Astronomers: Hertfordshire

Barker, Robert [FRAS] (1873-1966), of ‘Brendon’, 168 Crossbrook Street, Cheshunt, Herts. Barker was a composer of church music, and by profession a music critic. An active observer since the early 1920s and until 1957, a mentor to several youngsters, he befriended Patrick Moore when he joined the BAA in 1934. Barker was founder in 1934 of “Mr Barker’s Circle”, an observing group of eight men active from April 1934 to December 1938 and May 1946 to May 1948. He owned the largest instrument of the group, a 32cm (12.6″) which he had brought direct from Calver. It was a very heavy instrument, resting on his lawn and covered by a tarpauline.  In 1934 the English Mechanic ceased publishing observations. Barker, a lunar observer, wrote to BAA members Leslie Ball (see Cheshire),  Ben Burrell (see Yorkshire: West Riding), Robert Edward Diggles (see Staffordshire), Edward Frederick Emley (see Durham), Hugh Simmons (see Bedfordshire), Charles O. Smith (see Midlothian), and Henry Ewart Wooldridge (Worcestershire), and started a group,  the so-called ‘Barker’s Circle’, which compared observations. Each member issued illustrated circulars from time-to-time, passed alphabetically around the group for comment. In the 1930s there was much lunar work still to be done. They also observed and made drawings of Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, and photos of the Sun. The group published a large number of good papers in the JBAA. For a definitive and well illustrated article (see McKim 2013).

Beaufoy, Mark (1764–1827), astronomer and physicist (for observatory see below and County County of London page; ODNB).

Blair, Archibald (1752–1815), naval surveyor and lieutenant in the Bombay Marine. After an active career in the Far East he retired to Bayford, Hertfordshire in 1800, pursuing his interest in astronomy by designing an observatory and telescopes.  Appointed director of  works for the Porthleven Harbour in 1814, he was resident at Treleven when he died in 1815 whilst survising the building of a new habour wall at Portleven (see CornwallWiki; SHA Bulletin, Issue 25, 46-9).

Church, Ella Katherine [FRAS] (1881-1948), born London, but later moved to Hemel Hempstead with parents. With independent means she was Jupiter and variable star observer, BAA Council Member and FRAS (1916-48). A protégée of the Rev. T. E. R. Phillips, but inactive after 1924 (A&G, 57 (2017), p.4.18).

Hogson, William [FRS] (c.1747-1823), a gentleman of independent means owning a selection of telescopes. He used these from his observatory at his home at Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire. Elected to the Royal Society he used a Herschel 7-foot reflector and corresponded with William Herschel on the observation of double stars (Obit., GentMag, 94 (1824 March), p.285; Hutton 1815, 129; Johnson 2021, 33).

Lax, William (1761-1836), astronomer, was presented to the living of St Ippollitts, near Stevenage where he built an observatory (see ODNBCambridgeshire & Buckinghamshire).

Knott, George (1835-1895), born at Bohun Lodge, East Barnet. A specialist variable star observer – See, his Cuckfield Observatory (see Sussex .

Parr, William Alfred [FRAS](1865-1936), born in Hampstead, London.  Educated in both Britain & Germany and fluent in Italian, he followed a career in banking then re-trained to become a professional musician.  With a life-long interest in astronomy, he was involved with the British Astronomical Association, as honorary librarian and president (1932-4) and was elected fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1913.  Having retired to St Albans in 1927, he re-erected his observatory (originally at Hampstead, London) with a 4-inch Cooke refractor and 2-prism Evershed spectroscope – donated to St. Albans High School for girls (Obit., MNRAS, 59 (1936), 197Obit., Obs,  97 (4), 279; Stroobant 1931).

Ward, Seth (1617-1689), born Buntingford,  astronomer and bishop of Exeter and Salisbury (ODNB; see Oxfordshire).