Troughton and Simms nickel-plated scope


This is a telescope by Troughton and Simms, a famous British maker: the name is engraved on the first draw. But equally, as they worked in London over a long period, from 1826 until 1915, it is therefore difficult to date.

In 1788 Edward Troughton came to London from Cumbria, where his father was a farmer, to be apprenticed to his brother John, a scientific instrument maker based at 136 Fleet Street. When John retired in 1804 Edward took over the business, but around 1826 formed a partnership with William Simms, at that same address.  The business became known as Cooke, Troughton and Simms in 1915. This model is likely to date from very late Victorian or Edwardian times, judging by the design and the silver-coloured nickel plating.

Indeed the design is very unusual, in that it has a single draw, from a short barrel. The single draw has a split half way along, which gives access to the second lens cartridge.  The lens quality is what you would expect from such a maker.


Indeed the objective shows the normal greenish hue of Victorian scopes.  The focus is interesting, the first draw has to be pushed a long way home to bring a sharp image for a long distant object but this has an advantage, in that the telescope can focus on very close objects too, around 2m or 6 feet away.


The other real advantage is that the brass body of the scope is plated with presumably a nickel plating, which looks silver.  This does not tarnish like the normal brass used on telescopes, so your hands stay clean and there is no polishing required: I have had this scope for over ten years and it has only ever needed a wipe over with a soft cloth, to keep it clean.

There is a sunshade over the objective. Overall widest OD is 50mm, and length closed is 9” (233mm), fully open it is 17” or 433mm.


NotDSC05827 really conclusions, more guesses! (1) I think this scope dates from the 1880s-90s. (2) It was probably built for, or aimed at, the professional Gentleman’s market: – the man who was a Surveyor, or Landowner. Reasons here are that a military one would not be coloured silver, at least without any leather cladding. A naval one would be bigger when closed, and longer when in use. The silver colour makes it try to show quality. The only drawback here is the size, it is hardly a pocket sized telescope!

On Ebay this week.

It is on Ebay this week for sale, ref 302686034213, with a buy it now price of GBP120. We will see if anyone appreciates the Troughton and Simms quality, if so the bids should reach nearly to that value!



Pocket Mahogany Telescope


This is now a beautiful three draw small or pocket telescope, 41cms long when extended, and 142mm or 5.5” when closed. Overall diameter at the objective is 30mm. The barrel has a mahogany outer sleeve, and all the lenses are in good condition. The only things probably lacking are the objective end cap, and the slider in the eyepiece, which many people removed to make the scope easier to use. It works really well – the lenses are very good, possibly implying a good maker in the 20th century.


This telescope was said to be in need of restoration, but basically after cleaning the lenses it worked perfectly. There are no significant dents on the tubes – although there is evidence of some damage on the third draw. The barrel outer is a mahogany sleeve, in a thick layer over the metal tube which gives the unit good rigidity. This mahogany is too substantial (too thick) to be called a veneer, but it had a crack where the mahogany had shrunk on drying out, presumably. This was filled and stained before re-polishing the barrel, which now shines.


There are no identifying marks on the tubes, so no makers name. It could date from anywhere between 1850 and 1940, but is probably from the 20th century, mainly judging by the good quality lenses and the good condition.

This one (my reference 317) was sold on Ebay in the week finishing on 1st April, for £27, to a guy in Lincolnshire.


Rowland of Bristol Multi-draw


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


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!


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


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.



Negretti & Zambra telescopes

Negretti & Zambra has always been a name to conjure with, to aspire to, for me. Maybe because of the exotic name, maybe because they also made aircraft instruments. But regrettably most of their telescope models I have managed to purchase have resulted in disappointment! The first four models have not made it into these pages, mainly because they had problems functioning, ie they did not work well. So, in one last effort, I recently acquired a further N&Z model, of relatively conventional military design: this one also had a good traceable history.


This new N&Z scope is a relatively standard design in the style of the Telescope Scout Regiment spotting scope of around WW1. It is a three draw all-metal construction, with the barrel being significantly tapered to house a large 2.25” diameter objective lens pair, covered with a sunshade. Whilst the scope is made of brass, this one, made in the 1890s, obviously needed a little bit of ostentation, or bling, so they plated the brass in silver, or a similar coloured coating. That way the scope would appeal to the landed gentry, the officers, who wanted to be seen in the field – and did not want the benefit of any camouflage!

And this telescope did appeal to one such officer and gentleman, his name is engraved on the first draw, and his initials are on the leather case. He was H B Smith-Bingham, and his chosen Regiment was that of the Wiltshire Imperial Yeomanry.


The Boer War

In one week known as ‘Black Week’ in December 1899, British armed forces suffered three defeats against the Boers in South Africa, which led to the Government calling for troop volunteers to reinforce the regular Army in the campaign. The Yeomanry were supposed to be reserve forces, stationed at home, but a Royal Warrant asked standing Yeomanry regiments to provide service companies of approximately 115 men each for the Imperial Yeomanry, which was formed in South Africa. The Wiltshire Yeomanry provided two companies, which became the First and Second Companies of the First Imperial Yeomanry Battalion: with HB Smith-Bingham they arrived in March 1900.

There were various reports of his activities in South Africa during 1900, and then he was given a passage home in July 1901 on the ship the “Templemore”: he was then quoted to be a Lieutenant, serving with the 13th Imperial Yeomanry.

So the telescope probably saw service during the Boer War in South Africa.

The Wiltshire Yeomanry were formed originally in 1794, and was the first regiment in the British Army to be awarded the title of ‘Prince of Wales’s Own’ (entitling it to wear the Prince of Wales’s feathers as a badge). In 1884, it was placed at the head of the newly formed Yeomanry Order of Precedence by Queen Victoria.

The telescope

The telescope is 81 cms long fully extended, and 26 cms when all closed up. The sliders between the draws have felt linings, to run smoothly on the silver coating. Internally the first draw has two conventional cartridges, with two lenses in each. There are interesting minimal intrusion orifices in the barrel and the first draw, with black lining inside the tubes, to reduce reflections from the walls. There is a winking slider over the eyepiece lens, and the objective lens cap is riveted into the lid of the leather case, which is an interesting approach to not dropping or losing the cap!


Above all, this one works, and works well. Quite a hefty lump to carry around on a belt, but better on a shoulder strap, or attached to the saddle of a horse. However with the limited field of view it would not be easy to use from horseback….


This scope was Accession Number 316: bought December 2017, via Ebay. It seemed the supplier had not done any searches on the engraved name history, did not know what era it was from, and listed it in the Ebay section of “Barometers”. So they did not really do the unit justice.

N+Z History

Henry Negretti started work in 1840: he was born in 1818 in Italy, attended the London Mechanics Institute 1834-35, and seems to have been a glassblower and barometer maker, in various partnerships until 1850. Then he teamed up with Joseph Warren Zambra, and was in business at many different London locations, as an optical instrument maker,  until 1879, when he died: but the company continued into the C20th. It closed maybe in 1999, according to Wikipedia. The whole Wikipedia site shows examples of N+Z telescopes, predominantly these show black Japanned draws (the tubes that pull out), as this was their main style.

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


Abraham three draw telescope

Jacob Abraham of Bath is a renowned maker of telescopes, and up until this year I had never been successful in acquiring a sample of his work. He was active between 1809 and 1842, and was sought out as a supplier by the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Wellington in that time period.  This model is a three draw unit with a mahogany barrel.


Admittedly the photos and description on Ebay may have put other buyers off, as all the screws into the wooden barrel were missing, so it was an assembly of loose bits, and the third draw seemed to have an extra brass ring around the circumference.

Close investigation suggested it had had quite a hard working life! But once cleaned up, with the wooden barrel polished and modern screws used to hold the two end pieces into the wood (using 3/8” long screws, cut down to about 5mm), the unit is optically very good. It seems the barrel has been shortened at some point, presumably because the original screws had been pulled out of the wood too often, and there was nothing left to screw into. This then made the largest draw too long to fit into the barrel when closing the scope together, ie it hit the back of the objective lens. So to stop this potential damage the owner, or his staff, soldered a ring of copper (very neatly) around this last draw, which prevents it being pushed fully home into the barrel.


The added copper ring round the third draw, and new screws in the barrel.

A questionable eyepiece?

The engraving on the first draw is shown below, as well as the soldering holding the eyepiece cap in position.


As well as this mod on the third draw, the eyepiece cap has been soldered onto the end of the first draw. This cap is not necessarily the original, it may have been added to replace another cap damaged and/or lost. The shape of the cap, in terms of the tapering on the rear side, is just not what was fashionable or normal in the early 1800s. This was also the dubious aspect of a telescope discussed in an earlier story, the 8-draw Ramsden, where a correspondent pointed out that this was a fashionable shape in the  late 1800s, particularly with manufacturers in France.

DSC05531This soldered joint also means the first lens cartridge now seems to be permanently anchored in place, it does not appear to be removable any more.

Total length extended is just over 26”, and 8.75” when closed. The barrel OD is 1.75”. The draw tubes are actually in good condition, with only a few dents, in contrast to the other trauma the telescope has seen. The knurled ring on the fitting to the barrel does appear to have lost a segment of about 10 degrees, but still works fine. The missing segment can be seen on the photo above,  showing the copper ring.


It is still an effective telescope, and from Abraham in Bath, as the engraving says. This is also a useful size for use in today’s world.

It is worth mentioning that there were other instrument makers by the name of Abraham in other towns. For example Abraham Abraham in Liverpool, Abraham Elisha Abraham in Exeter, G & C Abraham in Sheffield, and John Aburgham Abraham also in Liverpool. This Jacob Abraham started in St Andrew’s Terrace in Bath 1809-1811. From 1830-1842 he was at 7 Bartlett Street, Bath, but also opened an office in Cheltenham. From 1833-37 this office moved to be adjoining Mr Thompson’s Pump Room in Bath, presumably to catch all the gentry taking the waters. He also developed partnerships with other instrument sellers, to presumably sell Abraham units, from bases in Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester.

Accession number #312.

What’s it worth now? Probably £60-100.

Thompson of Yarmouth 3 Draw

Thompson of Yarmouth. Not a name that has been echoing round the walls of Observatories or Navigators clubs for 200 years, but I found this telescope interesting, so bought it.


Why buy this one?

Because it’s a classic three draw with a mahogany barrel and an end cap, plus a decent authentic (ie original) case, and the original screws are present on the barrel mountings. Plus it came from Great Yarmouth, where my three (maiden) Great Aunts lived, (all daughters of a WW1 Norfolk farmer, born around 1900) – but they did not date quite as far back as the telescope, as Gloria Clifton says Simon Thompson was working there in (Old) Broad Row from 1804-16 and 1830-44. So these dates tally with the style and design of the scope, and it looks a good quality item. Plus the Ebay write-up said that it works, which it certainly does, and works well.

Another reason was that it was very low cost! £24 including postage.

Inspection and cleaning#


On arrival it looked fairly dull, and looking rust-coloured on the largest draw. It cleaned up surprisingly easily, as the pictures show, and everything was present inside – AOK in terms of lenses and other bits. It is not that used/dented, and is nicely finished. Going back to Clifton, she mentions that Thompson was a compass maker, brazier, and a telescope tube maker, as well as an Optician/optical instrument supplier. So presumably he supplied other telescope makers with tubes, and so had plenty of contacts to source the lens sets from. Not that I am aware of many other active optical instrument manufacturers in East Anglia.


The case as well

The case is interesting: it is certainly a paper/card tube, with leather end caps well sewn onto leather wrapped around the end of the tube. The interesting part is the covering over the paper tube, which looks like a brown fish-skin of some form. Under the cap (a slightly larger tube) the inner part of the case under the cap is lined with a paper covering having some form of coloured pattern, but it is difficult to define what this is. (See comments below- Ed).

DSCN5660  DSCN5658



The seller says the telescope was a present to him from his Grandmother: presumably it was passed to her from a male relative who was a seafarer, either as a profession or as a hobby, in late Victorian times maybe. But no real history is known.


Dimensional data

DSCN5657 DSCN5655

The barrel widest diameter is 1.9”. It is 9.5” closed, and 29” when fully extended. The case is 2.25” OD and 10” long. Accession Number #302, April 2017.

Bought for spare parts…

Just another mid-size two-draw telescope, bought from Ebay for spares, mainly (I thought) for the eyepiece cap, or the objective lens holder. It looked filthy and old, but had all its lenses, and a nice mahogany barrel: plus the screws looked original, holding the brass to the barrel.


When it arrived, (as is usual) the eyepiece cap thread was totally wrong, it was too big to fit the Baleen covered Cutts telescope. The objective lens holder was too small to be any use on a 10-sided telescope restoration project, so I had failed yet again. But actually the telescope was quite nice. Only labelled “Achromatic, London”, on the sliding cover to the objective lens, it is not easy to date, it could be anywhere between 1880 and 1930.

DSCN5369It has an old design of objective mounting, and neat brass ends to the barrel. Conventional design inside, with two twin lens cartridges. One slight fault: those neat screws at the end of the second draw are actually (as ever) too long, and scrape on the slider holding the draw, when the latter is unscrewed. So they were filed down internally, to clear the brass holder.

How about a clean-up?

An afternoon polishing with Brasso had some excellent results! The black tarnishing of the draws soon fell away, and the whole telescope was transformed. Even the barrel ends are now shining.


There were two surprises. First, on the back face of the slider positioned over the objective lens, there is a price written on there, of 14/0, ie 14 shillings, or £0.70 after decimalisation. Presumably it was sold in a second hand shop at some time after its first owner passed it on. That price would maybe have been reasonable in the 1930s.

DSCN5371The second surprise was that the second draw is fitted with a spacer so as to not let the draw out to as long as it could be – obviously the objective lens used was not as long in the focus as had been expected. No matter, at least it had been noticed, and with the spacer it now does not seem to be necessary to push the tubes in too far to gain a focus.

Some before and after pictures in relation to the polishing are shown below.







Using the telescope, it is actually very effective, which is the main requirement after all, once you have a clean instrument. Good focus, good view and magnification. Total length open is 18.5”, closed is about 8.5”. Objective is 42mm dia, but the optically used diameter of the lens is more like 1”.


Bought February 2017 from an Ebay seller in Felixstowe. Accession Number #299.

Gilbert & Wright scope, circa 1800

Another telescope that came from the ‘Navigation Warehouse’, at 148 Leadenhall Street, London, at around 1800. See the previous comments about the people working there in the story about the Gilbert telescope, loaded onto this website on 24 Dec 2016. This was the place to go to, if you wanted the best in telescope making expertise for a particular duty, whether astronomical or nautical.


In fact Gilbert worked in the partnership Gregory, Gilbert & Wright – from 1790-93. This telescope however is labelled as from the Gilbert & Wright partnership, which is quoted to have operated between 1790 and 92, and again between 1802 and 1805: in both periods they were based in the Navigation Warehouse.

The design is unusual, for the date, which is 1790-1805, 210 to 223 years ago. It is presumably a specially commissioned unit for a specific task, ie it was custom built for one of their customers, to his specification.

Who was the Customer?

This telescope is a two draw, completely brass unit. It is large in size, being 37.75” (96cms) long when fully extended: the length when focussed is considerably shorter, at 30.5” (77.5cms). This does mean that completely extended, it will give a focus on an object about 5 feet away from the objective, if you might wish to do that! But an advantage of the travel of the first draw is that there is around 1cm of movement where a distant object remains in a fairly good focus to the observer. The OD of the objective lens holder is nearly 2”, actually 4.9cm.


Fully closed up the length is 15.25”: there is no sunshade or lens cap to protect the objective lens. On the eyepiece there is a slider that moves across the lens aperture: the second smaller aperture in the slider appears to originally have had a lens or filter mounted in there. Possibly located here was a deep red ruby filter (which restricts the light passing through to the eye, and so allows the telescope user to look at the edges of the sun, or at sunspots). Whether this means it was a telescope for use in an Observatory or similar I’m not sure. The generally ‘unfinished’ nature of the construction, with no protective covering on the barrel, no sunshade etc, might also imply it was not intended for outdoor (ie shipboard) use.

The Engraving

Another possible use might have been as a “lower magnification” aiming telescope, to be attached to a larger magnification scope in an Observatory. There are no obvious mounting points for this telescope, so it must have been strapped in place in some way. But the interesting positioning of the words engraved on the first draw, around the eyepiece, implies that the normally expected reader was maybe looking normally downwards, towards the top of the eyepiece: the words are then written horizontally, to this view, on one side of the draw, but around the curve of the brass tube.

DSCN5383The actual engraving says



Improved Telescope

…and the positioning on the first draw can be seen from the photograph.

Further data

Inside the first draw, the two eyepiece lens cartridges are fairly conventional in design: the first one (near the eyepiece) is engraved along the length with the words “SMALLEST POWER”. Presuming that another cartridge of higher power was supplied for the telescope (a standard approach with astronomical instruments) then this would explain the need for the first draw to be pushed in a long way to achieve focus – the other (missing) eyepiece might need to work with a focal point much further out.

Each draw is marked with an arrow, plus there are two arrows on the main barrel, pointing towards the objective. In my view this indicates the desirable orientation (rotation position) of the two draws, to get the parts of the telescope lined up in the original, ‘ex-factory’ setting.

The telescope was bought on Ebay in October 2016, for £87 including carriage, and there were no other bidders. Whether it is relevant I don’t know, but it came from Dorchester. Obviously there were not many people interested in a curious design of a 215 year old telescope! It did have a well-respected name….in a curious orientation, which is why I chased it.

Accession Number #293.

Baleen covered silvered Cutts telescope

This telescope is a totally different style to any of the others bearing the name JP Cutts that you will have seen on this website, or anywhere else! It’s actually a very nice example of the type – a four draw white metal plated telescope, with a Baleen covered barrel.


Probably not ethically or politically correct these days, Baleen is the material from the mouth of a Baleen whale, or a Bowhead whale (who have the longest strips of Baleen), the substance that creates a filtering system. The whale sucks in a lot of water and krill, then expels the mixture through the Baleen filter lengths, which hang down like a curtain from its top jaw, making a vertical blind-like curtain across the mouth, trapping the krill on the filter elements. It is a black plastic like flat strand, which is actually made of Keratin (a similar material to human fingernails).


In Victorian times the by-products of whale hunting were available, so why not use this long strip of Baleen to wrap around a telescope barrel?

The white metal coating on the four draws would seem to be a chrome coating, in that it has not tarnished the way that silver would have done, even during the time I have owned it. Very effective as a plating solution for such things.

The maker – James Sutton, actually

The engraving is “JP Cutts, Sutton and Son”, note the lack of a plural ‘Sons’, “Opticians to Her Majesty, Sheffield & London”. Whether we interpret anything from the sideways displacement of each line, I’m not sure: the “London” could have been added to the third line later.


John Sutton’s son, James, had joined the firm by 1852, and the name then changed to ‘J.P. Cutts, Sutton, & Son’. The 1854 Post Office Directory of Sheffield included “Cutts JP, Sutton & Son, Opticians to her Majesty, 39 Division Street, Sheffield, & 56 Hatton Garden, London, & 248 Pearl Street, New York”.

So this dates the telescope as after 1852.

John Priston Cutts died on 8 September 1858, at his Sheffield home. John Sutton died six months later, on 26 April 1859, aged 71. The optical business was reorganized in 1860 under the sole ownership of James Sutton, the son. He was a skilled optician, presumably having apprenticed with Cutts. James retained the business name JP Cutts, Sutton, & Son, presumably because of the Cutts reputation. Gloria Clifton fails to give any info about when this firm ceased trading: the 1891 Census returns show him still listed in Sheffield as an optical instrument manufacturer, then aged 69. The earlier 1861 census showed he employed 25 men, 6 boys and 19 women and girls: in 1881 these numbers had reduced a little, to 14 men, 8 boys and 8 women. Nevertheless, this shows James had a strong business over more than twenty years, and the firm was trading from 1852 until at least 1881.

This Telescope described

dscn5217xxThe telescope has 4 draws, and is 22” long extended. It is 6.75” when closed, so a good pocket size. OD is 1.75”, 1.625” for the barrel. There is a similarly silvered end cap over the objective, but regrettably the eyepiece cover is totally missing. It would have been a flat ended cap, with an internal thread to match the 0.9” OD thread on the outside of the first draw. If anyone has one of these spare, I’d be delighted to buy it. Having been thru all my telescopes, there is only one that seems anything near to the same size and thread, but I have to see if I can adapt it and silver plate it! It was on telescope #106, a small scope from Gowans of Dundee.

The joints between the first two draws were loose, in terms of holding the draw extended and in-line, as the telescope was handled. This seemed to be because the internal liners in the draw mounts were missing. In the other draws these liners are glued in place, between two shoulders positioned at each end. They appear to be made of thin hide/leather, and make a better low friction mount than was achieved by the previously fairly standard ‘U’ shaped cut-out flaps in such joints. The plan was to replace these, as they provide friction to hold the telescope draws in place, as well as keeping them aligned properly. It has been achieved with two pieces of thin leather, cut to fill part of the recess in the metal slider: they are not stuck in place, and make a good friction fit for the joints. I just need to remember not to remove the sliders completely!

dscn5227The final, largest draw mount, that screws into the barrel of the scope, is decorated with a form of ivy-leaf pattern around the exposed rim – as well as having a knurled edge, which all the draws exhibit.

Around the barrel, a single length of black Baleen is wound round to cover a 5.25” length, in 22 turns. The Baleen is one long strip around 0.25” wide, and ridged along its length with around 7/8 grooves. Presumably it is glued down onto the metal of the barrel, at least at each end. A quick calculation makes the length of this Baleen strip around 112″, or over 9 feet! A very large whale’s mouth.

Other data

Who would have used this telescope? Probably it is a well-turned out Gentleman’s accessory, possibly the Master or a passenger on a trading ship. I don’t think it would have been used by an Army or Cavalry officer for military duties, its a little too shiny, bright and conspicuous.

I bought it from an Ebay trader based in the South-west of England in December 2010. It has Accession Number #142, and inside the end cap it had a previous sale price scratched on the metal, which was 50 shillings (GBP 2.50) – obviously some long time before when I bought it!