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.


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.


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.

img_0477-small    img_0518-small

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.


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).

img_0514-small   img_0473-smaller

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).


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.


3-Draw Ramsden scope from 1780


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.


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.


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


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.



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.








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?


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


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


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.


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.


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.

DSCN3396  DSCN3397

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


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!


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.



Sailing round the Horn in ‘Mizpah’

With an Ebay description like the one below, it was fairly easy to identify that there was a good story associated with this telescope:


“A mid 19th Century English single draw brass and leather telescope, that belonged to Captain B.W. Bagley of Shoreham. He was the captain of the sailing barque ‘Mizpah’. The telescope was made by Blachford & Imray of London and is in very good clean condition, with nice clear optics. It has an integral sun hood with sliding lens protectors, both front and rear. It is engraved in copperplate writing Blackford & Imray London – Day or Night.
Captain Bagley married the daughter of a local shipbuilder William May. With his daughter Jane came the newly built 540 ton sailing barque Mizpah. The 146 foot (44m) Mizpah plied its trade to South America and beyond, rounding Cape Horn several times. Their first son was actually born on board and his name and details had to be written into a Death Certificate, with the word ‘Death’ crossed out and replaced by ‘Birth’.
It is a fine quality telescope with a fascinating history. Originally purchased at auction from the descendants of the Bagleys, the lot includes a copy of Ships Monthly magazine from May 1973, detailing the history of the ship.
Size extended: 6 x 92 cms.
Size retracted: 6 x 52 cms.”

The description came from an antique dealer in Plymouth, close to the port, called Parade Antiques. I found it a little sad to see it sold off through an antique shop, with such a story behind it, but the family still retain the oil painting of the ‘Mizpah‘, as shown on the front cover of the Ships Monthly journal of May 1973 (below).


This is dated 12 February 1881, and shows the Mizpah off Heligoland under full sail. It was signed by two Hamburg artists, Peter Christian Holm and Heinrich Andreas Sophus Petersen, who were skilled in such paintings, normally done on commission by the ship’s owners or Captains.

The Mizpah

Launched in 1874, the Mizpah was the largest barque to be built at Shoreham, and the last to be built in the ‘Old Shipyard’ owned by William May. Subsequently two further barques were built, but they were the last of many that were constructed between about 1840 and 1875. Most of these barques, from 200 to 550 tons, were used for long distance trade, to the Pacific, America or the East Indies. It was estimated that around forty such Shoreham built wooden sailing ships were engaged in oceanic trade in 1874.

Mizpah was a square-rigged sailing barque, 550 tons on the Register, with a 950 ton carrying capacity. It had a length of 147 feet, breadth of 30 feet, and depth of 18 feet. The ship was owned by Mr May, the shipbuilder, with shares in the ship also owned by a Mr Wade and others: Mrs B Wade named and launched the ship on Saturday April 27th, 1874.

Captain B W Bagley had been previously based at Shoreham as his home port, when commanding the barque “Brighton“: this was built by William May, also owned by Mr Wade, and launched in 1871, for the Pacific trade. In sailing this for two years around Cape Horn and back, Capt Bagley had proved his seamanship and also presumably had developed a relationship with William and Jane May. When the Mizpah was launched and sent into this same trade route, Capt Bagley was to be the first commander, as well as the new son-in-law of the owner. He traded to South America and the Pacific for 12 years in the Mizpah, and during that time the ship was inspected by Lloyds, who classed it as in A1 condition.

Jane May, when Jane Bagley, sailed in the Mizpah with her husband: the barque had a crew of about 12. In December 1880, in the South Atlantic, Jane gave birth to their son on board the ship, at 19.33 S and 25.22 W. From 1874 the barques were overtaken as the most economic ships for this trade by iron built sailing ships, which were then superceeded in the 1880’s by larger mild steel sailing ships.

In 1886 the Mizpah  was sold to a German firm, and by 1889 it had been sold to Norwegian owners, renamed as the Norden, had a Captain and owner named as T Jensen, with a home port of Rostock.

The Telescope

DSCN2790aThe telescope is indeed in good condition, and complete with the lens slides etc. Capt Bagley did not go as far as having his name engraved on the telescope, nor the name of the Mizpah, so it just features the maker’s names, Blachford & Imray [Plus London, Day or Night].

Michael Blachford & Joseph Imray operated between 1836 and 1845, from 116 Minories, Tower Hill, London: so it was not new when Captain Bagley took over the Mizpah/married Jane May around 1874 (whichever came first on his ‘To Do’ list!).

Indeed we don’t know when Capt Bagley might have purchased the telescope. Whether he owned it for his voyages round the Horn is not known: it bears quite a few dents, but it is generally well looked after. Plus it works very well: the magnification is good, but not excessive: the field of view is also good, making the telescope easy to use. Whether this is all because it is a good example of Victorian over-engineering or not, is open for discussion.

DSCN2791aThe complete thing weighs 1.25Kg, no lightweight to hold up for a while in a rough sea. OK, so you can balance it on the rigging. The largest diameter, on the barrel and sunshade, is 62mm. Dark brown leather covers the main wooden barrel structure underneath. This is used to support the main lens, the objective, which has a visible operating diameter of 39mm. But if the telescope is used with the end slider in place, and the slide is slid away to allow a view through the lens, the aperture available to accept light in the into the telescope through the slide assembly is only 28mm. So somewhere the aperture available for the optics in a 62 diameter telescope body has been restricted, so that we actually accept the light only coming into an aperture of 28mm, 45% of the telescope OD.


The central lens cartridge

Travel down to the eyepiece and the story is much the same. The drawtube has an OD of 45mm, but the lenses held within are mounted in separate ‘cartridge’ lens asemblies, with all the space these also need to position themselves inside the main body means the largest operating diameter of these lenses is 28mm. These cartridges themselves add significantly to the total weight of the telescope, the central cartridge is 100gms, and the eyepiece barrel 160 gms. The single drawtube, in two sections, is 575gms, because it has a 1.5mm wall thickness – but this means it is strong, and there is little damage from the use on-board ship to this drawtube.

Reference list:

DSCN2794Ships Monthly journal, May 1973.

The Ships and Mariners of Shoreham‘, Henry Cheal Jnr, written 1909, published 2009: ISBN 978-1-906789-20-6.

Kapitansbilder‘, by Werner Timm, Rostock, 1971

BBC TV Flog It! Series 14 number 60.

Postscript 2016: BBC’s Flog It! programme

Admittedly I watch the BBC programmes Antiques Roadshow, Bargain Hunt and Flog It sometimes! The telescopes sold on Bargain Hunt are usually overpriced, when sold in the auction. The Roadshow has not shown any that I have seen, but they haven’t seen any decent ones, maybe.

But imagine my delight when the Flog It! programme, introduced by Paul Martin, on 2 November 2016 (recorded sometime in Summer 2015) showed this Blachford and Imray / Mizpah telescope being sold in a Plymouth auction room (Anthony Eldred’s saleroom). The programme was Series 14, Number 60, with the review of the products at Powderham Castle, in Devon.

dscn4665xThe lady with the nautical antiques was called Betty, and she brought in two sawfish (Carpenter shark) ‘rostrums’, plus the telescope, for sale. The expert, Will Axon, who apparently prefers English furniture, dismissed the telescope as a ‘working model’, and said collectors would not be interested. He obviously does not know anything about antique scientific instruments. Valuation was at first lumped together with the two rostrums (rostra?) at £150 max, but this was later split into two lots, with the scope valued £50-80.

The telescope sold for a hammer price of £85, to a representative of Parade Antiques of Plymouth. It would be good to visit that auction house, if their clients value telescopes so poorly! He also bought the two ‘rostra’ nose extensions for £130.


Betty, Capt Bagley’s Great Grand-daughter, with Paul Martin and Will Axon

The provenance of the telescope is recorded from Betty on the programme, in that it had been in a drawer for 125 years, but had belonged to her Great-Grandfather, presumably Captain Bagley, who had owned the telescope and also, she said, the ship the Mizpah. Plus he had brought back the Rostra. I hope Betty enjoys seeing the telescope shown on here, with its story, for more people to enjoy. I, as a telescope collector, snapped it up, as an excellently collectable piece, from Parade Antiques in Plymouth in September 2015: it is my accession number 246. While Betty sold the telescope for £85, which meant it cost Parade Antiques around £100 after the auction premium, they advertised it for sale at £385. I thought I bought at a fair price, at £300.

The photos below some screenshots taken from the programme, as shown by the BBC: they show the Auctioneer, Anthony Eldred; the winning bidder; the telescope (unpolished, as received after the auction); and one of the auction photos of the engraving –

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


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



This tube alone to be used for the

purpose of adjusting the

focus to suit the eye


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.

cargo discharge

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.


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.



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.


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.


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.



Nelson’s Telescope: lost, or hidden?

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

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


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

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

Was this really Nelson’s telescope?

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

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

These dimensions are very close to being the same as those of the Dolland telescope described in the earlier story on this website, found in a Barrow second hand shop, and originating from the Walney Island lighthouse. See https://wordpress.com/post/telescopecollector.wordpress.com/67. I have tried to reproduce the same sort of photo angle below, with the Walney Dolland unit. The two photos are shown below together, to compare.

DSCN2676 Nick colour


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

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

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

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

(I just want to see it)

A bit of Naval History, 1760-1840

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


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

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

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

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

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

Collecting everything together


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

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


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

John Jervis Tucker

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

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


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

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

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

The Telescope itself!

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

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

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

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


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

$_57         $_57 (1)



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

Accession Number #248, October 2015.

HMS St Vincent

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

By the way…..NMM telescopes on display

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

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

A James Chapman Octagonal Telescope

Early last month I summarised the various octagonal and decagonal telescopes in the collection, then set about updating the overall listing: surprisingly perhaps I found another very old Octagonal scope, and in fact it is one I had been worried about, as I had promised to tell the Ebay vendor about it, when it had been renovated: but it had got misplaced. It was bought from a lady near Bournemouth, in February 2014. The photos here show it has not yet been cleaned up in any way!


The scope is mahogany, planed down to be eight sided, with a single brass draw. This draw is retained within the mahogany barrel, and has three in-line joints: the maker’s name is engraved on the second section of the single draw, which would seem unusual. However there is no way that the first two sections could have been transposed, as the threads are not compatible in any different order.

The maker, James Chapman


The maker’s name engraving reads “Made by JAS CHAPMAN” (with the “S” as a superscript) on the first line, and “St Catherines London” on the second line. James Chapman worked there from 1774 to maybe as late as 1804. Gloria Clifton, in her Directory of British Scientific Instrument Makers, gives James Chapman’s addresses as:

1774-1796: St Catherine’s, Near the Tower, London

1776: Hadley’s Quadrant, opposite the King’s Store House, St Catherine’s, London

1793: 41 St Catherine’s, London

1794: 5 St Catherine’s, London


DSCN2528As can be seen, the only thing missing is the bezel on the eyepiece end of the main barrel, which also means that when in use the brass draw can be out of line with the axis of the barrel and objective, so it needs to be held in the correct position carefully: but then the telescope works very well. Three lenses are present in the single draw, one at each of the splits in the tube, and each lens is held in place with its own internal bezel. The three lenses are equi-spaced, presumably in what Dr Chris Lord would describe as a Schyrlean eyepiece arrangement. There is no slider to protect the eye lens, but it is well recessed below the bell housing: the telescope can appear to be slightly easier to use without the bell housing in place, which possibly explains why sometimes these pieces are missing.

DSCN2530The magnification is reasonably good, but at times the view can show some chromatic aberration at the edge. This comes from the single lens used as the objective, ie it does not use the Dollond patented dual objective lens. The objective only has a visible used diameter of around 0.6”, in the mount, which is a part of the protective slide assembly at the end of the barrel: the actual barrel is much bigger, about 1.375” across the flats of the octagon – this restriction is presumably deliberate so as not to use much more than the central part of the lens, which can reduce the effects of chromatic aberration. Total length fully open is approximately 23”. There is one orifice restricting the light transmission from the edges of the view, near the final eyepiece lens.

So, having now re-located this telescope it now needs a little careful cleaning! Since the Dollond Patent expired in 1772, it seems likely that this telescope was produced in the early 1770s, since after 1772 the lens doublet became fairly standard with London instrument makers.


Accession Number 194.

Postscript in 2017

I have to say having been struggling all afternoon to get a Ramsden to work properly, picking up this old little telescope was a real pleasure! While the magnification might not be quite as much as the Ramsden, it worked so easily. Then you think it has such a small objective (to reduce the chromatic aberration with one lens in there) but still delivers at least 10x magnification and a good field of view. Plus the definition of the image is brilliant (have I been looking at dodgy digital photos too much?) and with the ease of focusing, this telescope is a little masterpiece. Yet  possibly 240 years old. Plus it focuses down to 12 feet away …..but it does get a bit wobbly without that bezel!

2018 update:

After polishing  the brass the Chapman telescope looks much more desirable: but the wood seems to look right i its used and battered state. Photos coming below.

Octagonal and Decagonal scopes


It’s very important to a collector to actually have an example of one of these multi-sided telescope designs in any collection, as they are some of the oldest, and in some ways most interesting. So I have usually bought any that I saw that were a reasonable price: but because they are old and desirable, they were not cheap!

The story was told in the previous article about the Dollond 8-Sided telescope from 1860. The construction of this one used eight identical strips of mahogany, about 7/8” wide, with the inner edges filed down, so that they can be glued together in an octagon. This is then held together with the brass rings at each end, retained by small screws.

This style was obviously the “one to have”, so that possibly later, and maybe smaller telescopes copied the design by taking a round length of wood, drilling out the centre, then planing flats onto the external surfaces. I would suggest that most of the smaller hand-held decagonal telescopes, ie the ones with 10 sides, and ones with any larger number of flats, would be made this way, as it would be more difficult to get 10 narrow strips to glue together neatly, and it is maybe easier to plane off the round barrel into ten sides. Having said that it does seem that planing the unit into 8 flats would be easier for me, as the angles of each flat would be simpler to get right.

So let’s look at these other four multi-sided telescopes to see what emerges.

The telescope examples

  1. Small Oak-barrelled unit:

DSCN2435This one, pictured at the bottom of the group above, is an un-named oak barrel, eight-sided telescope: the wooden barrel is 12” long, 1.375” wide from flat to flat. It has a bell-shaped eyepiece, a very narrow diameter objective, at 0.625”, and the single brass draw has three joints to mount the internal lenses, plus one at the very top of the bell: this lens is designed without any protection (like a covering slide). The objective does have a sliding cover. The telescope gives a really good magnification, say x12.

This unit is constructed from a single length of wood, drilled out with a smooth straight bore. The eight joints between the flats are relatively sharp edges, simulating the appearance of a unit made from strips. Perhaps unusually for this design the draw tube is trapped in the main barrel, so does not pull out completely in use.

Reference #182.

  1. Medium-sized Mahogany unit:

DSCN2429bThis is the same design as the oak unit, but bigger, built from mahogany – and it has ten flats on the outside of the main barrel. Here the lens closest to the eye of the user is positioned as if recessed a little into the bell housing, and there is a slot for a slide to act as a cover: the actual slide is missing. The other three lenses in the barrel are mounted at two screwed splits along the length, and the last is at the objective end of the draw, which pulls out freely, it is not retained in the barrel. If I saw the machined groove at the end of this draw on a modern piece of equipment I would say it was designed for an ‘O-ring’. This might indeed have been used to give some resistance to pulling the draw right out, and it could be squashed through in the assembly of the unit – there’s no other way of getting it inserted in practice.

Left is this telescope: right is a typical example of a legible signature!

Left is this telescope: right is a typical example of a legible Dollond signature!

At the objective end, the lens aperture is 1”, and the glass is protected by a sliding cover. The remains of a signature are visible, engraved into this cover, and it corresponds with “Dollond London” in a script form that corresponds with that seen on other Dollond telescopes.

The barrel is interesting, in that the inside bore is circular, and the outside is cut with ten sides, but the transition between each of the sides is very much smoothed over, consistently along the 24.5” length. The telescope actually has a split which extends maybe a third of the way along the barrel, which follows the grain and moves from one flat side to the next. Possibly this split was caused when someone was hand-engraving his initials “E+P” on one of the flats, which remarkably is followed by “1781” which is presumably the date of this engraving work. [To put this into context, Captain Cook discovered and mapped the east coast of Australia in his voyage from 1768 to 1771, and then was killed in Hawaii in 1779. Dollond’s patent on the two-part  objective lens was dated 1760]. The distance across the flats at the eyepiece end is 44mm, whereas at the objective end this distance is reduced, to 39mm. This is effectively a reverse taper in the outside size of the barrel.


Inside, the bore of the hole is constant at 30mm, from the objective back to the orifice half way along the barrel, which has a diameter of 19mm. From there the internal diameter increases towards the single draw and the eyepiece, so mirrors the effective reverse taper seen on the outside. The brass draw is about 30mm diameter, and the brass sprung slide that holds it in place is around 3” long, inserted inside the barrel.

Magnification is only around x6. Reference #59

  1. Gaitskill Mahogany telescope.

DSCN2429aAnother longer mahogany 10-sided unit, similar to #59, but here the barrel is visibly tapered in the normal way, with the larger diameter at the objective lens. The barrel is 24.5” long, including the brass end fittings. But the flats are flat, without the obviously rounded corners at the edges of the flats seen on #59.

At the eyepiece end, the barrel is 43mm across the flats, outside, and at the objective end, this measurement is 48mm. Each flat is about 14mm wide. Inside, the internal bore is straight half way down the tube at the eyepiece end, and then slowly increases towards the objective lens position. But this is not to allow the use of a large objective lens, as very close to the objective (~20mm) there is an aperture/orifice, with a hole diameter of only 16mm. The brass housing holding the objective is 50mm diameter, and the lens itself has a visible diameter of around 30mm: but this lens appears to have a coating of some form around the edges, which might even be glue. The effectively useful diameter of the central part of the objective is around 21mm.

The objective does not appear to unscrew, to remove the lens holder from the brass screwed to the end of the barrel. So since the screws here do not look original, these were taken pout to inspect the lens. The result seems to indicate that the outer edge of the lens doublet has a different focal length to the middle section. The apparent colour difference is possibly that only the centre section is ground to the correct radius to nestle into the second lens, and where the two do not touch gives an impression of a coating, because of the different reflectivity. Having such an objective means that the close aperture inserted in the barrel would have been essential so as not to allow the outer edges of the objective to transmit light down to the eyepiece.

DSCN2431Again the single draw pulls out of the barrel completely, just after the last lens in the eyepiece set of four, so the barrel has two screwed splits. Similar machining on the end is not a groove, but a raised rim on a section of the draw tube which has a smaller diameter than the rest of the tube, so maybe it was wrapped in some material or felt to push through and make an end stop. The two draws are almost interchangeable between #59 and this one, which is reference #189. Here though the draw has the words Gaitskill, maker, Wapping, London engraved on the very first section of the draw tube, on the left, ie with the ‘G’ of ‘Gaitskill’ adjacent to the eyepiece, which is the early style. The slide over the eye lens has lost its retaining pin, so is in danger of pulling out completely and getting lost.

When focussed, the single draw is only pulled out by around 2.5”. Magnification is slightly better than the Dollond #59, at maybe x7.5. Reference is #189. Joseph Gaitskill operated as a Ship Chandler, Compass and Mathematical Instrument maker from various addresses in Wapping from 1778-1811, but was called Gaitskill & Co from 1805. So this telescope also dates from the 1790s approx.

  1. A restoration project!

It’s all there, except for one bit that’s missing, that is. The missing bit is the objective lens, and carrier: it was screwed into the end of the barrel, but has either been knocked off, or fallen off, either overboard, or otherwise it was lost.


The barrel is externally 10-sided, mahogany, with worn French polish. A third of the way down there is a brass band around the barrel, which is screwed down at one point, maybe holding the barrel together, as there is a split along this end of the barrel running down half the length. Externally the barrel is not tapered, and is about 42mm flat to flat. The internal bore is round, and is also a constant diameter, at about 36mm, but 3.5” from the objective there is an internal orifice with about an 18mm aperture diameter. So the ten sides are produced by planing down the round barrel into a series of flats – again the transition from one to the next is relatively smoothed over.

The single draw has three screwed splits, but the second split going towards the eyepiece has a cartridge containing two separated lenses: overall there are five lenses in this single draw, which pulls straight out of the barrel. While this single draw fits into the other telescopes described above, very loosely, the optical properties of this draw and the other objectives are not compatible. The lenses used do not appear to be incorrect in any way, so they are all there, but as the saying goes, “not necessarily in the right order”.

It just looks like a real problem to understand! Project ref #165.


A Telescope from 1794


Not my normal sort of telescope.

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

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

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

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

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

Polishing up

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

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

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

Replacing the objective

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

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


The result

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

Accession #242