges of the view.

  1. Eight sided small telescope

DSC01638aIt took a long time to acquire the next telescope in this family. I just wanted another eight sided one, as typical of the scopes that were used on older sailing ships! That was my impression. Anyway this one came from Ebay as a “Buy it now” in March 2013, for £230, and is number 182. It was quoted as circa 1790. The first comment has to be that this telescope has no name, so it’s a copy of someone else’s design. So its maybe later in date than the design might indicate. Plus maybe two of the screws into the wooden main barrel are original, and there is a dent in the main draw where a new screw has been inserted that was too long – it’s a problem I have met too!

DSC01643aThe barrel appears to be made of oak, shaped from a single piece and then polished. Closed the telescope is 13.5” long, fully open its 22.75”. Again there is a mark on the first draw to show where the main focal point is located: but the brass draw does not pull out of the body, there is a stop provided. The first draw has two splits along its length to insert lenses, plus a third close to the eyepiece.

DSC01633aThere is then an eyepiece lens almost proud of the rear end of the telescope, totally unprotected, and there is no evidence of an earlier cover being attached here to protect it. So it is a more conventional 4 lens system in the first draw.

DSC01640aThe objective lens, however, does have a standard slide for protection. Unscrewing the slide removes the whole lens assembly, which is of two lenses, both very thick: in contrast to other later standard models where the outward facing convex (crown glass) lens is very thin.

This telescope has double the magnification of the Dollond quoted above. It works well, although the draw tube is stiff.

  1. A larger, 10-sided rebuild project

DSC01644aAdded here as a work-in-progress item is another larger scope that is ten sided. I bought it as a wreck on Ebay in September 2012, for around £100: it is number 165. It was bought as a renovation project, as there was no objective lens, and no name. Within a month, never seen before on Ebay, there was a brass objective lens carrier advertised, Dollond named, no lens, in a size that would have fitted fine. Regrettably the winning bid was over £100, just for the brass assembly! I failed to go that high.

DSC01655aSo the pictures here are for record to see where it gets to when treated with TLC. It looks like it was originally French polished and is oak. The main barrel has split, so there is a brass strap to hold it together. It is 18.25” long, and the screws in the one end fitted are not original. The brass draw pulls straight out, and has splits to create a 5 lens construction.

DSC01653aBut there are only three splits in the tube, plus one eyepiece lens: the second tube split has a lens carrier with two lenses, one at each end. When focussed to the mark, the total length of the telescope is approx 29”.

DSC01649aLacking a proper objective carrier, the interim plan is to use an objective doublet from a (trashed/squashed) Dollond WW1 Scout Regiment scope as the objective, right size/focal length, to show the old girl working (See top picture).  Believe me it works, but the focus point has changed a lot, it is much shorter. The magnification is around that of the 1760 scope quoted above, ie not very much, and there is currently some barrel distortion. Possibly the five lenses are in the wrong order, or the wrong way round! There’s a few combinations to try there, as the Dollond lens worked fine in its original, bashed structure.

These Telescopes are For Sale

All of these are for sale, to someone who wants to take them further. Possibly the lenses from the wreck, number 3, might help with a current re-build project on a Ramsden scope! Then it can be polished and cleaned, to make it interesting. So without a working solution it is only worth around £600: a new objective lens carrier without the lens would be around £200 – I’ve only ever seen one sold as a spare..  The other two telescopes, complete, are valued at £1200 each.

A Dollond, with a real Pedigree

DSC01608DSC01610aThis is a large, single draw Dollond telescope. Overall length with sunshade extended is 39.75”. It looks perfect, but the eyepiece sliding lens protector is missing. The eyepiece itself is painted black on the end. The eyepiece brass shape is tapered, perhaps more like a church-bell shape than what I know as the Victorian “bell-end” eyepiece, which tends to be more of a bulbous shape.  The first and only draw has a screwed joint half way along, which is where the second eyepiece lens pair is located.

The engraving on the left of the first draw is shallow, but it is “Dollond London”; “Day or Night”; “5009”. This is all in a Gothic like script. Possibly the 5009 (construction number?) might give a date, but I have no information on that.

There is evidence of soldering to the draw around where the mid-joint is located. The main barrel is covered in good quality soft leather, or maybe some other animal skin, light brown and dappled: this will later be shown to be a replacement in around 1930.

The sunshade is again brass, and this has a push on brass end cover/end-cap. The lenses are all in excellent condition, but the objective lens pair was retained in place with a sort of brass peened rim, which during its 1930s cleaning was pulled back to allow the lenses to be released.

Perhaps needless to say the telescope works really well.

The accessories

DSC01605aThe bits that came with this telescope accelerate it into being one of the most interesting items I have ever seen. I bought it on Ebay in 2011, and decided to collect it in person because of all the extras: luckily it was in Bournemouth relatively close to home. The seller said it had been found in a house clearance in Swansea. He also said he had never had anyone pay him more than the winning bid price on Ebay before – needed because I felt it was worth more.

First it came in a fitted wooden box, which possibly was how the rest of the items had stayed with the telescope for so long.  The box was named on the outside, all in capitals as:

Captain James Bichard


Irrawaddy Flotilla Coy

July 9th 1932

Inside there are several pictures (modern, colour pictures) of sailing ships taken from, for example, the paintings by J.Spurling of the 1866 tea clipper races, specifically of the ships Ariel, and Taeping.

DSC01616aThe box itself is fitted with cut-outs to hold the telescope, and also contained a mounting bracket, which could possibly be fixed to a hand-rail or ship’s structure, which then had a pair of leather straps to hold the telescope in place in a cradle, at its balance point. Whether I would trust that on a ship at sea I doubt, but it might work on an Irrawaddy paddle steamer. It is now in use on our decking in the back garden.

The documentation

First page of the letter from Frank Musgrave

First page of the letter from Frank Musgrave

The documentation that came with the telescope is fantastic. For this we owe a debt of gratitude to the guy who recorded and recounted his relationship with this instrument, over 40 years. He was Frank Musgrave, the retiring Commodore of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company (IFC) in around 1932. He had owned and used the telescope since 1891, and he had it cleaned and re-covered (in Burma) to present it to his successor in Rangoon in 1932.

His letter to James Bichard, enclosing the telescope pedigree, is a beautiful document, in black ink on IFC official paper: but, for Google, I will type it here, as a chronology, and show just a little in a scan. He gave the telescope with its pedigree to James Bichard, when he took over the role of Commodore of the IFC in the Summer of 1932.


1880-1889: The telescope was in the Royal Cowes Yacht Club.

1889-1891: In the Royal Victoria Yacht Club at Ryde (which was established as different to the above in that it allowed ladies to enter the premises). Obviously Queen Victoria would not have been amused at the restrictions imposed by the Cowes Yacht Club.

May 1891: Presented to Frank Musgrave by a descendant of Samuel Pepys, John Alfred Pepys. (JA Pepys was born 1838, played cricket for Kent, MCC and Oxford University)

1891: Sailed with Musgrave, who was quoted as a “Mate” on the Barque “Helena Mena” of the Elder Line from London to Freemantle, carrying emigrants out, and coming home – with wool fleeces – via the Cape of Good Hope.

1892: London to Freemantle and back, as above.

1893: On the “Oriana”, described as an F.R. ship, from London to South Shields, presumably to pick up a cargo of steel, or machinery, or similar: then to Port Pirie, Adelaide, and Port Augusta, South Australia, and home via Cape Horn.

1894: A repeat, London to South Shields to Port Pirie, and Port Germain this time, then Port Augusta and home via Cape Horn.

1895-96: On the F.R. ship “East Croft” from London to Newport, Monmouthshire, thence to Maryport in Cumbria. Presumably the cargo was picked up at these two places: maybe coal in Newport(?) and chemicals in Maryport(?). Thence to Acajulta in San Salvador (on the Pacific Coast). East Croft spent 6 months transporting cargo, maybe coffee or minerals, between Acajulta and San Fransisco. Then returned from San Fransisco to London, a journey that took them 186 days (round the Horn), of which the last 42 days were spent with limited food-stock, so they were eating only dry biscuit and tea “sans sugar, sans milk”.

1897-1932: After this obviously Musgrave had a career rethink, and moved in June 1897 to work for the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company in Rangoon, Burma (now Myanmar).

Starting as a 2nd Officer he progressed up the ranks to become Commodore.  Bichard worked for Musgrave in the IFC, and Musgrave’s letter was addressed to him, located on board the SS “Ceylon” in Rangoon.



Royal Victoria Yacht Club

The Royal Victoria Yacht Club at Fishbourne, Ryde (R.V.Y.C.) was founded on 24 May 1845 by Prince Albert to give Queen Victoria a Yacht Club which she was entitled to enter as a mere female. The original club location was at Ryde and was one of premier racing clubs in the land, and indeed the world. Members owned some of the finest and most competitive vessels of the time.

Composite construction sailing ships

The Helena Mena, Oriana and East Croft appear similar. They are sailing ships built with a ‘composite’ construction, ie with a wrought iron framework and hardwood planks bolted on as cladding on the ship sides, as was the fashion with tea clippers in the late 1800s. This gave a much larger cargo hold capacity, without any large wooden cross beams. Many of these were then clad with thin sheets of copper, to stop marine growth on the outside of the hull. One of the few ships of this style that still exists is the tea clipper the Cutty Sark, now moored in Greenwich, which was built in 1869. Visitors to the Cutty Sark can see some of the telescopes suggested as used on board that ship. In 2012 there were two other similar composite ships known, the passenger clipper City of Adelaide, and the sloop HMS Gannet.

The Helena Mena

The Helena Mena in London docks

The Helena Mena in London docks

The Helena Mena was a bark of 673 tons, 165 feet long, built in Sunderland for J.Wilson in 1876, with the Captain quoted as O.Wadstrom. The picture found shows it with three masts, metal (copper?) clad, no deck structures. The Maritime Heritage Association of Australia in 1991 advised that Helena Mena’s hull was painted black with a yellow-gold sheer line. The raised poop was white, the deck house white and wood and the mouldings gilded. Her buxom figurehead was referred to as “the blue lady”, and the crew sang a sea shanty about her. She wore a white, high neck blouse with long puffed sleeves beneath a blue, apron style dress, and black shoes.

The Oriana

oriana-03 figurehead dollloond

A picture of the figurehead from a similar freight ship of the late 1800s, also called the Oriana, can be found on the website of the Oriana Kro inn in Northern Norway, at Nusfjord, on the Lofloten Islands, The owner at that time acquired the Oriana as a cargo vessel.

The story from the Oriana Kro Inn at Nusfjord is from the same era, the Oriana was quoted as a three masted sailing ship from England. The vessel was named after the owner’s daughter, and on board as one of the crew there was a young lad from Bodø in Norway. The two of them fell in love, but the ship owner did not like this, so offered to give the boy the ship, if he would sail away and never see his daughter again. This was no movie, so the boy took the ship option, sailed it to Norway, and sold it to the land owner at Nusfjord! Later, the ship was wrecked in a storm near Brønnøysund: sport divers recovered the figurehead and the ship’s bell much later, and both are now on display in the Oriana Kro tavern.

PRG1373_7_19 oriana at port adelaide horizThe Oriana that went to Australia with emigrants in around 1894/5 with Frank Musgrave was built in Greenock by Scott & Co in 1864, was an iron barque with two decks, 1050 tons, 202 feet long and 33 foot beam. Her Captain was R.Mosey from 1887, and D.Davies from 1896. Trinder, Anderson & Co sold her in 1897 to S.Razeto in Italy, and she was re-registered in Genoa under the same name. The ship was then sold to Argentinian owners, and later was dismasted at Corrientes, Argentina. Pablo P. Pesce, an Argentinian shipowner bought the hulk and had her re-rigged again at Astilleros de Badaracco en la Boca. On June 6th, 1917, Oriana was on a voyage from Santa Fé to Genoa with 801 tons of iron, when she was captured and scuttled by the German submarine U-64 (Robert Moraht), 2 miles southeast of Cap Camarat, near Toulon, France, in the Mediterranean.

The pictures of Oriana found show her in dock at Port Adelaide, about to load sheep fleeces for the 6 month voyage back to the UK.

The East Croft

PRG1373_16_43 FR East CroftThe East Croft was also an iron framed, wooden clad ship, around 1367grt, built in 1875 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast, for John Gambles, of Workington. She was commanded first by Capt John Tayler Rimmer, until his retirement in 1895. It was then believed to have sailed under the British flag until 1897, with D. Connack as Master and Trinder, Anderson & Co as the owners: these must have been Musgrave’s bosses. Lloyd’s suggests the owners from 1899-1900 were Trinder, Anderson & Co, with a Capt W Hamond. She was then reported as bought by Norwegian owners at some time later, retained her name, but was quoted as being “reduced from ship to barque rig”.

Irrawaddy Flotilla Company

The IFC was Scottish owned, by P Henderson + Co of Glasgow, and was established in 1865: paddle steamers built in Scotland and shipped out to Burma were re-assembled out there, and provided the only freight and communications channel along the North-South route through Burma. At its peak in the late 1920s, the IFC fleet was the largest fleet of river boats in the world, consisting of over 600 vessels carrying some 9 million passengers a year. Rudyard Kipling writes about the IFC “Flotilla” in his poem “Mandalay”, which was first published in 1892:

By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin’ lazy at the sea,

There’s a Burma girl a-settin’, and I know she thinks o’ me;

For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say:

“Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay!”

Come you back to Mandalay,

Where the old Flotilla lay:

Can’t you ‘ear their paddles chunkin’ from Rangoon to Mandalay?

On the road to Mandalay,

Where the flyin’-fishes play,

An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay!

Later, in WW2 (1939-45), the IFC manager in Rangoon was called John Morton: it is not known whether James Bichard was still there. When it became obvious that the Japanese were going to overwhelm their defences and occupy the whole country, in 1942, it is said that James Morton took the independent (of his bosses in Scotland) decision to scuttle all 600 of the IFC paddle steamers and ships on the Irrawaddy, in the rivers, preventing them being used by the Japanese and blocking the landing stages. This effectively set back the Japanese advance through Burma, as other road transport communications were very limited,and the alternative was to trek through the jungle.

Rangoon Harbour, showing several paddle steamers

Rangoon Harbour, showing several paddle steamers

Up at the top of the river, across from Mandalay towards Imphal, became the main battle zone between the British and Indian armies and the Japanese troops: where both sides were hampered by extended jungle supply routes which used horse and mule trains. This was where my Dad was fighting.

What happened after 1932?

I would guess that James Bichard was not in Rangoon in 1939: if he had been there, the telescope would not have eventually returned to the UK, and would have lost its associated documentation. So Bichard himself must have retired – maybe to somewhere near Swansea – and brought the telescope back with him.

What was the telescope doing before 1880?

Obviously someone presented the telescope to the Cowes Yacht Club, but it was not engraved for them, so it was obviously a used telescope at that time. Presumably they set no great store by it, so it was left in its box, unused maybe: and it was therefore deemed suitable as an item to be presented to the break-away Royal Victoria Yacht Club at Ryde.

It does appear that the telescope was probably manufactured between 1830 and say 1860, to take account of the old scrolling Gothic script in the engraving, but not earlier than that because of the large bore brass tubes used.


Lovely telescope, but very heavy! Not easy to use to lift up and follow aeroplanes. It would find best use overlooking a shipping channel, screwed to a balcony rail.

What is fantastic is the documentation, and the associated history, linking the emigrants to Australia in the late 1800s to the trade in fleeces, providing a link to the Irrawaddy paddle steamers in Burma up to WW2.

It would be even better to link the telescope to the Pepys family: Samuel was Chief Secretary to the Admiralty under both King Charles II and subsequently King James II, and so effectively in charge of the Navy. He died in 1703, maybe only 40 years after Newton discovered how to make a telescope. Maybe the first naval telescopes dated from 1760.  The John Alfred Pepys that probably presented Musgrave with the telescope, born 1832, is recorded as living on the Isle of Wight at around the 1890s, and no naval links have been found.

Acquisition 155.

This telescope is for sale:

The problem is that there is no other telescope with such a well documented history to compare it with, plus it is in excellent undamaged condition. I have enjoyed researching and using it. Maybe there is another place it would be more appreciated. Offers over GBP £7000 will be considered!