Rowland of Bristol Multi-draw

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This is a delightfully compact six-draw telescope by Rowland of Bristol. Fully extended it is just over 23”, but compressed it only measures 5.25” in length, and 1.5” in diameter. So very easy to carry around in the pocket. The draws are brass, as is the barrel, which has polished brass shoulders, and then a central section which appears to have been coated with a red enamel/paint coating at some time past – much of this has chipped off.

DSC05739The only visible engraving is on the first draw, which says simply “Rowland Bristol”, so does not give any specific date information, in relation to the several generations of Rowland instrument makers in Bristol.

Richard Rowland operated from 50, the Quay in Bristol from 1792 to 1811, when the business changed name to (Richard) Rowland & Sons from 1812-1819. Then the business became “Edward & Thomas Rowland”, the two sons, at the same address (now called Broad Quay) from 1820-1840. Edward Rowland subsequently became the sole owner from 1842-51. The simple ‘Rowland’ of the engraving could honestly have been used in most of these periods, depending on how they wished to be known.

Telescope Design

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Multi-draw telescopes like this, in my opinion, did not appear until around 1820. There was the problem of obtaining supplies of the successively larger tubes needed, both for the draws themselves, but also for the sliders linking them. In addition, the standard four element eyepiece used two cartridges, which needed positioning with quite a large separation. This often meant that the first two draws were both used to support the cartridges, and usually the cartridge at the far end of the second draw had to compress inside the first draw tube, when the scope was folded up. The focus was also achieved by using the second draw moving into the third draw – leading to extra confusion for the user at times.

DSC05746This multi-draw has another, unique approach. The draws are relatively long, such that the second cartridge needs to be positioned half way along the second draw, for optimum performance. So the second cartridge is small enough to fit inside the first draw, except for the rear (ie objective end) lens mount ring. This ring is large enough to be caught by an internal shoulder in the second draw, half way along, which pulls the lens cartridge along into the middle of the second draw, when the scope is opened up. Ingenious!

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The sliding arrangement inside the second draw, to position the lens cartridge

Condition

DSC05745There are a couple of issues with the cosmetic condition: there is some damage to the eyepiece end of the second draw, which has a couple of dents. These can be seen in the photo opposite. Then the barrel paintwork is severely chipped, ie most of it is missing. It would benefit from a leather sleeve: hopefully a picture will follow with such a leather cover.

There is no end cap to protect the objective – this probably existed at some point.  The eyepiece has a rotating cover to seal the viewing window.

Accession number 278.

Re-covered barrel:

Black leather covering later added to the barrel.

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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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Accession number 211

Conclusion

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.

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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:

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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.

History

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.

JT Coppock 1960s Telescope

So, it is a real change to introduce a telescope from a different manufacturer to this website, particularly one from Leeds….in the provinces even! A centre of industry, yes, but not at all qualifying as a major shipping port – but that did not matter in the C20. It also happens to be where I lived when I first started using a telescope, also in the 1960s.

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This telescope was made by J T Coppock, of Leeds: it is a 3 draw unit, with an additional, short fourth draw which provides variable magnification. Normally referred to as ‘Pancratic’, this works by extending the distance between the two eyepiece cartridges. On this telescope the variable magnification is quoted to range between 10x (closed) through 15x, to 25x (fully extended), and these figures seem like reasonable estimates for the magnification achieved.

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Maximum length of the telescope with everything extended is 21”. Closed up it is 7.25”, and the barrel diameter is 1.625”. All the metalwork, which feels like brass, is grey in colour, as a result of some form of anodising. The barrel is sheathed in brown leather, stitched along the joint. The lens cartridges and the mounts for the draws are all very conventional in design.

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J T Coppock (Leeds) Ltd

I have not been able to find any data on an optical instrument maker named J T Coppock so far. The unit looks as though it dates from after WW2, from the 1950s or 1960s.

In the 1950s and 1960s, James T Coppock (Leeds) ltd was importing Antoria guitars from Japan, and indeed both Hank Marvin and Jeff Beck played one, as did Big Jim Sullivan when he was playing with Marty Wilde. James T. Coppock ceased trading in the early 1980s and Antoria guitar production ceased then, only to be resurrected later.

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Background Data

This telescope was bought on Ebay  in June 2016, from branneysattic – part of the drive to add some more modern examples to the collection. It is Accession Number #279

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