Shuttleworth – a classic rebuild?

Any aviation enthusiast, and particularly any aeroplane photographer, knows the name Shuttleworth for their marvellous collection and displays of vintage aircraft, at Old Warden. So when you see a telescope, labelled as manufactured by Shuttleworth, it is one not to be ignored, even when only sold for spares!

This Shuttleworth example would be a classic candidate to follow the rebuild route adopted by some old aeroplane restorers, where sometimes it might only be the nameplate screwed onto the airframe that has any link to the original item it is claimed to represent! This telescope comprises what would seem to be the original three brass draws, a mahogany barrel with the two brass ends, still screwed in place with the original screws.


The Missing Elements

Inside there is one of the two lens cartridges, but without the lenses: the other cartridge is missing, as is the eyepiece end cap. The objective lens pair are both smashed, but still held in place together: the lens holder does not unscrew because of the bent rim, caused by the impact which smashed the lenses.

To replace these five lenses and the objective carrier would seem to be a step too far, the end result would have needed to require the destruction of a decent, complete C18th telescope, and the result would be a mish-mash.

So it is to stay as a space model, a shell, but with many interesting features.

The Shuttleworth business

Henry Raynes Shuttleworth was an Optician who worked in London from 1760-1797: he had been apprenticed to John Cuff from 1746-7. Two of John Cuff’s other apprentices moved over to work for Shuttleworth, one in 1761, the other in 1769, as following bankruptcy in 1750, John Cuff’s business went downhill, ceasing completely in 1770.

From 1760 Shuttleworth was to be found at “The Sir Isaac Newton & Two Pairs of Golden Spectacles, the Old Mathematical Shop, near the West End of St Paul’s, London”. So that might explain why he did not engrave an address on his telescopes, but just put “Shuttleworth, London”. After 1774 he had an address that then sounded a little boring, in Ludgate Street, London.

From 1788, Henry Raynes’ son Henry Shuttleworth became an apprentice to his father, then taking over the business in 1797 when his father died: he continued trading as an Optician until 1811.

The design features

This telescope is a sophisticated design, following that of the two Ramsden scopes described earlier. The engraving of the name is positioned on what could be described as on the left side, ie you have to move the telescope to your left to read it, which is the old standard.

EDSCN3955ach draw has an arrow, which is taken to indicate how the tubes should be aligned to get the best performance. The air hole in the top of the third draw is to let the air compressed inside the telescope discharge easily to atmosphere.

Of most interest to me are the draw lines on the second tube, where the drawing process that formed the tube has caused a surface imperfection, from either slag impurities or from sticking of the metal to the die? Here I am guessing, maybe someone will explain?

Noticeable on the brass around the objective lens assembly iDSCN3956s a blemish on the surface, where it appears a 4-5mm diameter hole has been filled in, asa repair.

All of the retaining shoulders for the draws are labelled XII, as are the two larger draws: but the first draw, which carries the engraving, is labelled XI…!

There are no marks or letters/words of any identifiable nature on the wooden barrel. There is the normal focus line scribed round the first draw.


The telescope, when fully extended, is 22.5″ (lacking the eyepiece), and when closed is 7″. Visible objective lens diameter is 37mm, and overall max diameter 43mm.


The telescope is of a 1780-1800 design and build standard. The directories suggest Shuttleworth were spectacle makers mainly, although they are known and quoted for producing a microscope. All these little blemishes, or inconsistencies, suggest to me that the Shuttleworth operation did not produce many telescopes, maybe only one or two at a time, or maybe even they were bought in, and then engraved with the Shuttleworth name before being sold. Some of the telescope and microscope makers had no retail premises – for example this applied to John Cuff after 1758, so Cuff might well have acted as a general sub-contract manufacturer.


Accession number 285


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