Liverpool telescope


This telescope is engraved ‘Wood, Liverpool’ – obviously a maker aiming at customers in the naval market therefore, and a good neat size suitable for a deck officer on-board ship. As such it is the typical size used by ‘Officers of the Watch’ (OOW), at 22” open, but uses three draws, compared to the classic single draw OOW telescope. The advantage of this is that when closed the scope is only 7.25”.

However the design shows that it predates the classic OOW telescope, and was built in the 1800s, ie C19th. First, it uses a wooden barrel, which looks like oak, and this is in very good condition. The brass fittings at the ends of the oak barrel are both secured with three screws, which are modern replacement screws, round headed, but they suit the scope. The originals were probably tiny countersunk screws: obviously these were not quite up to the job, which was fairly normal in the C19th.

The other design feature of note is that the eyepiece is a very square style, fixed to the first draw with three tiny grub-screws. In my opinion this moves the manufacturing date back to around the 1820s.



The three draws are in perfect condition, as is the oak barrel. The only real problem in terms of condition is that the fourth lens in the first draw has a crack straight across the diameter, which is visible as you look through, but it does not offset the image seen at all, between the two halves.


The maker?

The ‘Wood of Liverpool’ is presumed to relate to Benjamin Wood, who worked from 1819 till 1835 in Wapping, next to the docks in Liverpool, and then from 1829 onwards also in Bath Street, further long the dockside. Possibly the business was passed to his son, Benjamin Jasper Wood, who continued working until 1865. From 1847 to 1897 there was a different business that sold telescopes, believed unrelated, run by George Smart Wood, in Prescot Street, Lord St and London Road, amongst other places.


What to do?

Difficult to know what to do with this one (Ref 273): it might not sell for more than I paid (£40) in the present condition, so I need to get a new internal screw threaded lens that works! But would that extra cost, getting a damaged telescope for the bits, be economic – if someone wants a Liverpool telescope, they might well take it as it is, it does work aok after all – rather than pay the extra £20, at least! Answers please, in terms of offers!!



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

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)

“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!

Troughton and Simms silver plated telescope


The name Troughton and Simms means this telescope came from a good maker. Because it does not have the Cooke name as well, it presumably was made between 1824 and 1922. The previously described presentation scope from Troughton and Simms, engraved for Captain Beattie in 1862, was similarly plated (although that one was not plated on the main covered area of the barrel): as a presentation telescope to a ship’s captain, that was presumably plated with actual silver, and designed for “Officer of the Watch” duty, and was a single draw design, which seemed to be the accepted pattern for naval use. However this two draw telescope also is possibly intended for ship-board or ‘Officer of the Watch’ duty.

Engraved for TF Weisener  of Sydney

Engraved for TF Wiesener of Sydney

In addition this telescope is engraved as supplied by T F Wiesener Ltd of Sydney, Australia, which means it was presumably intended for sale for shipboard use, as in that era Sydney would have been mainly focused on the sea trade. But the two draw design here makes it different to the single draw design of the Capt Beattie telescope, and not the classic design adopted later (1900+) as a naval or ship’s officer’s scope, that had a single draw, but a shorter body length than Capt Beattie’s.

Notably the T. Cooke + Sons telescopes, that I have not yet recorded, are of the classic single pull design for ‘Officer of the Watch’ duty. These must have been built and supplied before the merger with Troughton and Simms, which was in 1922, so were possibly dating from 1900-1920.


The whole body of this telescope is plated, in what could be silver or chrome – or possibly nickel. Inside the main body and the other tubes is blackened, after the end of the internal screw threads on each section, which are also plated. The barrel is missing a body cover, for where the left hand would hold it: this part of the body has a fairly rough machined surface at the moment. This would presumably have been covered with either leather, or a wooden veneer, or webbing/string. I think it was probably leather covered, and will plan to replace this.

Sunshade detached to show objective lens mount

Sunshade detached to show objective lens mount

There are two draws, and a flat eyepiece design. This eyepiece was a typical Troughton and Simms style, as can be seen on other models from them – they did not use the bell shaped eyepiece common to other makers in Victorian times. There is a sunshade on the objective, and a flap cover over the eyepiece hole, which uses a typically large screw. The main barrel is very small in diameter, compared to the objective lens. The lens has a special adaptor to join it to the main body/barrel. This caused me a lot of confusion when it was first dismantled for cleaning, as the adaptor seems to be there to increase the thread size available at the end of the main body, to accept the objective lens assembly – it really seems like a design afterthought. So I spent a long time trying to fit the lens to the end of the main body itself, which it just did not quite fit!

Total length fully open is 25”, and closed it is 10.5”. The objective lens is 1.375” dia, and the lens hood 1.75”, but the barrel is 1.375”.

T F Wiesener Ltd

T F Wiesener is quoted in Sydney newspapers between 1888 and 1913, as a scientific instrument maker, jeweller and optician. He was located at 334 George Street, between the GPO and Hunter Street. One press cutting from 1889 actually mentions the sale of telescopes. Wiesener was presumably an authorised reseller of Troughton and Simms instruments. What this does show, is that the shop was a major store aimed at the general public, not just a marine chandler. So there is the possibility that the telescope might have been on sale to offer it to passengers or tourists voyaging back to the UK, rather than ship’s crew.

The TF stands for Theodore Frederick, who was born near Hannover in around 1854. He died in 1897. The shop traded in his name from 1870-1918, but he was appointed an agent for Troughton and Simms only in 1890.

Rough machined main body of the telescope

Rough machined main body of the telescope

Found on Ebay

The telescope was found on Ebay in July 2008, and supplied by Alison Otterbeck from Chaffcombe in Somerset. In fact it was sent because of my error to my daughter in Cornwall. It did not work well on receipt, but by reversing the lenses in the eyepiece assembly, the view was significantly improved. The air pressure inside the scope when closing it was noted as significant, making it difficult to close. The telescope seems to work best with the flint (convex) glass on the rear side of the objective doublet, which is not normally the case.

Where does it fit?

I think this is intended as an expensive looking telescope for a Gentleman traveller, rather than a member of the ship’s crew – unless of course the crew was an officer on the equivalent of an Ocean liner, but in the 1890-1905 sort of era. The telescope is similar in design to the Ross two draw telescope that will be described later, which was more modern, and was maybe designed as a sporting scope, for spotting deer or whatever.

What is it worth?

Not sure.  It’s a good maker, well made, and works well. It is difficult to polish up, but does not tarnish significantly, so it is a good display item. I could clad the barrel in a modern leather covering, but have resisted doing that for several years, as a change too far.

It’s still a good presentable, quality, named example, 120 years old, traceable to Australia. So it must be worth £450, to anyone with an Australian connection. It is now for sale to anyone interested.

 Accession number 121.

Troughton and Simms presentation telescope for Capt Robert Beattie in 1862

Troughton and Simms Naval telescope

Troughton and Simms Naval telescope

Edward Troughton and William Simms formed a partnership in London, both of them having come from established families of mathematical instrument makers. Two Troughton brothers seem to have established themselves in this profession in London at the end of the 18th Century, having come from Cumberland, where their father was a farmer. Possibly Edward Troughton developed the interest in optical instruments from around 1804, when their offices were located in ‘The Orrery’ at 136 Fleet Street.

Troughton and Simms Naval telescope

Troughton and Simms Naval telescope

The Simms family had a similar history, but several branches of optical and mathematical instrument makers were operating in the early 1800s, and it was only William Simms who entered a partnership with Edward Troughton in 1826, to form Troughton and Simms. William seemed to do quite well, and from 1851-60 he was quoted as having a residence with its own Observatory in Brambleshaw, near Carshalton, Surrey. The partnership was successful, possibly with a lot of naval and Government work.

From 1826-43 the partnership operated from 136 Fleet Street, then moved to 138, and added other premises at the rear of 138, at 2&4 Peterborough Court: they stayed there until 1915, but added a factory at 340 Woolwich Road, Charlton, SE London. Then the company was absorbed into Cooke, Troughton and Simms.

The Presentation inscriptions

Because of the long inscription on this telescope, we have a record of when it was made, and why it was presented to the first owner. Such presentation units were popular in the 19th Century, sometimes from grateful passengers recognizing the skill of the ship’s Captain after a perilous voyage, sometimes, as in this case, from the Government, recognizing a humanitarian act in saving people or crew from a sinking ship.

Inscription on the first draw

Inscription on the first draw

Here the inscription reads: ‘Presented by Her Majesty’s Government to Captain Robert Beattie of the Schooner “Kelton”of Dumfries in acknowledgement of his humanity to the survivors of the Crew of the Schooner “Elizabeth and Jane” of St Andrews N.B [New Brunswick] whom he rescued from their waterlogged Vessel on the 23rd of August 1862’. The word ‘Vessel’ is written with an ‘f’ for the double ‘s’, as was common at the time.

Also on the single draw the makers name is engraved, ‘Troughton and Simms – London’.

The ships  

The Canadian ship involved, the Elizabeth and Jane, was a wooden Schooner of 108 tons, built in 1860 at St George [New Brunswick] on the east coast of Canada, then registered in New Brunswick.

The Kelton was built at the Kelton Yard on the River Nith (which flows into the Solway Firth south of Dumfries on the west coast of Scotland) at the premises of G & R Thompson in the village of Glencaple. It was quoted as an outstanding vessel, three masted, launched in around 1860 for the Sloan Brothers of Dumfries, and always commanded by Capt Beattie. The Schooner traded normally from the Dumfries area to Liverpool and the Cumberland coastal towns of Whitehaven and Maryport.

So it seems the rescue quoted on the inscription must have been made in the northern part of the Irish Sea: the Elizabeth and Jane could itself have been headed for Maryport or Whitehaven, which were major export ports for chemicals etc.

The Telescope

The telescope is totally brass bodied, but both ends of the main barrel and the first draw are silver plated. It was presumably manufactured in around 1860-62 by Troughton and Simms, and is 35” long when fully open, and 27” when closed up: the objective housing is 2″ OD. There is a sliding cover over the eyepiece lens, but no cover exists for the objective lens. The main body/barrel is slightly tapered, and retains its bare brass colour, ie is not plated: it would have been covered with canvas or a string binding when supplied. To simulate this and improve the hand grip on the barrel I have bound it with a natural jute string.

Where does this fit with other contemporary telescopes?

This is definitely a naval telescope, similar to the ‘Officer of the Watch models’ introduced later by manufacturers such as Ross, but it follows the pattern of other naval scopes from Dollond and others. It is easy and quick to focus so can be brought into use very fast.  It has a good magnification and field of view. It also has the flat eyepiece end of the 18th Century style of scope – it does not have the Victorian ‘bell-end’ shape of eyepiece. The sunshade is fairly standard, presumably to act as the words imply.

The sun shade

The sun shade


This telescope was acquired in 2005 from an Ebay listing, and is my Accession Number 101. I have used it with the jute string binding I applied, which is fine, but could be improved with someone more competent. It works well, as you would expect from a Presentation scope, silver plated, and from a reputable maker. It is probably now worth around £1500: there are not many more like this!