Spencer & Co Victorian telescope

dscn4875A well-known name in London telescope making at the end of the C18 was the partnership of Spencer, Browning & Rust, based in Wapping, near the Pool of London. They started working together from 1784, but the original founders had all died by 1819, and their respective successors continued in business, effectively separately. Spencer, Browning & Rust operated from 66 High Street, (Hermitage Bridge) in Wapping.

William Spencer, one of these founders, retired in 1815, and died in 1816: his successor, possibly one of his sons, who also may have been called William, continued in the business, and from around 1816 to maybe 1820 operated under the name “Spencer & Co”. There were so many people named ‘William Spencer’ in this time that the relationships are confusing: one of them had been apprenticed to Samuel Browning in 1801, so possibly he took over in 1815 – and was said to have continued working (under his own name) until 1839. Another partnership, Spencer, Browning & Co, was quoted to have started work at #66 in 1840, they are also quoted to have used the alternate name of Spencer & Co: the company was later known as Browning & Co.

The telescope

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This telescope is a single draw, oak-barrelled model, nearly 2.5” diameter at the objective: closed it is 19” long, and open it is 34” long. The large diameter draw tube splits in the middle to give access to the second cartridge of lenses, and at the eyepiece itself there is another cartridge around 2” long.

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The engraving on the drawtube says “Spencer & Co, London, Day or Night”.

This design appearance is more typical of early Victorian fashion, than the 1820 Georgian period. It is therefore considered to date from around 1840, rather than 1820. Another story on this website features a more advanced design of Spencer, Browning & Co telescope, which came from the wreck of the ‘Eagle’.

Restoration history

The telescope was acquired on Ebay, for repair, from a reseller in Bexhill-on-Sea, in March 2016. Only four of the original five lenses were present, and unusually it was the first eyepiece lens, along with the eyepiece itself, that was missing. The eyepiece lens and assembly that screws into and holds the first lens cartridge in place was replaced by a gilded eyepiece that came from an apparently US built telescope acquired in 2001, a four draw unit made by the Criterion Co of Hartford, Connecticut. This latter one was found on a Yahoo auction site, and was shipped from North Carolina.

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The rather ugly steel screws previously used to hold the brass end fittings to the wooden barrel were replaced with more modern brass screws: The diameter of the brass shoulders used suggests that the telescope was designed to have these shoulders fitting over the OD of the barrel – but it was obviously felt to be too tight to fit, and the barrel has been turned down at the ends, making a poor fit on the brass shoulders.

Subsequently the barrel length has been reduced by 0.25″ at each end, allowing both shoulders to extend further onto the barrel, and fit smoothly over the wider OD of the main barrel section. This actually shows the versatility of these wooden barreled designs for naval use, they could be repaired or modified by a ship’s carpenter, repositioning the brass fittings as needed.

Hermitage Bridge

The map of London in 1805, shown at Chawton House in Hampshire, shows Hermitage Bridge crossing Hermitage Dock on the North bank of the Thames, just East of the Tower of London. I have not found High Street as yet.

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Accession Number #271

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A Ripley of Wapping 1775 naval telescope

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This telescope continues the pattern of late 1700s mahogany barrel three draw telescopes set by the earlier stories on the Gilbert & Co and the George Willson models. But while Gilbert & Co were operating from Leadenhall Street, and George Willson from Wardrobe Place, Doctors Common, which is between St Pauls and the River, these two show the gradual move of the nautical instrument supply business West, into the heart of London, ending up with the Victorian manufacturing and shops in Fleet Street and Piccadilly in the 1800s. Earlier, in the 1700s, ships chandlers, and suppliers to the merchant travellers, were based closer to the Pool of London – which stretched from London Bridge to Rotherhithe. London bridge effectively was the furthest up river that tall-masted ships could reach. Wapping was the prime location for such business, and this telescope was made by Thomas Ripley, who was based in The Hermitage, Wapping, from 1765 to 1790.

Thomas Ripley

Thomas Ripley was an apprentice to John Gilbert, the optical instrument maker, in 1755, alongside Gilbert’s son William. In 1763 he joined the Guild of Grocers, but then branched out into Mathematical and Optical instruments. After 1790 his business became Ripley and Son, with his son James, until 1805. This telescope however is marked clearly, engraved as made by “Thos. Ripley, (of the) Hermitage, London”. He worked from 364 Hermitage throughout his business life, under the sign of the “Globe, Quadrant and Spectacles”. Needless to say, the engraving is on the right side, ie the initial letters start next to the eyepiece.

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The engraving on the first tube: plus this is a Troughton flat faced eyepiece

The telescope

So dating this model is difficult: it was made somewhere between 1765 and 1790. It uses the dual element objective, as per the Dollond patent, in a swaged mount. It uses two separate cartridges, for the eyepiece elements at either end of the first draw. It works beautifully, with a high magnification. There is no objective lens cap now, although once it probably had one.

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The telescope with the eyepiece as supplied!

As supplied to me, via Ebay, the actual eyepiece looks wrong, totally. The end cap is of the wrong style for the 1700s: it has an internal thread, designed presumably to take a lens in its mounting, plus an external thread, which is typically used to screw into a bell type eyepiece lens housing, as fashionable in the Georgian/early Victorian period. So this would appear to be a later addition, where the internal thread just happens to fit the screw thread of the eyepiece, and it has been used to replace a lost original eyepiece cover. But this leaves the ugly external thread exposed, visible, and not used.

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With the Watkins eyepiece

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With the Troughton eyepiece

The extra photos here show the telescope with a flat faced eyepiece, which I consider is the right style for this period: one is taken from a Watkins scope, and one from a later Troughton and Simms scope, both of which fit, but only just well enough to show how it would look (ignoring the different patina of the brass).

Overall dimensions are: closed 9.25”; open 29.5”; OD 1.9”, Objective visible dia 1.5”.

Accession Number is #150, acquired 2011 from an Ebay trader in Dumfries & Galloway.

For this excellent 250 year old telescope, the current resale value in an antique dealer would be in excess of £500.

The Hermitage

DSC06352aThe Hermitage is seen below on an 1805 map of London on show at Chawton House Library in Hampshire. On the North bank of the Thames, Hermitage Dock is shown in the centre, and The Hermitage is on the west side of the dock. The Tower of london is just off this map top left, at the end of St Catherine’s, as can be seen on the smaller picture of the map.

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The Pool of London

Wikipedia explains the significance of the Pool of London, and importation of goods for duty payment via the official “Legal Quays”: the photos below are from Wikipedia.

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Imports from France, 1757, to the “Legal Quays”near the Tower, by Louis Boitard

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Pool of London, 1841, by W Parrott, looking East past Tower Hill – from London Bridge?

George Willson telescope, ~1800

dscn4842-smI left this telescope languishing in a box for ten years (after buying it in 2005 on Ebay), not quite understanding why it would not work. In addition it had a problem with one of the mounting rings, the top “flange” edge had come away from the cylindrical slider. Obviously I had not spent enough time looking at it, as I hadn’t noticed the name stamped on the flat face of the eyepiece, under the grime, which turned out to be “Willson G, London”.

George Willson was apprenticed to James Moulding in 1797, and joined the Guild of Stationers. However by 1798 he was working as an optician, and had several apprentices, one of which was George Dixey. From 1799-1802 they worked in Wardrobe Place, Doctors Common, London – and from 1802-1809 they worked as a partnership, as Willson & Dixey, opposite St James’s Church, on Piccadilly, London. Willson & Dixey was a more prolific telescope maker.

This telescope, labelled just as Willson, is likely to date from between 1798 and 1802.

Construction

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The telescope is a fairly standard design, with three draws, a mahogany barrel, two lens cartridges in the first draw, and a flat faced eyepiece. All the screws into the barrel are original, and everything unscrews well. Total length when fully extended is around 29”, and when folded it is just over 9” long, with an OD of 1.9”. It could have been intended for Naval use, or for use by an Army or Cavalry officer.

How to make it work!

The problem was fairly obvious in retrospect! The lens cartridge near the eyepiece did not fit properly, it was too small in diameter to achieve a tight fit inside the draw, but was held in place by the eyepiece cover. The mounting thread on the eyepiece did not attach anywhere. At the other end of the first draw, there was no cartridge, one lens screwed into the thread at the end, and another lens was positioned 2” inside the draw, apparently as a push-fit. Eventually I realised this was in fact at the end of the cartridge which should have been next to the eyepiece, it had just been pushed down along the draw. The eyepiece lens which should have fitted this cartridge was in fact the lens that was screwed into the objective end of the first draw.

So move everything back to where it should be, and of course it all works perfectly!

Slider Repair

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Hopefully the slider on the second draw can be soldered back into place, and still slide along the draw-tube. I later solder tacked it into position, then sanded down the solder inside just enough to get it back fitting the second draw tube, so its in position, at least.

The sliders holding the draws in line have the threads at the outer edge, so this is just an average quality telescope of its day, unlike the next example which is the same date, ie 1800, but super quality, from a maker with a long pedigree……

This Willson is Accession Number 110

A tapered Dollond, from 1770

This is a really beautiful old Dollond, with a long tapered mahogany body. It is estimated to be around 250 years old, i.e dating from maybe 1770, and designed for use on a sailing ship: as you would expect from such an era of Dollond supply, the image is great and the focus is very easy. The single draw tube contains all the four eyepiece lenses, at the ends, and at the two joints in the tube itself. There is no end stop, so this draw pulls straight out, if it were to be pulled too far.

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Unpolished, as received: two joints in the draw, labelled Dollond, with bash marks!

The draw tube does have some signs of previous trauma, having been bashed on something, or someone!

The telescope came from the grandson of a Naval officer who owned and used it in WW1, presumably on a Royal Navy ship, or maybe a merchant ship: we do not know his name to trace where he actually served. Unless he was a high rank naval officer with his own cabin etc, he would not have been allowed to take such a large item on board a WW1 Royal Naval vessel – so it is more likely he was in the merchant navy.

As can be seen from the pictures below, showing before and after photos of the brass cleaning, the leather sleeve on the wooden barrel has done its job, and protected the barrel, but has suffered significantly in doing so.

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Telescope as received

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After polishing the brass end fittings!

The big question to ask, is whether Dollond would have supplied this scope with the leather cover, ie with the mahogany body bare. It looks like Dollond would not have had a leather cover: maybe this was added to protect the barrel, as there do look to be several cracks in the wood, under the leather.

So the decision is whether to cut the leather off and re-polish the wood, after gluing up any/all of the cracks! It would just look so much better.

Dimensions

The scope is exceptional in its unwieldy-ness. Maybe that is why it has been bashed about in its time. But there is a lot of room on the deck of an old fashioned C18 sailing ship! The barrel itself is 36” long, so even closed up tight the overall length is 38”. When opened up to focus the scope, the length is maybe 47”. Maximum OD is around 2.5”.

Inside the barrel there is an orifice, to restrict the outer fringes of light from the objective: the orifice is relatively close to the objective, around 10” inside the taper. It is interesting that the leather cladding has a circumferential crease, or shows up a ridge round the barrel, at this same distance from the objective, almost indicating a joint. The internal bore is evenly tapered, all the way, presumably using a wood boring tool, or chisel.

Accession Number 297, acquired December 2016.

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The different brass discolouration was caused by the close fitting mount slider, while the draw was permanently closed in storage

Removing the leather

Great news: the barrel red mahogany is beautiful: it has some cracks, one of which is open, – it can easily be glued – but other old glue lines that protrude, etc, are coming off with sanding. One area of slight separation between layers can be dealt with…. The leather came off as if it were a loose skin!

Currently (21/12) the barrel is wrapped with rubber bands to hold the cracks in place, while the glue sets, then there will be yet more sanding and eventually French polishing. Suitably sanded, the mahogany now (23/12) has two coats of polish, and is looking good. The old rusty screws (that were too big for the holes, see the top photo) will be replaced with brass ones at least.

Looking good

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This is a couple of coats of French polish into completion, and the telescope is looking good. At least I am of the opinion that this is better than equipped with the battered leather cover.

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

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

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A 6 foot Dollond from 1820s

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

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

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

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

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The original text for the Telescopecollector story was as follows:

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

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

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

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

Telescope description

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

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

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

James Corner & Sons

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

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

Ted Corner’s Voyages

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

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

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

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The Carrier Dove, from the Noble Maritime Museum

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

Further information

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

1860 Presentation Dollond – For US Sale

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

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Presentation Engraving

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

Presented

to

Captain G V Argles

of I G S N Co’s steamer “Agra”

for services rendered to the

Ganges Co steamer MIRZAPORE

while aground in the Chokah Channel off Kaunsul

October 1860

Singh McCardy

Manager

Ganges S N Co Ltd

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

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

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

Enquiries, please, via this website.

Photos of the telescope

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3-Draw Ramsden scope from 1780

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This is a 220 year old telescope, made by one of the best makers in the Eighteenth Century, Jesse Ramsden, from around 1780-1790. As such it is way ahead of its time, a compact unit with three brass draws, so it would be useful at sea, but also for Officers in the Cavalry, where a smaller size was needed: plus it would have had a good set of lenses, making it optically excellent. Ramsden, who worked for Peter Dollond, was also related to the Dollond family after he married Sarah Dollond in 1766, Peter’s sister: she was the daughter of John Dollond. So he presumably could access the best suppliers, and had free use of the Dollond Patent and other technology.

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The lens fittings in the first draw: only the first and fourth lenses were present.

What we can see here looks really good, but it is lacking three vital components: two lenses from the eyepiece draw tube, and the objective lenses. So there are only actually two lenses still present in this unit. Nevertheless it makes an excellent space model.

It has obviously had some hard times, with the mahogany barrel being crushed at some point, then bound together with varnish, plastic film and a sail-cloth binding. Some of these can be seen in the “Before” pictures during the restoration. The barrel was stripped of sail cloth and other things, glued back together and then polished.

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As received, but after removal of the sail cloth! Showing the crushed mahogany barrel.

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Barrel glued, filled and repolished, with a polished brass end fitting.

Jesse Ramsden

Jesse was born in Salterhebble, Yorkshire, but worked in London for Peter Dollond, George Adams and Jeremiah Sisson, an associate of Nevil Maskelyne, the Astronomer Royal. He started business on his own account in 1763, and had many notable apprentices, including William Cary. By 1772 he was working at 199 Piccadilly, with a workshop at #196. He was appointed FRS in 1786, and won the Copley Medal in 1792. When he died in 1800 his employee Matthew Berge took over the business, working at 199 Piccadilly till 1817.

Other Berge and Ramsden telescopes feature on this website, as the best available at that time. The smaller Ramsdens in my collection were described in an early post, dated 5 February 2014. The closest to this telescope would be the large five-draw Berge (Late Ramsden) posted on 9 April 2014.

Construction

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Re-polished first draw tube, showing the breaks in the tube for the lenses.

The telescope is a classic design of four eyepiece lenses and an objective pair. Before the advent of the lens cartridges the first draw was divided into four or more sections, screwed together to form one smooth OD tube. At each break a lens carrier is inserted: not only do the tube sections have different screw threads, so that they cannot be put in the wrong order, but the lens mounting threads are all different in diameter and/or thread, so that they cannot be inserted in the wrong place.

The 4th lens mount, closest to the objective, has a thread of 7/8”. This is present.

The third lens mount has a thread OD of 13/16”. This is absent.

The second lens mount has a thread OD of 1”: the tube OD is 1+1/16”. This lens is absent.

The first lens mount, at the eyepiece, has a thread OD of 13/16”, but this lens, which is present, is too large to screw into the third lens mount position, so there is no possibility of confusion there.

On many of the pieces that make up this 3-draw scope, the code XV is visible, to identify the drawtubes and mounting adaptors used on the production line. Noticeably one of the mounting flanges for a draw is labelled ‘15’ in ink, ie in a modern number format, so is maybe a replacement in production.

The objective lens assembly, which is absent, would screw through the brass fitting (now ‘only-just’) into the mahogany barrel, with four grub screws: much of the barrel wood has broken away with damage and wear, so only really one grub screw is holding the fitting in place. Interestingly the brass at the other end of the barrel has the same four grub screws, and these screw into an inner brass cylindrical (1/2” long) retaining ring, inside the ID of the wood – it makes for a strong wood sandwich between the brass fitting parts. The thread for the objective lens assembly is 1+13/16” diameter.

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Overall the telescope is 27.5” long when fully open, 9+3/8” when closed. There is no sunshade or lens cap present on the objective – undoubtedly there would have been a lens cap: the eyepiece has a brass slider over the lens aperture. The barrel is 1+7/8” OD, and the draws are 1.25”, 1+3/16” and 1+1/16” OD. Most of the draws feature a location arrow, presumed to indicate the best orientation for the tubes, when the arrows are aligned.

What now?

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The three brass draws, re-polished

Undoubtedly this is now an excellent space model, but it needs three lenses to work: adding these from a C19th spare telescope would not produce the quality needed for a Ramsden scope, even if they were found with the right size, strength and thread patterns. The chance of finding a good C18th lens set to fit, that would not ruin a different telescope specimen, is very small.

It’s still a good Ramsden 1780 telescope space model, and as such has a significant value!

Why do I say 1780, rather than later? First the fact that it has a split draw tube, and does not use cartridges. Second because the engraving on the first draw has the initial letters next to the eyepiece end of the telescope: this was the fashion, or standard, earlier in the 1700s, ie between say 1765 and 1790. After around 1790 the fashion changed, and the signature was on the other side of the telescope. Its not an exact date change, just an indicator – but it makes this scope probably earlier than 1790.

Accession Number #289. Acquired and then renovated in August 2016.

As delivered photos

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The barrel as delivered, covered in sail cloth, over a form of plastic binding.

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The draws on the left are not repolished, as received: the right hand side shows the first draw polished, and the barrel stripped down to the wood and the cracks re-glued.

 

Large, tapered telescope by Baker

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This large telescope has a long leather-covered metal barrel, with a single brass 6” long focusing tube. The draw tube has several dents and dings, but slides in fairly smoothly: possibly helped by the felt lining in the mounting sleeve. At the eyepiece end it is engraved with

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Baker

244 High Holborn

London

Inside the single draw there are the conventional two cartridges, each holding a pair of lenses. Each cartridge and the draw tube is labelled with a scratched ‘XI’, presumably to identify the set in the workshop.

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The tapered barrel

DSCN4036smallThe barrel has an attractive taper, which goes from 2” OD at the objective end, down to 1.25” OD at the eyepiece end: this is clad in thick brown leather, solidly laced along the length. Whilst it is not too heavy, the tapered tube has a narrow straight tube of maybe half the total taper length inside at the eyepiece end.

Charles Baker worked at 244 High Holborn, London, from 1851–1858: but the Baker business was at this same address, quoted as 244 High Holborn, London WC, from 1859-1878, and 1881-1909. No other names are quoted in this business by Gloria Clifton’s Directory of Scientific Instrument Manufacturers, but by 1895 they were agents for Zeiss and Leitz. So the age of the telescope is difficult to pin down, it is certainly Victorian! The solid construction and good quality of materials maybe suggest mid-Victorian.

The sunshade…?

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The barrel is finished off at each end with a reasonable length of polished brass: at the objective end this should be a sunshade, which you would expect to slide forwards, over the actual lens element. It seems that the bashes to the end of the sunshade, and maybe some sticky cleaning materials or varnish used in the past, have stuck the sunshade in its storage position. So at the moment this part is non-functioning.

Accession Number #284, acquired from Ebay in July 2016.

John Jervis scope, in Alresford!

Whatever you collect, it is always of particular interest to find an item that has a particular relationship with the village or area where you live. For me this was slightly more difficult than usual, I thought, as I collect terrestrial telescopes, ie the sort of hand-held telescopes that were used on ships. So living inland, in Alresford, there would be quite a limited number of naval telescopes linked to here.

My one real hope was Lord Rodney, George Brydges Rodney, who was brought up by his godfather, George Brydges of Avington Park. After winning some prize money at the battle of Finisterre in 1747, when in command of the 60 gun “Eagle”, Rodney purchased land near Alresford Church, and built Alresford House. His life is described in the 1991 Alresford Displayed story by John Adams, see www.alresford.org/displayed/displayed_17_01.php. Lord Rodney died in 1791, at Alresford House.

Admiral Lord Rodney

1744-beare-poss-capt-g-b-rodneyRegrettably Rodney was at sea only up to the 1780s, which is right at the start of the boom in telescope production, which started following the Dollond patent of 1760, a development that made them far more efficient. So any telescope he might have used would these days be very expensive, where they have survived, and they would probably out of my price range! Incidentally, none of the later portraits of Lord Rodney show him with a telescope, which is unusual, for paintings of Admirals in those days. But surprisingly, I’ve found a portrait of him as a young man, with a telescope that looks like a 1730/40 model – very expensive now!

However, I did find a bit of Lord Rodney’s past, on a visit to see my daughter in Cornwall. If you walk down the main streets of Helston, near Porthleven (the nearest decent harbour) you will find the The Rodney Inn, with apparently a picture of Lord Rodney hanging outside! The picture does look like the many portraits of him, painted in around 1791.

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The Rodney Inn sign, with a copy of a standard portrait of Lord Rodney, with seagull adornment. Below are some views of  the exterior of the pub.

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Hinton Ampner House

Mary Ricketts

Portrait of Mary Ricketts

This week I visited the National Trust at Hinton Ampner, and read about the ghost stories that relate to the original house on that site. In 1765, Captain William Henry Ricketts and his wife Mary rented the original Tudor house on that site. Captain Ricketts had estates in Jamaica, and was presumably in the Navy: his time in the West Indies was coincident with that of Admiral Rodney, and his wife Mary was the sister of Admiral John Jervis, who was also in the Royal Navy, and active in the West Indies at that time. So presumably there were frequent visits between Hinton Ampner and Alresford House.

Indeed in 1770, John Jervis came to stay at the house in Hinton Ampner, with a friend, Captain Luttrell, when Captain Ricketts was away in Jamaica. The two of them tried to keep guard over the house one night, to find an explanation for the ghostly noises and appearances that were regularly disturbing the household. Unable to explain the happenings, and thoroughly frightened, John Jervis advised his sister to move out.

The John Jervis Tucker telescope

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The link to a telescope results, although it does turn out to be tenuous: a year or so ago I acquired a telescope signed Captain J. Jervis Tucker, believing it to be linked to Admiral Jervis (later known as Earl St Vincent, and commanding officer in charge of one Commander Nelson at the battle of Cape St Vincent: Nelson was as a result of this battle appointed an Admiral). But for John Jervis to be the rank of Captain, the telescope would be dated around 1760, and this telescope was younger than that, it looked early 1800s.

Admiral Jervis had a personal secretary (or ADC, or Batman, or whatever a PA is known as) called Benjamin Tucker, who went on to be Second Secretary to the Admiralty. He christened his son, born 1802, John Jervis Tucker: JJT joined the Navy in 1815, and became Captain of HMS Royal William in 1838: and that is about the right date for this telescope, which is unique in that it is over 4 feet long!

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So John Jervis Tucker probably never brought this telescope to Hinton Ampner, nor Alresford. Never mind, the search goes on!

This story is a straight copy of another story written for the AlresfordMemories.wordpress.com website in 2016.

Other Lord Rodney pubs!

There are several!

The first one is in the middle of the British Isles, nowhere near the sea: an ‘Admiral Rodney’ is situated near Martley, Worcestershire

Then all the others:

  • The Admiral Rodney, 592 Loxley Road, Loxley, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S6 6RU; The Admiral Rodney was built during the 1950’s, next to the site of another pub called The Rodney, which was demolished at the time. The pub is named after an old local hero, George Brydges Rodney who as an admiral defeated a Spanish fleet in 1780 and a French fleet at the Battle of the Saints in 1782.
  • Admiral Rodney Hotel, Eatery & Coffee House – Horncastle, LN9 5DX 01507 523131.
  • Admiral Rodney, Wollaton Road, Wollaton, Nottingham, NG82AF: Historically, Admiral Rodney was one of Nelson’s right hand men and a good friend of the owners of Wollaton Hall which is just down the road. Hence the naval name so far from the sea! Inside is open plan with stone floors, wood panelling and a really nice fireplace which is lit during the winter. This genuine pub has avoided loud music, sports and the like, opting to encourage a relaxed, comfortable environment where visitors can enjoy a quality drink or have a tasty meal with friends. We have Cask Marque status which means this is ‘the’ place to come for that choice real ale. The clientele are a good mix of ages with students, professionals and retired people all coming here. Why not see for yourself what a great place this is.
  • The Admiral Rodney Hotel, King Street, Southwell, Nottinghamshire NG25 0EH
  • The Admiral Rodney, Main Street, Calverton, Notts NG14 6FB:  The Inn dates back to the mid 1700’s and is an unmodernised country pub. Named after Admiral Rodney who harvested local oak from this area for his ships and who was subsequently honoured by a pillar which was built on the adjacent hill. Indeed the pub is used as a base for walkers exploring this area to see the pillar and the Breidden Hills.
  • Admiral Rodney, Criggion, Shrewsbury, Wales: The Inn dates back to the mid 1700’s and is an unmodernised country pub. Named after Admiral Rodney who harvested local oak from this area for his ships and who was subsequently honoured by a pillar which was built on the adjacent hill. Indeed the pub is used as a base for walkers exploring this area to see the pillar and the breidden hills.
  • Ye Old Admiral Rodney, New Road, Prestbury, Macclesfield, Cheshire, SK10 4HP.

 

 

Spencer Browning & Co scope from the wreck of “The Eagle” in 1859

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This 30 inch two-draw telescope started life around 1850, made by Spencer Browning & Co, at either 111 Minories, or 6 Vine Street, in London. For this date, this was an advanced unit, as it was designed under their Patent for ‘Pancratic’ operation, ie providing varying degrees of magnifying power.

This feature also led to very lengthy engraving of complex operating instructions on the two brass draws: Basically relative movement of the two draws lengthens the distance between the two sets of lens cartridges at either end, and moving both draws together backwards and forwards from the objective lens at the front of the telescope, adjusts the focus. The instructions are engraved mainly in a Gothic type of script, which is difficult to reproduce on this web-page:

On the Second, inner Draw:

Spencer Browning & Co

London

PATENT PANCRATIC

This tube alone to be used for the

purpose of adjusting the

focus to suit the eye

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On the First, outer Draw:

High Power

To be drawn out to the double

line and the focus

adjusted by sliding in

the other drawer only

to be used in the daytime

when the weather is clear

The objective itself is very thick, approximately 16mm, which might imply a triple lens combination. It has a diameter of 40mm. Overall operating max length is 77cm, and with the two draws collapsed it would go down to a length of 47cm. The tapered main barrel is brass, currently with no covering.

The owners of the Eagle, a Welsh sloop

screenshot_sloopIt is postulated that this telescope could have been bought from Spencer Browning & Co in the 1850s by a member of the Richards family, which would have been either John Richards the Elder of Borth (seven miles North of Aberystwyth) in Wales, or Evan Richards of Aberystwyth. In January 1845 John Richards the Elder had bought the locally owned ship known as the “Eagle”. This had been built 26 years before that, in 1819, at New Quay in Cardiganshire, now known as Ceredigion: it was a 31 ton sloop, fore and aft rigged with a running bowsprit, with a square stern, and carvel built, apparently with one mast, and one deck. Stem to stern was 38.4 feet, breadth 12.4ft, Depth at mid-ships in the hold 6.7ft. The history of New Quay website advises that 31 ships were built at New Quay during the period 1800-1820, most of which were Sloops- it was the standard vessel built in West Wales for the coastal trade. Similar vessel designs below 30 tons were known as ‘Smacks’.

The average economic life of a Sloop in the coastal trade was 30 years. The Eagle was owned by a consortium of shareholders when new, in 1819, and it is likely that it traded from a base at Llangrannog, 7 miles South of new Quay. They then sold the ship to David and Evan Jones, mariners of Aberystwyth, on 17 January 1838. It was therefore getting old when they sold it on to John Richards in 1845: Richards used a loan from the merchant, Thomas Jones of Aberystwyth, to complete the purchase. Thomas Jones was an importer of Canadian timber, and supplied many of the local shipbuilders with the wood to build their sloops, so was deeply involved in the shipping industry. John subsequently passed ownership of the Eagle to Evan Richards of Aberystwyth, presumably a member of his family.

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Sloops discharging cargo at Aberporth

Evan Richards, we believe, sailed the ship as a coaster in the Irish Sea, around the west coast from Bristol and up to Liverpool. Normal crew for such vessels would be two men and a boy: but it appears that Evan Richards sailed with his wife and child only. It was relatively normal for the Master’s wives to sail with them as crew. Cargoes varied, from general goods, crockery etc and building materials like tiles, brought into West Wales from Bristol, to lime for farmers, and anthracite dust (culm), which was mixed with clay on delivery to Wales, and used as a slow burning fuel. Exports were not high, but would include local farm produce: also manure was shipped to Ireland, and a trade developed in delivering Welsh stone and mined slate to England and Ireland. Most of the loading and unloading took place from the beaches, the sloops had relatively flat bottoms, so were able to beach themselves at high tide and then stay more-or-less upright when the tide went out.

The wreck of the Eagle

In October 1859 Evan Richards was probably sailing to Liverpool, with his wife and child on board, his wife acting as the other crew member. On the night of 25-26 October, a major storm hit the Irish Sea, later to be known as The Royal Charter storm. Around 133 ships were wrecked, and a further 90 badly damaged – around 800 people lost their lives.

One of these wrecks was the Eagle, which foundered off the coast of Abergele in North Wales, in Llandudno Bay. From a report later sent to the local papers by Mr Richards (reproduced below), his wife and child were drowned. The newspaper report thanked the people of Abergele and Rhyl for the many kindnesses Mr Richards had received that night, and in the days after the wreck. The Eagle, its contents and any cargo, was totally lost, and the ship broke up.

The telescope is found

Some 130 years later, this telescope was reported to have been found on the beach at Pensarn, about half a mile from Abergele. It was passed to an antique shop owner in Rhyl, who made the link to ‘The Eagle’, and offered it for sale in his shop in the 1990s. For over 20 years it was left ‘as found’, until a clear-out meant it went up for sale on Ebay in 2016.

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Once I received it I did clean the lenses, to see what would be the result. The dirt and deposits meant that there was previously no light transmitted. The objective lens, on the outer face, has suffered a lot of chip damage to the edges, which would be consistent with a battering by small stones in the sea. All the joints were tight, so it is possible there was some air trapped between the various lenses, which might have improved its buoyancy, during maybe 130 years under water.

 

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The brass is now dark brown to black, except where the draws were intimately covered with another brass tube or slider, where they remained bright brass, even polished! This telescope is unusual in having the two draws in intimate contact, one inside the other as a tight fit: there is nothing to stop the inner draw pulling out fully, and this is this one which remained bright and polished where it was still inserted. Note the thread on the eyepiece end of the middle draw: there is on item found to fit on this thread, it was maybe a finger-hold/pull ring to ease the relative movement of the two tubes.

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The dirt collected on the internal lens of the eyepiece cartridge

OK, so the view was poor, but the telescope was still useable. It did not take long to identify the problem, one lens was missing from the second cartridge in the middle of the scope. There was no glass debris, so maybe the scope was damaged before the shipwreck? Obviously when it was found, it was in an extended state, so it would have been ready for use before it went into the sea, it was not totally discarded as un-useable.

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The ‘missing’ lens from the middle cartridge

The whole cartridge has currently been replaced with a similar one from a George Stebbing (of Portsmouth) scope that pre-dates Browning Spencer & Co. Now the telescope works very well, despite the objective lens edge chips. Also the Pancratic feature works really well, making a very high magnification possible.

What’s next?

The telescope, in its current state, and this story, with Mr Richard’s letter to the local Abergele paper, the Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald, following the shipwreck (as reproduced below), should really be in a Museum, maybe alongside a properly polished version of a similar model – which will be quite hard to find!

But how much of the above account is wishful thinking? What do you think?

Mr Richards’ Letter

Taken from the website http://www.peoplescollection.wales/items/45143:

It is likely that it was Mr Evan Richards who wrote the following letter to the newspaper:

‘Dear Sir, my vessel, THE EAGLE of Aberystwyth having been totally wrecked during the late gales off Llandrillo, and my poor wife and child drowned on the sad occasion, I shall feel extremely obliged if you will allow me through the medium of your paper to communicate my most sincere and heartfelt gratitude to those humane and hospitable people of Abergele and Rhyl, on whose hospitable shore I was cast, for the benevolent and hospitable conduct they manifested, and the assistance they so readily afforded to me in the mournful and distressing condition I was placed in. I was received in the middle of that stormy (and to me and thousands of others sadly memorable night), by Mr Hugh Jones, gardener of Bryndunoedd, from who I received every attention and assistance that my case required and to whom and his kind employer my gratitude is especially due. And those who took such deep interest in my behalf and enabled me to bury my wife and child, and supplied me with food, clothing and the means of returning home, I am especially grateful to Lady Hesketh, Gwrych Castle, the Rev Mr Hughes, Llandrillo, Fosketh esquire, Mr Richards, wine merchant, Abergele, Mr Owen of the Harp, Mr Hughes of the Ship, both of the same place, Captain Edward Roberts , West Parade , Rhyl, and Messers Robert and Rees Rees of the same place, jewellers. These kind and benevolent persons used their utmost influence to solicit subscriptions for me, rendered me every comfort and assistance in their power, and I may add their kind sympathy, and to each of them individually, and all others who assisted me, I return my heartfelt thanks assuring them that their timely aid, and kind sympathy will never be erased from the memory of.

Yours, very true servant Richards, late of the Eagle’.

Sources quoted by The People’s Collection Wales include:
Carnarvon and Denbigh Herald, 19 November 1859, Pg3 Col 1
Campbell-Jones, S, 1974, Shipbuilding at New Quay 1779-1878, Journal of the Ceredigion Antiquarian Society, pg299
Port of Aberystwyth Shipping Register 1832 – 1840, Ceredigion Archive Service AT/SHIP 2, folio 140
Port of Aberystwyth Shipping Register 1840-1853, Ceredigion Archive Service AT/SHIP 3, folios 76 and 279.

Other facts about the Eagle, and the picture at Aberporth, were taken from the book “The Ships and Seamen of Southern Ceredigion” by J Geraint Jenkins, 1982.

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