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.


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.

C18th Dollond, with tapered body

Dollond tapered mahogany barrel telescope, with the draw tube split at each lens mount joint. Flooring squares are 12cms each.

Dollond tapered mahogany barrel telescope, with the draw tube split at each lens mount joint. Flooring squares are 12cms each.


This Dollond telescope has an apparently mahogany, tapered and polished wooden barrel, and a single brass draw. It is fairly big, the wooden section is 24.5”, the single pull extends to 14”. The wooden taper has an OD of 1.675” at the narrowest, and 2” near the objective lens. Interestingly, the internal bore of this barrel is drilled out in two sections, a narrow bore towards the eyepiece, and a larger bore close to the objective: between the two there is a narrow orifice, which is a fairly normal feature in telescope design. But the wood inside the barrel looks more porous and fibrous than a hardwood, and lighter in colour.

Eyepiece cover detached from the bell end eyepiece. Also the tube is unscrewed partially at the mounting point for the second eyepiece lens.

Eyepiece cover detached from the bell end eyepiece. Also the tube is unscrewed partially at the mounting point for the second eyepiece lens.

At the objective the OD is 2.5”, with the lens showing 1.675” of glass. The objective has a sliding brass plate as a lens cover, as does the eyepiece. In fact if the eyepiece lens cover is unscrewed, ie removed, the eyepiece is a classic bell shape, much more attractive, and much more easy to use – otherwise the slider frequently pokes the user in the nose.

The construction of the single draw is in four separate sections, all the same diameter. Each joint has a support for one of the four lens elements of the eyepiece construction. The separation of the third and fourth lenses is larger than normal, maybe they were just optimising the spacings in the late 1700s. Because this is a telescope dating from the end of the 18th Century.


The French polish is worn away at the finger hold points: also the eyepiece lens cover is removed here, to make for easier use.

The French polish is worn away at the finger hold points: also the eyepiece lens cover is removed here, to make for easier use.

The engraving of the name, Dollond, and London, here is on the left side of the telescope, on the first draw. When the naming moved from the telescope end to the side of the first draw, I believe at first it was on the right hand side, ie with the D at the start of Dollond closest to the eyepiece. But the engraving is small and neat, with swirls, perhaps paralleling what was originally done on the end covers. It looks older in style than the later telescopes used.

Intended users and history

The telescope was bought from R W Robinson, compass adjuster, from his shop/premises in Hamble, in March 2000. He quoted it as 1770-1780 in date, because of the style of the eyepiece and objective, and of the type used by ship’s Masters. The reason for this I think goes back to the light body, making such a long telescope easy to use when freely hand-supported on the rolling bridge. It is certainly well balanced in use, so a pleasure to work with, particularly for spotting aircraft.

Telescope for Sale…

This was number 58, bought many years ago, so the collection was accelerating. Purchase price was very high for me at the time. What is it actually worth on the market? Probably it would need the French Polish redoing, to smarten up the barrel, which would put the retail value up to above £2000. My selling price would be £1200.DSC03863

In this photo, of the objective end of the Dollond, the  cover slide is open as it would be in use, and sticks out to the side. If you are looking at aeroplanes in the sky, you can use the slide as a marker on the aircraft with your other, non-telescope eye, to locate it through the scope in the telescope view.  I have used that technique since 1961!

John Hewitson, circa 1850

…………a telescope from Newcastle upon Tyne

After a lot of searching, this was the first telescope I eventually found on sale, and bought, in an antique shop on Jewry Street in Winchester, called Pine Antiques, in May 1992. It was quoted as having belonged to the shop owner and his family: when sold it was brass only, with the barrel, where normally a leather or some other form of covering would be, bare and discoloured with verdigris. But as the first decent brass telescope found, with an engraved maker’s name, I had to buy it.

Hewitson scope

Engraving on the first draw

The telescope is a 3 draw brass model, 23” long with a 1.5” dia objective. On the first draw it is engraved “J. Hewitson” and “Newcastle-on-Tyne”. It has a sliding lens cover on both ends, and a sun shade on the objective end.

Hewitson in Newcastle

I wrote to the Local Studies Librarian in Newcastle to ask about J Hewitson. They responded that from trade directories he was John Hewitson, an Optician and Instrument Maker, operating there between 1841 and 1858. He had business premises initially in 1841 at 29 Market Street, and in 1847 at 20 Grey Street and 16 Quayside. In later years he traded from 21 and 16 Grey Street.

Later, in The Directory of Scientific Instruments by Gloria Clifton, I found Hewitson similarly listed, but as a manufacturer of level instruments and tide gauges, said probably to be the son of John of Rotherhithe, a Mariner. It was also quoted that earlier, in 1828, there was a J Hewitson apprenticed to Joseph Fairey, an instrument maker in London Docks. Since John was said to be the son of a mariner, it is perfectly possible he gained the post with Fairey when visiting London with his father, learned the necessary skills as an apprentice, and then established his business near the docks in Newcastle, where presumably he knew there was an opening amongst the seafarers there.

A Google search more recently, in 2017, shows there is an expensive barometer made by Hewitson in Newcastle currently for sale, and also a surveyor’s compass, carrying his name. In a Newcastle Guide book dating from 1846, the Hewitson advert claims to supply Transits, Theodolites, Levels, Surveying & Drawing instruments, Sextants, Quadrants, Compasses, Telescopes, Microscopes and Spectacles & eyeglasses! So possibly he was an agent for various manufacturers.


Apart from polishing, the main change made to this telescope was the replacement of the leather cover on the brass barrel. The black leather came from a really good pair of my wife’s boots, with her permission, once they were worn out.

The objective is a dual element achromatic pair, and the eyepiece is a 4 lens system, as in the Schyrle-Huygens arrangement, with both sets of lenses in a separate internal cartridge.

Hewitson scope (centre)

The Hewitson scope is the smaller, second one down: this photograph shows my first three significant purchases, back in 1992

Where does the telescope fit?

Well given his location in Newcastle, and his possible link to the marine industry, the telescope must have been targeted for use on ships and by ship’s masters. Relatively it is quite small, when closed up, but the performance is fine once extended. It is quite unusual compared to many naval telescopes of this early Victorian era, because it is 3 draws, and the eyepiece is a squared-off flat end, similar to the telescope designs of 1790-1820.

What is it worth?

While it is not anything exceptional, it is still a good, neat telescope from around 1850. It is Accession number 2 in my collection, because I previously bought some binoculars (#1), and my original Enbeeco aluminium telescope bought new in 1960 doesn’t count! The Hewitson is now on sale for £250.

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

Return to the Family

This telescope was acquired in 2005 from an Ebay listing, and was my Accession Number 101. I have used it with the jute string binding I applied, which is fine, but this could be improved by someone more competent. It works well, as you would expect from a Presentation scope, silver plated, and from a reputable maker. It is a fine example of the Victorian approach, to honour someone who showed human compassion, when called upon. It is a fine example of this approach, with the presence of the inscription: there are not many more like this! In 2018 the telescope was returned to the descendants of Robert Beattie, as a family heirloom.

Lt. Rolfe’s Bianchi telescope from the Peninsular War, 1807-1814

Bianchi telescope fully extended

Bianchi telescope fully extended

This telescope is a 3-draw model with a wooden (veneered?) main barrel, the veneer appears to be a mahogany, but the whole main barrel is a wooden tube, possibly of a different, rougher wood. The main barrel has an OD of 1.75”. Overall length is 32”, and closed it is 9.25” – i.e. fairly compact. It has a slider to cover the eyepiece, which is better than average because it does not stick out of the side, when in use (as is fairly common, and uncomfortable). The eyepiece is a flat faced design. The sunshade covers half the closed telescope length, and has a very solid end cap which is a push fit.

Lt Rolfe engraved on first draw

Lt Rolfe engraved on first draw

The first draw has engraving showing the maker’s name as Bianchi of Ipswich, and on the opposite side “Lieutenant Rolfe – 9th Light Dragoons” all in script. The first draw contains all four eyepiece lenses. The brass looks to be lacquered. The brass connections to the wooden barrel appear to be made with copper pins, three at either end: because these pins are slightly proud the sunshade does not fully ‘home’ into the objective end of the barrel.

Made by George Bianchi

Maker's name engraved on first draw

Maker’s name engraved on first draw

George Bianchi was working in Ipswich 1805-1816, and seems to have been followed by Gaettano Bianchi, who was an optician there in 1830, and then George Henry, working there in 1844.

Because of the other inscription, this is probably by George Bianchi, and made in around 1806-7. He worked from St Clements Street at that time, and in 1816 at Westgate Street.

The 9th Light Dragoons

The following history of the 9th Lancers is taken from the Nottingham Journal + Nottingham Review: Mansfield in the News 1807-8,

“The 9th Dragoons remained in Ireland until 1803, and did not again embark for foreign service until 1806, when it formed part of Sir Samuel Auchmuty’s expedition to the River Plate, which they reached in seven weeks from England.  They shared in the occupation of Montevideo, on the River Plate, though not in its storm.  But no effort was made to replace the dead and useless horses, so that after a while the regiment ceased to be effective as cavalry, and were used, for the first and last time in their history, as foot soldiers, in the brigade formed by the dismounted troops of the 6th Dragoon Guards and the 40th and 45th Regiments of the Line, under Colonel the Hon Thomas Mahon.  To the dismounted cavalry was given the honour of attacking one of the central streets, with three troops of 9th Light Dragoons and four of the Carabiniers in the first line, and the other five troops of the former in reserve, and supported by two six-pounders.  They behaved with the greatest bravery, but the attack was, on the whole, a failure, and General Whitelocke abandoned the place.

An officer from the 9th Light Dragoons

An officer from the 9th Light Dragoons

They next shared in the ill-fated Walcheren expedition (Walcheren was a place in Holland, from where an attack on France was launched from the northeast). Here they lost 152 men from fever, and in 1811 embarked for Portugal, to join the other front in the Peninsular War.  At Aroyo de Molino they surprised General Girard, capturing 1,000 prisoners, the artillery, baggage, and stores of the force and taking General Brune prisoner. They took part in all the numerous skirmishes that occurred between 1811 and 1813, when they returned home with the permission to bear “Peninsula” on their appointments.  In 1816 they were renamed and constituted as Lancers, with, in 1830, the distinguished title of “Queen’s Royal”, in honour of Queen Adelaide, consort of William IV.”

Lt Joseph Rolfe

Lt Joseph Rolfe is listed on

which shows the card index system published naming all the soldiers involved in the Peninsular war in Spain. This war was from 1807-1814, a conflict between France and the allied powers of Spain, the United Kingdom and Portugal, for control of the Iberian peninsula, as a part of the Napoleonic Wars. It started when French and Spanish armies occupied Portugal in 1807, and escalated in 1808 when France turned on Spain, its ally until then.

Lt Rolfe joined the 9th Light Dragoons on 9th October 1806, and was in Spain for the Peninsular War from July 1811 to April 1813. Another reference suggests that Lt Rolfe came from Mansfield near Nottingham (

Where does this fit with other contemporary telescopes?

Compact when folded shut

Compact when folded shut

This telescope is different to the others made around 1800-1810. It still has the flat end of the 18th Century style of scope, but it is a very short unit compared to the larger single draw scopes, that were made for naval use. So the conclusion is that it was built as a compact unit specifically for use by mounted troops, carrying such for use on the battlefield, to see the enemy troop disposition. I suppose it makes full use of the fact that it has three draws to achieve this. Another comment is that this telescope was not meant for instant deployment – the officer would get off the horse, presumably lie down in the grass and peep over some cover or parapet at the enemy, so the time taken to remove the very solid objective cap, and open the slide in the eyepiece, and pull out the draws, did not allow for a quick look! Equally the lens covers would protect the glass components from dirt and dust. The sunshade would also protect the user from reflecting the sun’s rays from the objective lens and giving his position away – although I don’t know if they knew of this problem!

Collection History

This telescope was acquired in 2010 from an Ebay listing, and is accession number 134.  It came from a house clearance sale in Jersey. It is complete with a leather case, quoted to be the original.

I think it is a really unique item, with a traceable history linked to the Peninsula wars. It would have a value of £1200-1500.