Nelson’s Telescope: lost, or hidden?

This is not the normal sort of telescope story shown on this site. It’s all the opposite way round.

The telescope shown in the photograph below, taken from a newspaper, was sold in early 1920, at an auction, probably in London. The only logic for that conclusion is that the newspaper was The Times Weekly Edition  (Illustrated Section) published early in 1920, January we believe.


What is interesting is that the text alongside the photo suggests that the telescope had a pedigree. It said “FAMOUS TELESCOPE FOR SALE” and explained “Nelson’s telescope is being offered for sale by auction in London. It was given to Nelson by his father.”

The photo is typically a staged pic using someone who knows nothing about telescopes, and maybe had to be like that to fit the needs of the photographer, to avoid having it extended and too long to fit into a good format. The guy supposed to be using it is peeking through with it not extended at all.

Was this really Nelson’s telescope?

An earlier article explained how the National Maritime Museum had a telescope on display which was said to have been used by one of Nelson’s officers. But I have had no information about an authentic Nelson-owned Telescope on display anywhere. It would be really interesting to try to locate it.

The photo in the newspaper gives some indication of telescope size, in relation to the man’s head. I estimate that the closed overall length is 14.5”, the sunshade 5.25” long, and the OD is 2.5”, with the aperture for the lens appearing to be 1.75”. The part of the barrel that appears to be covered in string or some form of binding is around 7.5”. The photo does not show the style of eyepiece, it is obscured.

These dimensions are very close to being the same as those of the Dolland telescope described in the earlier story on this website, found in a Barrow second hand shop, and originating from the Walney Island lighthouse. See I have tried to reproduce the same sort of photo angle below, with the Walney Dolland unit. The two photos are shown below together, to compare.

DSCN2676 Nick colour


Are they the same sort of size and description? What do you think? Your comments would be appreciated….

If the two are indeed similar, then Nelson’s father had given him a relatively low cost, and not the highest quality, telescope. The Dolland unit is made in relatively thin brass, for the draws – so they would probably show some dents and damage from normal use. It has a wooden barrel, maybe this is protected by the string binding in the old photo.

Such a unit might possibly have been bought for him when he was a junior officer, before becoming of a high rank, ie when he could afford something better. So  it would not be an impressive unit to put on show,  explaining why it might not be normally on display, if it was bought by a museum. Because even in the 1920’s I would believe a National Museum would have been interested in that telescope!

If anyone knows of the whereabouts of this telescope, please let me know too!

(I just want to see it)


A bit of Naval History, 1760-1840

At the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, in a visit in 1993, I had been disappointed to only find four telescopes on display. One of these was shown in relation to items used by Admiral Nelson, and my notes from the time record it as approximately a 3 foot long oak cylindrical barrel, with one draw, in silver, inscribed “John Pasco, Flag Lt to Nelson” (or words to that effect). The main problem was that this had been polished so much that the engraving was almost lost. Again my disappointment was that I had assumed Nelson would have had his own telescope, but possibly this was not the case, maybe he just expected to be able to use the equipment held available by his officers. So the thought of seeing a telescope that had actually belonged to him was dashed. Unless one does yet exist, of course.


BHC3002. Admiral John Jervis, 1735-1823, 1st Earl of St Vincent, this copy from the National Maritime Museum

In Summer 2015, in one of those incredible coincidences, I was struggling to read the BBC book “Empire of the Seas” before going to sleep at night. This was Brian Lavery’s book about the Dan Snow programme depicting ‘How the Navy Forged the Modern World’, but it was slow progress. Several of the old portraits of the Admirals and Captains of their times, showed their pose holding a telescope – as a sort of badge of rank.

One that I noted particularly was that of Sir John Jervis, who had a particularly long cylindrical wooden, reddish coloured telescope.

Within a week a review of some telescopes newly offered for sale on Ebay in the UK showed up a single draw telescope, quoted as engraved with the name Captain J. Jervis Tucker: and it looked the same style and colour as the telescope shown in the painting above. So was it possible that the telescope for sale was the one depicted in this painting, now in the Royal Collection? A little more reading identified the fact that Jervis was appointed Earl St Vincent, after a success in a sea battle with the Spanish off Cape St Vincent, a battle in which one of his Commanders, Nelson, had distinguished himself, in 1797.

The possibility of this telescope linking very close to such names was enthralling, so possibly my logic did not quite take account of some slight hitches in the evidence…

Collecting everything together


The Ebay bid was successful, it was not too expensive, and the dealer was really good: despite the telescope measuring 4 feet 2 inches when closed, it arrived in what the carrier described as the best packaging he’d ever seen, mainly polystyrene foam, 5 feet long. The telescope was very long: so it didn’t quite fit with the one shown in the Earl St Vincent painting, which looks like it was maybe 2 feet long.

So, what date was the telescope: The look and feel was good, it was well built, it had a good dual element objective lens. Definitely post the 1762 Dollond patent date. But when did John Jervis have the rank of Captain? His Wikipedia entry and the National Maritime Museum suggest he achieved the rank of Captain in 1760, after fighting the French in Canada and in the Caribbean as a Lieutenant, but was unemployed from 1763-1769, when he did briefly gain another ship posting. Then from 1775 onwards he fought the French, in America and in Europe. He was knighted in 1782. This would have meant the telescope was engraved sometime between 1769 and 1782. This is very early, compared to the appearance….


Lastly – how did this not come to prominence previously – the signature on the first draw is “Capt. J. Jervis Tucker”. Where did this extra name ‘Tucker’ come from?

John Jervis Tucker

From 1796-99 Admiral Sir John Jervis commanded the Mediterranean fleet. From Jan 1798 Benjamin Tucker served as Purser on HMS London, stationed off Cadiz with this fleet. Discharged in July 1798 Tucker became Secretary to Admiral Jervis (now Earl St Vincent) and continued with him throughout his service in the Mediterranean. He was appointed Second Secretary to the Admiralty on 21 Jan 1804 and then again on 10 Feb 1806, when St Vincent was First Lord. He then became Surveyor General of the County of Cornwall.

Born in 1802, Benjamin’s son was christened John Jervis Tucker, and entered the Royal Navy in 1815. On 15 Jun 1827 he was promoted to Commander, serving on HMS Ariel and HMS Semiramis (1828-1831), and then to the rank of Captain of HMS Royal William on 28 Jun 1838. From 11 May 1841 to 26 Mar 1845 he served as Flag Captain of HMS Dublin in the Pacific, under Rear-Admiral Richard Thomas, dealing with the imposition of French administration on the island of Tahiti. Royal William was a fully rigged 120-gun first rate ship of the line – similar to the Victory.


A replica of the figurehead of this ship has recently replaced the original, which stood beside the dockyard at Mutton Cove, Plymouth: this is shown above. The figurehead was always known as King Billy, for William IV, who reigned between 1830 and 1837.

From 29 Apr 1854 to 10 Sep 1857 JJ Tucker was Captain Superintendent of Sheerness Dockyard. He became Rear-Admiral of the Blue on 10 Sep 1857, was promoted to Rear-Admiral of the White on 2 May 1860, and to Vice-Admiral on 9 Feb 1864, being pensioned off on 19 Oct 1864. Subsequently, as Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Cornwall, Tucker was owner of Trematon Castle from 1860 until his death in 1886.

So JJ Tucker held the rank of Captain from 1834-57, dating this telescope probably to around 1834: this fits a lot more closely with the visible aspects of the construction!  Nevertheless the scope had an interesting life, seeing both Tahiti and Sheerness!

The Telescope itself!

DSCN2563There is no maker’s mark, the only info is the engraving on the first draw. The objective OD is 3”, with a visible used diameter of 2.3”. The carrier is very well machined and engineered, the threads move easily that retain the lenses. They have a greenish hue. Two of the three grubscrews attaching this assembly to the wooden barrel were still in place. The only snag was they DSCN2572needed new holes into the wood of the barrel (they are not yet replaced in this photo).

The barrel appears to be drilled out inside, to two fixed bores, with a metal optical orifice half way along. The bore is blackened for only about two inches away from the objective lens. The photo here is taken using a torch beam, and shows the distant copper orifice.

Outside, there is a taper evident on the barrel to meet the large objective. The surface of the mahogany is varnished to a dark red colour, a bit scratched but not cracked or damaged. There are two positions, one half way along, and the other near the brass collar near the eyepiece, showing signs of having been in a strap mounting or other retaining clamp, presumably on a stand: otherwise the operating length, at 4 feet 9 inches, would make it unwieldy for hand holding.

DSCN2568The brass fittings and eyepiece took many hours of polishing to return them to a shining brass surface – see the original corroded condition shown below. The lens carriers in the single draw are very well made, as is the main joint at the collar on the end of the barrel. The eyepiece is squared off, and flat-ended, with a captive sliding cover that still is operational. The scope has a high magnification, and as might be expected a very narrow field of view: the positioning of the eye against the eyepiece is fairly critical – there’s a word for this, which I will look up, it has a narrow diameter exit cone for the viewer.


On receipt, the telescope looked like this – photos from the Ebay listing:

$_57         $_57 (1)



An exciting chase to find the answer, and it turns out the owner, a Captain in the Pacific on a first rate ship of the line in the Royal Navy in the 1830s, was named after his boss, an Admiral that his father respected a great deal, so that he christened his son after him. This previous Admiral had also been in charge of the young Commander Nelson, in the late 1780s, going up to Trafalgar. The scope still has a good history, and is still a unique memento of those times on sailing ships.

Accession Number #248, October 2015.

HMS St Vincent

s-l1600 (1)I recently came across a Player’s Cigarette card depicting the figurehead from HMS St Vincent, which is fairly obviously modelled on Earl St Vincent. I can’t relate this figurehead to any of the four ships and three shore establishments who have taken this name, but the most likely is the Nelson class first rate ship of the line, 120 guns and 3 masts, launched 1815. (Ed. Aug 2016)

By the way…..NMM telescopes on display

The other three telescopes I could find in the 1993 visit to Greenwich were:

  1. In the entrance, a 3 foot long leather bound single draw scope by Cary of London, dated 1850.
  2. Capt. Cook was quoted as using a Dollond type of scope, and an example shown was about 2 feet long, 8-sided wooden barrel, dated as 1781 and inscribed Dollond London and J Miller of Hythe.
  3. The last one sounds, and looked very ornamental, and even Oriental: it was brass and engraved as by “Gilbert, London, Day or Night”. Three pulls, 2″ objective, decorated with red and black/gold markings. My notes at the time suggest it was said to have been presented to an Indian Army person, either a General or an Admiral. Various Gilbert makers were operating from 1719 right through to 1845.

AA Radar Telescope from HMS Gloucester

DSCN2346This is a style of telescope that is not normally a collector’s item, because it’s pretty difficult (normally) to do anything with them. This telescope belongs to the categories of: military equipment, heavy and bullet proof, un-damageable, gun-sights and range-finders. But the history of this one is why it’s so interesting.

As described on Ebay it is a Gunsight Elbow Telescope AA Radar L6 A1, which was one of four such telescopes in service on HMS Gloucester, a Royal Navy Type 42 Destroyer. This was offered for sale when HMS Gloucester was decommissioned in Portsmouth in 2011. The wooden box which holds this scope identifies it as 6650-99-965-3364, and on the outside of the lid it is marked as belonging to the “Aft 909”, presumably the location and the ID of the radar antenna.

DSCN2348The telescope itself is painted a grey colour, and labelled as Telescope Elbow AA Radar L4 A1, with the (presumably NATO) number 6650-99-962-6007. It has a 2” / 50mm OD main tube, with an objective aperture of 18-19mm: at the other end of the 12.5” / 32cm barrel, the diameter increases to 60mm where there are mounting slots/grooves to attach it to the radar aerial. The eyepiece is on the side, at 90 degrees to the optical axis, as you might expect from an elbow telescope. Focus is via a knurled knob on the rear end of the main barrel. So far it has not been dismantled.

The view through the telescope is good, although it offers quite a wide field of view, and limited magnification, compared to any other telescope. In the centre of the view there is a square measurement grid, showing two squares of angle off the centre line of view, one marked 10’ and the other 20’. Presumably these markings are minutes of arc, where 60 minutes is one degree – this seems to work out OK in measuring the observed thickness of a lamp-post at a distance. The eyepiece has a soft rubber cover.

DSCN2351Also in the box is a separate push-on lens (Lens L1 A1, 6650-99-965-3365) to cover the objective, in a black housing, labelled “V.I.Y. for targets 25ft to 28ft”. It enables focussing the system on objects closer to the observer.

HMS Gloucester

The Destroyer HMS Gloucester was built by Vosper Thorneycroft in Southampton, and launched in November 1982: after commissioning in 1985 she served in the Royal Navy as D96, alongside the other 13 Type 42 Destroyers of this class. Two of these were lost in the South Atlantic, fighting to regain the Falklands – these were HMS Sheffield and HMS Coventry. After decommissioning, Gloucester was finally towed out of Portsmouth harbour on 22 September 2015, to be taken to a scrapyard in Turkey.

HMS Gloucester being towed to the Turkish scrapyard

HMS Gloucester towed to the Turkish scrapyard

HMS Gloucester achieved distinction in the First Gulf War, in 1991, serving with the Task Force in the Persian Gulf. A previous HMS Gloucester, the Light Cruiser launched in 1937 and eventually sunk in the Mediterranean in 1941, had earned the name “Fighting G”, after ‘heavy service’ in those early years of WW2. The nickname was earned by the later HMS Gloucester primarily from the coalition task force US partners in the Persian Gulf, after the downing of an Iraqi Silkworm missile by a Sea Dart missile.

The entry in Wikipedia gives a useful outline of her full naval career:



Gloucester served in the Gulf War in 1991 under the command of Commander (later Rear Admiral) Philip Wilcocks where her most notable action was the firing of a salvo shot of Sea Dart missiles to shoot an Iraqi Silkworm missile that was threatening the US battleship USS Missouri and allied minehunters; the first successful missile versus missile engagement at sea in combat by any Navy. The ship also survived attacks from two naval mines and conducted numerous boardings using her boarding party consisting of Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel. The ship’s Lynx helicopter also engaged seven Iraqi warships. She spent the longest period upthreat of any coalition warship. As a result of her endeavours, her captain (Commander Philip Wilcocks) and flight commander (Lt Cdr David Livingstone) were decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross; the operations officer and flight observer were both mentioned in Despatches. After this service Gloucester was rebranded with her nickname of “The Fighting G”.

In August 2010, Gloucester also intercepted and arrested the yacht Tortuga in the Caribbean, which was attempting to smuggle £4million worth of cocaine. This was during HMS Gloucester’s voyage out to the Falkland Islands, where she was deployed from August 2010 to early 2011.

What was the purpose?

HMS Gloucester (

What is the function of a telescope on a modern (1985 vintage) radar antenna? If you know please tell me!

By the description the radar is an anti-aircraft radar, ie presumably controlling a missile battery to launch the missile with a lock onto the right target being selected for tracking by the radar. Whether the initial radar target acquisition is intended to be confirmed visually by the operator looking through the telescope, (putting the target inside the graticule, if that is the right word) is unknown, maybe someone can tell me, but it seems the most logical duty for an Elbow Telescope on top of an AA Radar.

HMS Edinburgh firing a Sea Dart missile ( Today (13-04-2012) HMS Edinburgh conducted the final Sea Dart Missile firing at the North Eastern Scottish range of Benbecula. The Ship fired five missiles, three single missiles and a two missile salvo at an Unmanned Drone target. This is the last time the 30 year old Missile system will be fired as it is due to be replaced by the new Sea Viper system fitted to the new Type 45 Destroyers.

HMS Edinburgh firing a Sea Dart missile (

The Sea Dart missile required a separate radar illumination of the target to lock-on, and be guided to the target: Sea Dart firings where the missile was launched unguided were not successful. HMS Sheffield tried to disrupt their fatal attack by Exocet missiles by launching an unguided Sea Dart. In the action in the Gulf over the SilkWorm missile attack, the USS Jarrett guided missile Frigate launched a close-in defense missile system, in auto-engagement mode, which then (unfortunately) locked onto the defensive chaff already launched by the Missouri, and missed the missile. The Sea Dart salvo launched by HMS Gloucester was already locked onto the Iranian missile, presumably by the pre-launch lock – maybe achieved with the help of one of these four Elbow telescope systems on board.

WW1 “Officer of the Watch” telescope

The centre scope is the Haselfoot!

The centre scope is the Haselfoot!

The April 2014 posting describing around a dozen “Officer of the Watch” telescopes (on this website) mentioned two further stories that would be told eventually. The first, shown below, is about Captain Haselfoot, and his telescope. The story below started from the account provided by the seller on Ebay, and this triggered me to do some further digging in the archives: it was originally written for a local display to commemorate the start of WW1 in the Alresford Community Centre and in the local library museum display cabinet last September, to show off some older military equipment to school kids and others!

WW1 “Officer of the Watch” naval telescope

This telescope is believed to have been used by Captain Francis E.B. Haselfoot, DSO, particularly on board HMS Attentive during the bombardment of the Belgian coast in April 1918, known as the Zeebrugge Raid. Attentive was an Adventure-class scout cruiser, built for the Royal Navy in 1904 by the Armstrong Whitworth yards at Elswick, Tyne and Wear. In WW1, Attentive was part of the Dover patrol. Attentive was 2640 tons and capable of 25 knots, with 9x 4” guns and multiple torpedo tubes.

HMS Attentive

HMS Attentive

This style of “Officer of the Watch” type telescope was used widely in the Royal Navy during and immediately after WW1. This model was made by Ross of London and has the serial number 31334: it is inscribed with the name: ‘F.E.B.Haselfoot RN’. Subsequent to manufacture it has been bound with leather and finished at both ends with a ‘Turks Head’ type serving.

Captain Francis E.B. Haselfoot DSO was an officer in the Dover patrol in WW1 and then retired to the reserve on 13th March 1929. He was awarded the DSO with the following commendation, as quoted in the London Gazette on 23 July 1918:

Lieut.-Cdr. Francis E. B. Haselfoot, R.N.

DSO awarded for “Surveying duties on the staff of the Vice-Admiral Commanding, Dover Patrol, and did invaluable work during the past few months in connection with this operation and the bombardments of the Belgian Coast generally, having frequently been under fire. On the night of the 22nd-23rd April 1918 he rendered valuable services on board Attentive.

Haselfoot was also awarded ‘The Order of the Crown’ by Belgium.

Further reports after WW1:

Captain Haselfoot again appears in the press after the war when in command of HMS Kellet, a Hunt class Minesweeper and survey ship. During a survey off the Norfolk coast he and one of his officers sighted a “Large Sea Serpent”. The account said:

In August 1923 a survey ship, HMS Kellett, was taking observations off the Norfolk coast, when Captain F E B Haselfoot and the navigator Lt Cdr R M Southern observed something strange. Captain Haselfoot later wrote:

“The time was about 9am. It was a summer day and the weather was calm and clear. I am not sure whether the sun was actually shining. I then observed rising out of the water about 200 yards from the ship, a long, serpentine neck, projecting from six or seven feet above the water. I observed this neck rising out of the water twice, and it remained up, in each case, for four or five seconds. Viewing with the naked eye only, I could not make out precisely what the head was like.”

……Obviously he did not get to his telescope fast enough!

The Telescope itself

After polishing!

After polishing!

This is an Officer of the Watch style telescope, much used, and therefore repaired, presumably to hold it together after significant damage. Early in WW1, in September 1915, Attentive in the Dover patrol was in action off Ostend: there she was one of the first ever ships to come under attack from the air, and suffered some bomb hits, but we do not know if Cdr Haselfoot was on board at that time.

Sunshade also covered with the leather and knotting

Sunshade also covered with the leather and knotting

The telescope barrel, to hold it together presumably, is tightly covered from the far tip of the sunshade back to the eyepiece end of the barrel in a tight brown leather cladding, neatly sewn along the seam, and with Turk’s Head type string knotting around the circumference at each end.

The barrel under this cover does appear to be severely pitted, maybe corroded, and so very lumpy. This covering prevents any dismantling of the scope, which is unfortunate as the far end of the single draw has a retaining nut, probably holding the lens carriage, which is obviously loose, so the draw is only just still held in place!

The single draw is plated silver or chrome, and engraved Ross London No 31334, and F.E.B.Haselfoot RN. On the picture below it can be seen that it needed a good polish when received. Overall length is 23” open, 17” closed. The objective diameter is 1.25”, and some damage can be seen on the outer edge of the objective holder, with a chip out of one of the lens pair as a result.

This one cost me £85 on Ebay in January 2011, and it is Accession number 147.

As received

……As received

A Telescope from 1794


Not my normal sort of telescope.

DSCN1981The name engraved on the barrel really fascinated me, it said “I T Brown”, and added the date “1794”.

To have a telescope actually dated is quite rare, so this was worth looking at, and 1794 is a really good year: but how do we know the wood engraving on the barrel is genuine? The maker is ‘Gilbert, Wright & Hooke’, as engraved on the first draw, with ‘LONDON’ and ‘Best Improved’ after: and it has an 18th Century sharkskin case, much worn over the years. Searching the name I T Brown did not give any definite leads, there were several Browns in the Royal Navy at that time.

DSCN1969More interesting was that Gloria Clifton’s book on Scientific Instrument Manufacturers advised that Gilbert, Wright & Hooke only operated, in 148 Leadenhall Street, from 1794-1801, so the timing is right for the date of 1794. This partnership took over from the business operated as Gilbert and Wright: the engraved script on the telescope looks as though the ‘& Hooke’ was added later.

The telescope is a 3-draw pocket telescope extending from 5.25” to 15”, with a mahogany barrel, end cap over the objective, and slider over the eyepiece lens. The diameter is 1.25” at largest.

As bought, it came with only the Crown glass concave objective lens, there was no flint glass lens present in what should have been the doublet. So the plan was to find a similar objective pair, to replace the objective lens totally. [See the comment below, I’ve got the Crown and flint glass names reversed in this sentence!]

Polishing up

DSCN1970The brass draws polished up very nicely, without too much effort. Each draw is labelled with two arrows, I presumed to show how to best line-up the draws when using the scope, but Chris Lord suggests in the comment below this could be an aid to a dismantler. In the first draw this arrow with an associated marker line around the draw presumably indicates the best long distance focal point. There is also one air discharge hole, in the third draw.

DSCN1976The eyepiece slider has an interesting addition, which looks like a ruby coloured lens of a small diameter, which you would assume is to protect the user’s eyes from glaring sun. But the problem is that I can’t see any light through this lens at all. Another telescope in the collection, part of a combined telescope/microscope set, has a similar ruby coloured eyepiece lens, presumably for use with the microscope attachment. Maybe for use with UV light or similar???

Interestingly, the screws holding the brass bezels onto the mahogany barrel are all original and very small: smaller than are easily obtained today, when it seems such screws are not produced in our modern micro-miniaturised society!

Replacing the objective

The first telescope subsequently bought, on Ebay, to be cannibalized for spare parts (ie an objective lens pair), was un-named, and the focal length was too long. The second one bought was in a really battered state, but the objective lens seemed OK. DSCN1987This telescope was engraved as manufactured by W & S Jones of 235 Holborn: they operated from there between 1792 and 1800. Side by side the two looked very much a pair, so maybe even in those days they copied patterns from each other to serve the growing new market!

The W & S Jones scope was slightly shorter, so the objective pair has a slightly shorter focal length: but the brass housing for the objective has the same screw thread and size as that of the Gilbert, Wright & Hooke version, so the lens fits well. The difference between these two models of the same design is shown best by their weights, the Gilbert one weighs 240gms and the Jones only weighs 190gms.


The result

The telescope now works as it should, albeit with the focal point slightly further in than it would normally be expected to be. Plus all the components date from the 1790s, even though the objective is not the actual original. Even the screws into the mahogany are original. Who the first owner, I T Brown, was, or where he sailed, we don’t yet know, but the search to find him goes on.

Accession #242

Telescope from HMS Temeraire…?


This is a classic design “Officer of the Watch” telescope, but it has no maker’s mark. Having said that, after a good deep clean it turns out to be an expensively presented telescope, with good quality silver plating on all metal surfaces. The name of the owner is engraved on the bezel at the eyepiece end of the barrel, and it is S.E. Forster, RN. So this is the only clue to the history, except that the style of the scope and the engraving looks like late Nineteenth Century.

Captain Stewart Evelyn Forster

From data given on an Auction site relating to a sale in 2009 of Commander Forster’s medals:

Internet Image 1

Stewart Evelyn Forster was born in Wellington, New Zealand in December 1866, and entered the Royal Navy in the training ship Britannia in July 1881, aged 15 years. He was present as a Midshipman in HMS Temeraire at the bombardment of Alexandria on 11 July 1882, and was awarded the medal relating to the Egypt and Sudan campaign 1882-89. He enjoyed varied service and advancement in the period leading up the Great War: whether he had the telescope on board Temeraire is dubious – maybe he only acquired it after being promoted to a higher rôle than Midshipman, but whether he was still with the Temeraire is not known.

Separate research documentation shows that Commander Forster, when King’s Harbour Master at Dover in 1911, was one of the original 25 men who founded the Dover Aero Club, with club flying grounds established on Whitfield Hill, about three miles out of Dover. [My personal interest was triggered by learning that another founder member was Rev GH Andrews, Chaplain to the Duke of York’s Royal Military School: my father was an infant at that school, as an orphan of a soldier, from around 1913. But also this implies that this Forster telescope was one of the first telescopes liable to have been used for looking at aircraft, at the Aero Club grounds – which is what it is being used for now, in 2015, over Hampshire].

Forster was placed on the Retired List as a Captain in October 1913. Quickly recalled in August 1914, Forster was awarded his 1914 Star in respect of services as a Divisional Naval Transport Officer at Calais, in which post he remained employed until removing to the Immingham base Wallington in March 1917, services that resulted in the award of his Belgian Order of Leopold (London Gazette 22 June 1917 refers), in addition to a mention in despatches (London Gazette 4 January 1917 refers). His final wartime appointment, from June 1918, was as Deputy Superintendent and King’s Harbour Master at Pembroke. His medals were sold with a file of research, which I would love to consult!

HMS Temeraire

The HMS Temeraire that served off Alexandria in 1882 was not the ship painted by JMW Turner! That was the “Fighting Temeraire”, a 98 gun second-rate launched in 1798, which became a prison ship, and the picture showed her being towed from Sheerness to Rotherhithe – to be broken up – in 1838. This ‘Temeraire‘ played a distinguished role in Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, after which she became known as the ‘Fighting Temeraire’.

HMS Temeraire (1876) was an iron-hulled screw-propelled ship launched in 1876. She carried two ‘Disappearing guns’ on board, which fired over a metal parapet and then swung down below the parapet for re-loading. She became a training ship and was renamed Indus II in 1904, Akbar in 1915, and was sold in 1921.

HMS Temeraire (1876) as depicted in Harper's Monthly Magazine, Feb 1886

HMS Temeraire (1876) as depicted in Harper’s Monthly Magazine, Feb 1886

There have been three ships of the same name over the years before 1798 and after 1904, and two shore establishments. The original Temeraire was captured from the French in 1759: the name means “Reckless”.

The telescope

DSCN1526DSCN1527As bought on Ebay, the telescope had seen better days. Overall length, closed, is 17.25”, and open focused is 23”: the largest diameter is just over 1.5”.

The metal parts looked very dull, on receipt, and the canvas covering seemed to have lost a layer of beading or similar around the edge of the canvas wrap.







After cleaning the metal came up as silver, with a real shine: there was a problem as to how to replace the canvas wrap economically, so it was covered with white material based tape. The result is reasonable, and maybe shows that the telescope looked “Top of the Range” when new. The tape used was adhesive backed, and very effective – see



The only question remaining, having packed the moving joints with leather ‘sliders’ to tighten them up – similar to the felt padding seen in other telescopes of that era, is that the objective does not seem right. There is slight mould apparent between the objective pair, and it will not disassemble. This whole lens assembly does not screw in to the end of the barrel, and therefore the sunshade and objective can just be pulled off. There is either a retaining ring missing, or the objective assembly is a replacement unit, and too big in diameter to fit the original design. With no screw thread available or in evidence at the end of the barrel, something must have been an interference push-fit, to make the assembly secure. Currently the damage at the end of the sunshade retains the objective assembly in place.


Who knows. But I like it. It cost me £46 from a supplier in Kent, which is presumably where Forster and family settled after 1911 and after WW1, until his death in August 1937: he lived to the age of 70. It’s #240 in my collection, and I would suggest this is the oldest known telescope to almost certainly have been used to look at the oldest aircraft, flying. Anyone in 1911 setting up an aero club and owning a telescope like this would have used it to see what was happening around the airfield approaches. So it’s worth more to me than most other people!

Postscript: {Obviously I use my Eighteenth Century Dollond on modern, and some old, aircraft, but that’s not the same!}. Re-reading this story, I need to find the telescope from the “Fighting G”, with the G being for HMS Gloucester, who also earned the description “Fighting“, but more recently….

…..This telescope has a tenuous link with the Fighting Temeraire! a photo of JMW Turner’s picture is shown below.

19202_original (1)

A Presentation Telescope, from Ireland


A specially engraved presentation telescope usually gives a lot of background, like the date, and the first owner. In addition they are usually good quality telescopes, to start with!


DSCN1643The telescope looks pretty impressive: it is a single draw, tapered barrel model, 40” long when fully open and with a 2.5” objective. The barrel is wood, covered in tan leather – the stitching is good, but the leather looks like it has had an attack by very small mice, or maybe even woodworm or grubs! The eyepiece is of the flat ended style, which had been replaced in many cases in England with the rounded bulbous style by Queen Victoria’s reign. The brass end fittings are in good condition and the single draw is engraved H Hunt of Cork. The lens assemblies are in two carriers and these are well made. Apparently, maybe 60 years later, this design of telescope was referred to as a Coastguard general observation telescope.

The shoulder of the barrel near the eyepiece is 2” long, giving a good area for the presentation engraving, which is actually quite long-winded – but then again it is Irish. It tells who bought the telescope, for whom, and when:


John Francis Maguire




as a small token of gratitude

for many services rendered

as Commander of the Bristol and Cork

Steam Ship Company’s


and especially for having on two occasions

brought over by express from Bristol

Copies of the Queen’s Speech for the

Cork Examiner.

CORK JANʸ 21st 1847.


Henry Hunt in Cork

The Hunt family in Cork were optical instrument suppliers from the early 1800s, starting with Thomas and John. Henry Hunt took over at 118 Patrick Street in 1844, so this telescope in 1847 was early during his management of the firm. He continued in business in Cork until 1884. He must have been significant, in that Gloria Clifton lists him in her British Scientific Instrument Makers Directory, 1550-1851, but I suppose in those days Southern Ireland was indeed within the “British” definition.

DSCN1641 It’s an easy scope to use, as the light barrel enables it to be moved about without much effort – when tracking aeroplanes at least! I wonder where Captain Gilmore used it……

I’ve now passed this on to a colleague, who has links with interested parties in Cork, so it could shortly return to Ireland, maybe on another boat trip!

Accession number #222

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 James Bichard 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 Bichard, 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 Bichard 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 was a colleague of Musgrave’s in the IFC, and the letter was addressed to him 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 treck 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!



“Officer Of the Watch” (OOW) telescopes

DSC00221 all ten

There are a lot of these about, by definition. Go onto any warship and there are several of this style of telescope available for use – a prime example is behind the bridge on the Royal yacht “Britannia”, now moored up near Edinburgh, where the hooks/hoops hold about four of them in place. A few years ago I consciously bought some spares for this style, by buying old battered ones on Ebay. These, plus some better ones, are shown here – ten in total – and the mods illustrate how the basic design can be repaired with old conduit or whatever, as long as the lenses are still intact. One of these examples has been moulded over, such that it cannot be dismantled, but currently it still works!

Telescopes from Cooke and Coombes

Telescopes from Cooke and Coombes

Actually the diameters are not consistent between all these models, so lens swapping is not that simple. The manufacturers shown here are Ross, in many different eras, T. Cooke, Hammersley, and one that looks like a reseller, J. Coombes of Devonport (which latter has a interesting story, being engraved as owned by R D Graham). Actually J Coombes is quoted as an optical and instrument supplier to the Admiralty from the mid 19th Century onwards, so possible he did build the telescope. The quantities in which these were produced are illustrated by the serial numbers on some of the units. For example the T. Cooke models are numbers 5226, and then 6671, labelled on the sunshade, eyepiece, first draw etc.

DSC00222 RossThen the four Ross units show the age progression, starting with one unit engraved as made by A. Rofs of London, in old script, with the “f” typical of late 18th or early 19th Century writing. This one has two crests on the end of the barrel, showing that it was presented by GRJ, with a king and crown image, to WBG, with a dove of peace image. A later unit is engraved in script, with a serial number 29155, and has the name Lieut Washer RNR engraved on the end of the barrel. This one is additionally engraved as sold by Seagrove and Co, of Portsea. There is then the moulded together unit engraved with ROSS in capital letters, and this is given serial number 31334: so there seem to have been a lot of these produced! 31334 has another much more interesting story, which will be recorded separately, as it was owned by Lt Cdr Francis Edmund Blechynden Haselfoot RN, active during WW1. I have actually forgotten to mention the other Ross unit here, bought for spares with no objective lens, although there is a lens somehow mounted half way along the main barrel! The rest of this barrel is really damaged. This is engraved as Ross London in script, with no serial number, on the eyepiece draw, so maybe is the second oldest. But actually the bezel has a name engraved on it, which has been almost totally wiped out with polishing. Again the name has a symbol above, maybe a tree branch around a bird again, similar to the one quoted above. After polishing and study it looks like the two words underneath could be Murray Gladstone. Andrew Ross worked mainly in Clerkenwell from 1830-1859: Ross & Co was used as the company name when they moved to Piccadilly, between 1839-1842. After 1859 Thomas Ross continued the business.

There are some people who have access to the records of these serial numbers, as used by Cooke and Ross, but as I don’t know how to see the records myself, any comment would be interesting! [Subsequently a correspondent – Richard Jeffries – helping his daughter research a family owned 1919 issued H Hughes & Son scope, located a book “The Officer of the Watch Telescope, 100 Years of Naval History” by Brian Buckman (2012). This book mentions that Ross serial numbers had reached 86,994 by 1940. Numbering started in 1842. Additionally NPL (the National Physical Laboratory, known in 1918 as the National Testing Laboratory) in their annual report for 1918, says they tested or checked for operation 11,133 scopes in 1916-17, 13,306 in 1917-18, and 7,967 in the first six months of the 1918-19 FY]


DSC00224 objectives 6The typical design is for a 17” or 18” long barrel, with a 6” single draw to the eyepiece and approx a 1.5” objective lens. Typically the sunshade pulls out around 3”. The barrel is usually leather covered, but when that wears out it would get covered with whatever is available. One of the examples pictured seems to be half covered in leather, and half brass polished.

These scopes are easy to focus, easy to use, short enough not to hit anyone else or get in the way of colleagues on a small bridge, give a reasonable magnification, and are fit for purpose – ie use by the Officer of the Watch. Most of them seem to have been personalised, so maybe were purchased by the Officers themselves.

Who owned these?

OOW telescopes were mainly owned and used by naval personnel, on board ships in the Royal Navy, right through up to almost the present day. Probably modern binoculars started to take over from around the 1960s. But lets see what we know about these ten units:

* R D Graham was a single handed yachtsman sailing the Atlantic in the 1930s. See a later story.

* Lieut Washer was in the RNR, Royal Naval Reserve, presumably in WW2, but I have not located him as yet.

* Lt Cdr Francis Edmund Blechynden Haselfoot RN commanded a ship in the North Sea in WW1. See a later story.

* The Cooke telescope 6671 was owned by Acting Lieutenant C Wright.

So these are all naval, or at least, associated with use at sea. There are two more that bear markings, and are interesting.

The “A Rofs” telescope

DSC00234aDSC00233aThe telescope dates from 1830-1840 let us say. The inscription on the bezel says GRJ to WBG. With a GRJ monogram, plus the image above of a an apparent monarch in ermine and with a crown, you think of King George V and VI, who actually used GRI, for George Rex Imperator, ie Emperor of India. But George IV, who died in 1830, was not the Emperor of India, and William IV followed him. But then this crown, is maybe not a crown, but some form of shrub or bush! Above the WBG there is an image of a bird, with relatively long legs, looking like a racing pigeon: it could even be a pheasant. In its beak it is holding what might be described as an olive branch: a short branch, or twig. [Editor’s note: For those that might ask, William Ewart Gladstone, the British Prime Minister was born in 1809 and died in 1898: but his initials were WEG]

The “Ross” telescope

DSC00229There are some parallels to the one above, with this further Ross telescope. We assume it is later than the one quoted above. It was bought for spares, with a barrel that is badly squashed and bashed about. But only in writing this have I noticed the engraving on the bezel. This is almost totally worn away, from frequent polishing, but the wording underneath has eventually been deciphered as Murray Gladstone. Above this name there is an image framed in an olive branch almost making a total frame (from 7pm to 5pm on a clock face) around what could be a bird, but this time on a mound or mountain. This is very indistinct. (Having taken the photo shown on the left, and studied it, the image could be of a woman in a dress – the skirts making the ‘mountain’ – or even an angel with wings behind).

Now I did not know about Murray Gladstone before reading the name on this telescope. Google advises that he was, in fact, the first cousin of the British PM William E Gladstone, and he built a country mansion near Penmaenmawr in Wales, according to the Penmaenmawr Historical Society (thanks to David Bathers and Dennis Roberts). It cost him what would be £1m in today’s money: the house is today called Noddfa, which means a place of refuge and peace, but then was called Tan y Foel.

Murray Gladstone was a Manchester businessman who made his fortune in the Anglo-Indian textile trade. Tan y Foel was built as a country home with tennis courts, a nearby golf course and elegant gardens overlooking Liverpool Bay. He died tragically on the beach on Monday night the 23 August 1875. He allegedly suffocated in the shallow water after slipping off the rocks. It is alleged he had a few enemies in the locality, so maybe this is another mystery on the shores of Penmaenmawr: did he fall or was he killed?

The very damaged and welded barrel of Murray Gladstone's telescope

The very damaged and welded barrel of Murray Gladstone’s telescope

[Editor’s note: Obviously one has to ask, was he perhaps using the telescope at the time? Did anyone think of this? Is that perchance how it, the telescope, became so bashed about, with him dropping it so carelessly on the rocks maybe? Was the guy who pushed him a robber who just wanted the telescope? Who put the telescope on Ebay anyway? But maybe it would not have been them, they would not have been around 140 years ago. I don’t think I kept a record of that anyway….]

It would have been a real coincidence had the A.Rofs telescope quoted first actually have been given to W.E.Gladstone!

What are OOW telescopes worth?

DSC00227 all 7 closeIt all depends on how much action they have seen, in more ways than one. If one has seen a lot of action, been dropped on the rocks or in the sea, or blown to pieces, it is not worth a lot. If it is in perfect condition, and works, and has no name, it will be worth £120-150. If it has a past owner that is recorded, maybe via an engraved owner’s name, and has possibly been associated with past events, it is worth more: and T. Cooke versions are better quality than the others. If you actually can find out what the owner did, who he was, and maybe whether the telescope was associated with his activities, then it is worth much more still, maybe £500 plus. Sadly I cannot see the Ross telescope from Murray Gladstone ever being worth a premium, and it will never work again: but it only cost me £10, plus postage. One of the eyepiece lenses is already in use on a T. Cooke model, serial 5226, one of the others quoted above!

Thos Rubergall, for “Duke of Clarence”


Unfortunately, the engraving on this telescope does not mean that it was owned by the Duke of Clarence (later to become William IV), it just says that Thomas Rubergall in his professional business had been an appointed “Optician to H.R.H. the Duke of Clarence”. Actually, the address then quoted underneath is 24 Coventry Street, London, a location that Gloria Clifton’s book suggests he moved into in 1840, through to 1851.

DSC00189aRubergall had in fact been making optical instruments etc since 1800, but by 1805 he had moved to prestigious premises, in different premises in Coventry Street. William, the youngest son of George III, was appointed Duke of Clarence in 1789, when he was aged 24 and became active in the Royal Navy, mainly in the Caribbean. Effectively the Dukedom ceased when William was crowned William IV in 1830: he then died in 1837, aged 72. But Rubergall had kept his patronage after the Coronation, as he was listed as an appointed supplier to William IV. So the words on the telescope introduce some confusion as to when it was created – the answer must be “around 1830”.

Duke of Clarence

220px-WilliamIVWhileLordHighAdmiralThe Duke was an enthusiastic sailor, and was commanding Royal Naval ships from 1786, under Lord Nelson. He left the Royal Navy in 1790, and was annoyed that he was never asked to take command again in the naval battles of around 1800. Eventually, he was made Lord High Admiral of the fleet from 1827-28, when he was asked to step down after taking a squadron out to sea for 10 days without having notified anyone as to what he was doing or where he was going.  His nickname as William IV was “The Sailor King”. The copy of the print by William James Ward here shows him as Lord High Admiral, with a telescope, but not this style!

His personal life was a little complicated, having fathered ten illegitimate children with an Irish actress called Dorothea Jordan, with whom he cohabited from 1791 to 1811.

The telescope

DSC00195aThe telescope itself is a single (short) draw style, with a leather clad brass body. The external metal fittings at each end are copper or bronze, with the actual threaded parts mainly in brass – most of these threads still work perfectly. All the copper/bronze parts were at one time silver plated: maybe with enthusiastic cleaning over 200 years by servants in a prestigious house, all the plating has worn away on normally exposed surfaces. Notably the screws holding the bezels at each end of the main barrel are original and tiny.

The construction inside is a standard approach of five lenses, one objective which is a two element lens, and two cartridges at either end of the single draw, each containing two lenses. Diameter max is 1.875”, the length is 25” open, 19.5” closed.

What’s it for?

Magnification is not that great, maybe 10x or 12x. Possibly the telescope was as much to assist poor eyesight as to supply a magnified detailed image.

It is certainly intended for naval use, in my view, just from the design and size.

DSC00200aThe main use is to show itself off as a high quality expensive instrument, hence the size, both length and diameter, good leather, and silver plated metal fittings, with the royal appointment quotation in ‘copper plate’ writing near the eyepiece. Given that, it was surprising there was no owner’s name or mark evident: it was at this point that I found a crest and name embossed onto the leather of the barrel, half way down, on the opposite side to the stitching. It can just be read as “Louisa”, with a crown above it. The Crown is gilded, and the name at one time was also picked out with gold letters.

At least between 1829 and 1831, Lord Belfast owned a 129 ton yacht, a racing cutter, called ‘Louisa’, and this is referred to in the Royal Lymington Yacht Club’s archives of history. Their interest was because a racing cutter called “Alarm”, of around 200 tons, one of the largest of its type, was built at Lymington (Inman’s Yard). Alarm beat Lord Belfast’s Louisa in the 1831 King’s Cup Race, but lost a 1000 Guinea match race to Louisa later that year: then Lord Belfast acquired a new yacht in 1833, “Waterwitch”, for future races. What happened to ‘Louisa’ is unknown, he tried to sell it to the Navy. The picture shows the ‘Alarm’ winning the 1831 race ahead of ‘Louisa’.

Alarm-the-first-of-the-great-cuttersIt seems likely this telescope was in use aboard Lord Belfast’s Louisa in around 1830-32, adding some further information about the date. Possibly Gloria Clifton’s book has is not right about the date of moving operations to #24, and it was earlier? The Science museum website suggests he traded from 24 Coventry Street from 1826 onwards, which would solve the problem!

Size: 1.875” diameter, 25” long fully open, 19.5” closed.

Condition – and how well was it made?

Externally it looks well made, and it still works properly, everything screws up properly, but the one criticism might be that the retention of the single draw in the bezel at the eyepiece end of the barrel is not strong enough – it may just be that the internal slider has been damaged inside, where a break in the brass is visible, but the outer diameter of the draw is a little too small for the hole it goes through. Despite layers of soft felting in there to make the draw smooth, the joint still wobbles a little too much, which can make the image seen through the telescope move around a little. Later versions of telescopes have a two point suspension, by moving the thread away from the outer end of the bezel, giving less room for a lateral wobble at this point.

DSC00196aThe leather is original, but the longitudinal stitching is splitting, and I can’t see an easy way of repairing that. It has lasted nearly 200 years around a copper alloy metal barrel, which has some green oxide from the effects of seawater spray, so it has served its time.

The objective lenses themselves will not unscrew from the end assembly, so I cannot really confirm that the lens is just a doublet: presumably this is from bangs on the end, since the glass is right at the extremity, and could easily be damaged or the housing knocked. There was undoubtedly a lens cap on here at some time, certainly when it was made, but this is missing.

Sales Value?

That depends on how impressed any purchaser might be with the pedigree! I bought this telescope on Ebay in November 2003, and bid as much as what I thought it was worth, and that I could afford. I vaguely remember that there were two significantly higher bidders, but eventually the seller contacted me to see if I would still be willing to pay my bid, as the other two had retracted their bids, or changed their minds! When it arrived I too was a little concerned at the state of it, but it cleaned up quite well, and has become quite interesting as more has been discovered – even today!

A purchaser at the Royal Lymington Yacht Club, or any other similar or associated yacht club, would maybe appreciate this telescope for this history, and it would be worth the £1500 they would need to pay! It is now time to sell this one to somewhere it will be appreciated.

Acquisition #79.