SHA County Co-ordinator: Mike Leggett Email: leggett189@btinternet.com 

No of SHA Members resident in this County: 1

An Astronomical Atlas of Buckinghamshire
NEW This atlas gives some idea of the extent of astronomical activity in the county… Click the link to view all the sections

An Historical Atlas of Buckinghamshire Astronomy_110414



NOTE: This includes individuals who have made contributions in related fields, e.g. mathematics, geography, exploration

Atkinson, John Jepson (?), barrister-at-law of ‘Cosgrove Priory, Stony Stratford’, he was proposed for election as a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society by A.A. Common in 1898 (RAS, 1898) and was elected FRAS in 1899 (RAS 1899) – Note: Cosgrove is in Northamptonshire, across the River Great Ouse from the nearby Buckinghamshire town of Stony Stratford.


Josiah Latimer Clark

Clark, (Josiah) Latimer  (1822-1898), amateur astronomer, was born in Great Marlow, Buckinghamshire. Initially employed as a chemist, his professional interests became more related to various aspects of engineering. A Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, his interests also included astronomy and photography. He invented in 1853 a camera that enabled stereoscopic pictures to be taken with a single lens. In 1857, he provided assistance to George Biddell Airy in the introduction of Greenwich Mean Time across the country (ODNB).

Dawes, Rev William Rutter (1799- 1868) was resident at Haddenham in Buckinghamshire from 1857 until his death in 1868 (Sheehan 1996). Dawes’ work on double stars and on Mars was recognised by the professional community [Hurn, 25 July 2006]. Dawes made a detailed study of Mars during the opposition of 1864 while at Haddenham (Sheehan 1996, p53). An exceptional observer, Dawes was noted for the keenness of his eyesight. In 1864, using an 8-inch (20 cm) Cooke refractor, Dawes prepared detailed drawings of Mars, which greatly improved on anything hitherto available (Sheehan 1996). Dawes is possibly best remembered nowadays for working out the Dawes Limit, the aperture of a telescope just necessary to separate the components of close double stars (Sheehan 1996; English 2009ODNB, Sharp 2006).
Sites and artefacts associated with Rev William Rutter Dawes: Dawes’ former house still stands in Haddenham village (Sharp 2006; Rose) and Dawes’ burial place is also in Haddenham [Rose]. Haddenham Museum has much general information about the village, though does not hold any artefacts specifically associated with Dawes [Rose]. Dawes was the original owner of the Thorrowgood Telescope, which is now at the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge – see also observatories below (Davenhall; Hurn, 25 July 2006; Hurn, 7 October 2007; County of London; Kent & Lancashire).

Epps, James (1773-1839) was employed as an assistant at Dr John Lee’s observatory at Hartwell House from 1838 (ODNB; RAS 1840].

Glaisher, James (1809-1903), astronomer and meteorologist, was employed as an assistant at Dr John Lee’s observatory at Hartwell House [McConnell].
NOTE: Some sources state that it was John Glaisher, brother of James, who worked at Hartwell House (see  Hartwell Observatory; County of London; CambridgeshireODNB).

Glaisher, John (1819-1846), brother of James Glaisher (see above), was employed at Hartwell House in Buckinghamshire (Hunt 1996, 318 & 322-3; ODNB).

Grover, Charles (1842-1921): Astronomer, born in Chesham, he was the second of two sons of John Grover, a shoemaker, and Elizabeth nee Birch. Apprenticed to a brushmaker at the age of 12 he made his own 3-inch refractor in 1861. During 1865 he had three letters published in the English Mechanic magazine, giving his address as Red Lion Street, Chesham. In February 1866 the English Mechanic reprinted his article ‘A Substitute for the Position Micrometer’. John Browning, instrument maker, of London offered him a job in 1869, and with his wife and son, George Charles, he left Chesham.
He left Browning in 1882 and went to Queensland, Australia to observe the transit of Venus. On his return to England in 1883 he became the resident astronomer to Cuthbert Peek in Rousdon, Devon. His work was primarily observing long period variable stars, but he also produced meteorological records, and was Curator of Peek’s private museum. He died on 16 February 1921, having completed a recorded total of 14,994 variable star observations over a period of 35 years, using the same Merz 6.4-inch refractor throughout. He was buried in the graveyard of St Pancras church, Rousdon.
The Merz telescope, and Grover’s books and papers, were acquired by the Science Museum, London in 2001 and 2004 respectively. [Grover; Slater 2005]

Hall, John James (1845-1941): An employee of the London and SW Railway, London and resident at Observatory Cottage, Datchet Road, Slough, Bucks [Kelly, 1899] at the time that he was proposed for election as a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society by W H Walmsley in 1898 (RAS, 1898). He was elected FRAS in February 1899 (RAS 1899; RAS, 1942). Among his many writings, he contributed a short letter ‘Driving clocks’ to the English Mechanic in 1903 (Hall 1903) and a paper on The Berthonian System of Standardizing Eyepieces for the British Optical Journal, which was reported in an issue of the Observatory [Observatory] (see Obit., MNRAS, 102 (1942), 65-6).

Herschel, Caroline (1750-1848): Astronomer, she assisted her brother, William Herschel (see below), with his observations. However, she was also an observer in her own right, particularly of comets (Moore, 1988; ODNB)

Herschel, Sir John Frederick William [FRAS] (1792-1871), the only child of William and Mary Herschel, was born in Observatory House, Slough. He was educated at Eton College and St John’s College, Cambridge, graduating senior wrangler in 1813. A co-founder of the Astronomical Society of London, and of the Cambridge University Observatory. He enjoyed great influence on all matters astronomical throughout a long career.
In 1816 he built a reflecting telescope with a mirror 18-inch aperture and 20-foot focal length. Between 1821 and 1823 he and James South used a 5-inch refractor borrowed from Admiral Smyth to re-examine the double stars catalogued by his father. For this in 1826 he won the RAS Gold Medal. In 1825 he and his father completed a refurbished 20-foot telescope with 18.7-inch mirrors. Between 1825 and 1833 he re-examined more of his father’s objects, and extended the survey, producing the Slough Catalogue that won him another RAS Gold Medal in 1836. The work on double stars had been undertaken as a continuation of his father’s work which attempted to measure the parallax of a star. In particular he developed methods to determine the orbits of those double stars which orbited a common centre of gravity, and for this work he received the Royal Medal of the Royal Society in 1833.
John Herschel from 1834 to 1838 took his 20-feet telescope to the Cape of Goof Hope to make the first really systematic survey of the southern skies. He discovered 3,347 double stars and 525 nebulae. He was generally acknowledged to be one of the three most gifted observers of his day, along with his close friend Dawes, and John Hind.
After returning to live in Hawkhurst, Kent, he saw his father’s and his own catalogues through to publication in 1864 as the General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters. This catalogue was later edited by John Dreyer, supplemented with discoveries by many other 19th century astronomers, and published in 1888 as the New General Catalogue (NGC) of over 7,840 deep sky objects. The NGC numbering is still the most commonly used identifying label for these celestial landmarks. This work is the lasting legacy of the three Herschels (see Chapman 1993, ODNB, Millar 1996; Moore, 1992; O’Connor and Robertson; Observatory House & Somerset).

Herschel, William (1738-1822), following the discovery of Uranus in March 1781 Herschel was appointed ‘The King’s Astronomer’ and moved from Bath to Datchet in 1782. However, the property at Datchet proved to be unsuitable and Herschel moved first to Clay Hall in Old Windsor in 1785, then to Windsor Road, Slough on 3 April 1786; the property on Windsor Road became known as Observatory House (see Observatories above). Within weeks of completing the 40 ft telescope on 28 August 1789, Herschel discovered two new moons of Saturn – Mimas and Enceladus (Slough Borough Council; Moore, 1991).
Sites associated with Hershel: St Laurence’s Church, Upton was where William Herschel married Mary Pitt in 1788. Following his death at Observatory House on 25 August 1822, William Herschel was laid to rest at St Laurence’s Church, Upton. There is an epitaph to William Herschel in the Church and also a recently-installed stained glass window by Andrew Taylor, the Herschel Window, which was dedicated in 2000 – see Observatories at Observatory House, Slough and William Herschel’s Observatory, Datchet (Norwood; Slough Borough Council; Taylor &  Somerset)

Hooke, Robert (1635-1703), physicist and instrument maker, who made several improvements to the telescope, he also designed and supervised the construction of the current St Mary Magdalene church at Willen [Figg].
Sites associated with Robert Hooke: Robert Hooke was architect of Willen Church. The Robert Hooke Building at the Open University, which accommodates part of the Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute (PSSRI) [OU PSSRI], has a portrait of Robert Hooke in one of the seminar rooms in the Robert Hooke Building [The OU Community Online].
[See also Willen people: Robert Hooke]

Kahn, Franz Daniel (1926–1998), astrophysicist and mathematician, died in Bourne End, Buckinghamshire on 8 February 1998 (ODNB).

Lax, William (1761–1836), astronomer, he was presented to the livings of Marsworth, Buckinghamshire (see ODNB; Cambridgeshire & Hertfordshire].

Lee, John [Dr] (1783-1866) was a founder member of the Astronomical Society (which became the Royal Astronomical Society) and treasurer of the Royal Astronomical Society from 1831 until 1840. He was also president of the Royal Astronomical Society from 1861 – 1862. He employed James Epps (see above), Norman Robert Pogson (see below) and James and John Glaisher (see above) at his astronomical observatory at Hartwell House (see Observatories below). Dr John Lee was also a member of many other learned societies, including a founder member of the British Meteorological Society, for whom he also served as Treasurer and President as well as the Royal Geographical Society (ODNB).
Sites associated with Dr John Lee: Hartwell House near Aylesbury, the former home of Dr Lee and site of his astronomical observatory (see observatories below) is now a hotel [Hartwell House Hotel, Restaurant and Spa; see also Historic House Hotels Ltd].
(See also observatories below)

Payne-Gaposchkin, Cecilia Helena (1900-1979): astronomer, was born at Wendover, Buckinghamshire [Mullay & Mullay, 2002]. After studies at Newnham College, Cambridge, in 1923 she moved to Harvard to begin research under Harlow Shapley. She became a full professor of astronomy at Harvard in 1956. Her principal research interest was variable stars and she co-wrote Variable Stars (1938), a book that became the standard reference (ODNB).

Pogson, Norman Robert (1829-1891) was employed as an assistant at Dr John Lee’s observatory at Hartwell House (see McConnell; ODNB; Nottinghamshire & Oxfordshire).

Reade, Rev Joseph Bancroft (1801–1870), microscopist and experimenter in photography, he became vicar of Stone, Buckinghamshire in December 1839, under the patronage of Dr John Lee of Hartwell, Buckinghamshire, and the Royal Astronomical Society (who owned the right of appointment. He subsequently became vicar of Ellesborough, Buckinghamshire, from 1859 to 1863. His interests in astronomy were strongly influenced by Dr Lee and the Meteorological Society at Hartwell House a few miles from Stone (See John Lee and Observatories, Hartwell House below). He contributed a series of observations of comets to the Royal Astronomical Society from 1844 to 1850. He also received a medal at the Great Exhibition of 1851 for his design of a ‘solid eyepiece’. Reade is listed as resident in Stone in 1854 (see Yorkshire: West RidingReade 1854; Post Office; Sherwood; ODNB ).

Smyth, William Henry (1788-1865), naval officer, surveyor and amateur astronomer, died at St John’s Lodge, Stone, near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire on 9 September 1865. He was a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and contributed numerous papers to the Proceedings of the RAS and many other journals. He was the author of The Cycle of Celestial Objects for the Use of Naval, Military, and Private Astronomers (2 vols., 1844), which led to the award of the Royal Astronomical Society’s gold medal. He built and equipped an astronomical observatory at Bedford, parts of which were eventually moved to Buckinghamshire; the “Smyth equatorial” was moved to Hartwell House Observatory (see Observatories, Hartwell House above) and the revolving roof was used in Rev Reade’s observatory at Stone (see Observatories, Rev Joseph Bancroft Reade’s Observatory, Stone above). About 1850 he moved from Bedford to St John’s Lodge, Stone. Smyth is listed as resident in St John’s Lodge, Stone in 1854 [Post Office]. His son, Charles Piazzi Smyth, who was born in Naples, was the astronomer royal for Scotland (ODNB); Sherwood]


1. Current observatories

Chiltern Observatory, Wycombe Astronomical Society (1991-current), originally built in 1991, a rebuilt observatory was opened in 1997. In 2001 the observatory was refurbished through the installation of a new Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. Further information can be obtained from the Wycombe Astronomical Society.

Colin Hunt Observatory, Aylesbury Astronomical Society (?), situated near Upper Winchendon.

The Open University Observatory, Milton Keynes (?), situated at the Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes.

2. Sites of former observatories

The Cottage Observatory, Datchet Road, Slough (?), several editions of Kelly’s Directory include a statement that there was an astronomical observatory on the Datchet Road, Slough [Kelly, 1899; Kelly, 1915], though there was no mention of the observatory in 1883 [Kelly, 1883]. This was possibly the observatory of John James Hall, who was resident at Observatory Cottage, Datchet Road, Slough (Kelly, 1899; RAS, 1898). Although his address was Observatory Cottage, a letter in the English Mechanic included ‘The Cottage Observatory’ as part of the address. (Further information about John James Hall is given in Astronomers above).

Hartwell House Observatory, near Aylesbury (1831-1860s), former observatory of Dr John Lee, the observatory was established in 1831 [McConnell]. Instruments included a sidereal clock by Vulliamy of London, a 3-inch transit instrument by Jones of London and a 5.9-inch equatorial refractor by Dollond with objective by Tulley and a Sheepshank clock-drive. The latter is known as the ‘Smyth Equatorial’ and was previously in W H Smyth’s observatory in Bedford. The ‘Smyth Equatorial’ was at Hartwell House from 1836 to 1859 and was reported in 1986 to be in the Science Museum. Hartwell House is now one of the Historic House Hotels and is owned by the National Trust [Hartwell House Hotel, Restaurant and Spa; see also Historic House Hotels Ltd] (Howse 1986).

Herschel’s Observatory, Datchet (1783-1785), in 1782 William Herschel and his sister Caroline Herschel lived in a house on Horton Road, Datchet. From 1783 to 1785 Hershel occupied ‘The Lawn’ on Horton Road, where he built a 20ft telescope in the garden.  Commander Anthony Fanning has shown that Herschel rented a wing (now demolished) of The Lawns, a large house with grounds on Horton Road. During his time at Datchet, Herschel built a 20ft telescope deploying a mirror 12 inches in diameter, and with this supplementing his favourite 6.2-inch reflector in 1782 he began systematic scrutiny of the whole sky. But the site was damp and foggy, and bad for his health. In 1786 he and Caroline moved to Slough (see Howse 1986).

Herschel’s Observatory, Slough (1786-1830s) – see Observatory House.

Hopefield Observatory, Haddenham (?), Rev William Rutter Dawes had an observatory called the Hopefield Observatory in Haddenham, Bucks (Note: Some sources state Haddenham Cambridgeshire, but the actual location was Haddenham, Bucks). Rev Dawes was the first owner of the Thorrowgood Telescope which is now at the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge – see Dawes (Davenhall; Hurn, 30 June 2006; Hurn, 7 October 2006; Sharp 2006).

Richard Lambert Observatory, Bradwell Abbey, Milton Keynes (?), Milton Keynes Astronomical Society formerly had an observatory at the City Discovery Centre (originally called the Bradwell Abbey Field Centre). The observatory housed an 8 inch reflecting telescope and the observatory was officially dedicated by Colin A Ronan on 10th June 1978 to the memory of Richard Lambert [Bradwell Abbey; Astronomy Now, 1988]. Richard Lambert was the founder of MKAS and had died in 1976, aged 20. After removal of the telescope in June 1996 by MKAS, the observatory site was redeveloped.

Observatory Cottage, Datchet Road, Slough – see The Cottage Observatory


William Herschel’s 40-foot Telescope – Maunder, The Mightnight Sky (1872)

Observatory House (William Herschel’s Observatory), Windsor Road, Slough (1786-1915), from 1786, it was the home of William Herschel (see astronomers below). His sister  Caroline Herschel (see astronomers below) lived there until William Herschel’s marriage in 1788. The house was the birthplace of John Frederick William Herschel (see astronomers below) and briefly the childhood home of Alexander Herschel. In 1899, Alexander Stuart Herschel was recorded as resident at Observatory House [Kelly, 1899]. In 1907, Alexander Stuart Herschel and Col John Herschel were both recorded as resident at Observatory House [Kelly, 1907]. In 1915, Col John Herschel was recorded as resident at Observatory House [Kelly, 1915]. Observatory House was demolished in 1962 and the site on the corner of Windsor Road and Herschel Street is now occupied by offices (Moore, 1991; Moore, 1992, Moore, 1993). Outside the offices is an abstract sculpture commemorating William Herschel’s telescope (Tanford 1995 & Reynolds), 1995; Slough Borough Council] – See  St Laurence’s Church, Upton (Howse 1986).

 Rev Joseph Bancroft Reade’s Observatory, Stone (1853-?), in 1853, Reade described his small observatory and telescope in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society [Wood]. The observatory on the lawn of the vicarage in Oxford Road was described as being of Grecian design. It contained a transit room 11 ft long, 10 ft wide and 10 ft high. There was an equatorial roof almost 14 ft in diameter; the revolving roof was formerly at Vice-Admiral Smyth’s Observatory at Bedford [Beattie; Sherwood].

3. Other sites and objects of astronomical interest
Armillary Sphere, Campbell Park, Milton Keynes

By Justin Tunley (1995), the Armillary Sphere is made from mild steel, laser cut and painted and is located at the Labyrinth, in Campbell Park, near to Silbury Boulevard in Central Milton Keynes [MKWeb].

Circle of Hearts Medicine Wheel (Willen Lakeside North, 2000), Tree Cathedral (Newlands Park, 1986) and Midsummer Boulevard (Central Milton Keynes)

The additional pairs of stones situated to the NE and SW of the Medicine Wheel join the line of the midsummer sunrise that runs through the Tree Cathedral and on towards Midsummer Boulevard in Central Milton Keynes [MKWeb].

Herschel Epitaph and Herschel Window, St Laurence’s Church, Upton, Slough

Further information about William Herschel’s connections with St Laurence’s Church and the Herschel Window is presented below. (See Astronomers – William Herschel, Sites associated with William Herschel.)

Milton Keynes Museum (McConnell Drive, Wolverton, MK12 5EL), includes display of historic telephones and working equipment, which shows the development of engineering and switching technologies, as part of Connected Earth, a network of museums and visitor attractions across the country. For specific information about the Telephone Museum at Milton Keynes see also

Solar Clock, (Shenley Lodge, Milton Keynes), is a sundial but also has lights around the “clock face”, which can be used to tell the time during the hours of darkness. The Solar Clock is one of the features on the Shenley Lodge Energy Park, which was the former site of the Energy World Exhibition. All houses in the Energy Park were constructed to very high standards of energy efficiency and there were many experimental building designs. The street names in Shenley Lodge are named after scientists, inventors and inventions associated with energy, for example Faraday [Leggett, 1993], Edison, Joule, Laser, Rumford, Rutherford [Leggett, 1994].

Erasmus Williams Memorial, (Tingewick Parish Church), is a brass tablet on the East wall of the chancel that depicts Rev Erasmus Williams, who was rector of the Parish Church of St Mary Magdalen, Tingewick from 1589 to 1608. On each side of him is a pillar from which hang various items, including astronomical instruments and an inscription below the tablet refers to his spare time spent on the pursuit of “humane arts” represented by the objects depicted in the tablet [GenUKI; Kelly, 1915].

Local History Centre and Societies

Buckinghamshire Archaeological Society

Buckinghamshire Family History Society (Bucks FHS Membership Secretary, PO Box 403, Aylesbury, Bucks HP21 7GU), the Society holds main meetings in Aylesbury, with the Northern Group meeting in Bletchley and the Southern Group meeting in Bourne End.

Buckinghamshire Genealogical Society

GENUKI Buckinghamshire

Genealogy in England — Buckinghamshire

Buckinghamshire County Council Libraries

Milton Keynes Library Service

Milton Keynes Local Studies and Family History Library (Central Library, 555 Silbury Boulevard, Central Milton Keynes MK9 3HL; Tel: 01908 254160; email: mklocal@milton-keynes.gov.uk).

County Record Office
Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies (County Hall, Walton Street, Aylesbury, HP20 1UU) Visitors are requested to contact the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies in advance of their visit.

Buckinghamshire Record Society

Societies and Organisations

Aylesbury Astronomical Society (AylAS) founded 1962

Aylesbury Mechanics’ Institute and Literary Society, Temple Street
Formed in 1840 as the Mechanics’ Institute [Kelly, 1915], in 1854 it was referred to as the Mechanics’ Institution and Reading Rooms [Post Office]. New premises in Temple Street were opened in 1880, built at the expense of Sir Nathaniel de Rothschild; there was a spacious reading room on the ground floor with a library above [Kelly, 1883]. In 1883, it was referred to as the Mechanics’ Institute and Literary Society [Kelly, 1883]. By 1899, it had become the Literary Institute and the library contained 1 600 volumes [Kelly, 1899]. By 1915, the library had grown to 2 500 volumes and the Literary Institute had about 250 members [Kelly, 1915].

Beaconsfield Literary and Mechanics’ Institute, High Street
It was listed in 1883 [Kelly, 1883], so was probably formed before that year. However, as there was no mention in a directory for 1854 [Post Office], it was probably formed sometime between 1854 and 1883. There is no mention in directories for 1899, 1911 and 1915 [Kelly, 1899; Kelly, 1911; Kelly, 1915], so presumably ceased to exist sometime before 1899.

Buckingham Literary and Scientific Institution, Bridge Street
It was listed in a directory for 1854 [Post Office], so was probably founded before that year. In 1883, it occupied the upper floor of the Town Hall in Bridge Street and had a library of 800 volumes [Kelly, 1883]. There does not appear to be any mention of this organization in directories for 1899, 1911 and 1915 [Kelly, 1899; Kelly, 1911; Kelly, 1915], so it presumably ceased to exist some time before 1899.

Chesham Mechanics’ Institute, Market Square
It was probably formed before 1854, as it was listed in a directory for that year [Post Office]. The address was given as Town Hall [Post Office]. By 1883, the address was given as Market Square [Kelly, 1883]. The Mechanics’ Institute was also listed in 1899 [Kelly, 1899] and in 1907 [Kelly, 1907], with William F Lowndes esq. as president. However, by 1911 the Chesham Mechanics’ Institute was no longer listed, but the Chesham Institute was listed, also at Market Square and with William F Lowndes esq. as president [Kelly, 1911]. By 1915, it seems that it might have again changed its name, this time to the Chesham Club and Literary Institute, and moved to Station Road [Kelly, 1915]. The officers of the Chesham Institute in 1911 and the Chesham Club and Literary Institute in 1915 were almost identical: William F Lowndes esq. president; J G Stone, junior honorary secretary; and H Culmer, librarian.

Chiltern Group of Astronomical Societies
The Aylesbury, Milton Keynes and Wycombe Astronomical Societies are members, together with Abingdon and Luton Astronomical Societies.

Great Marlow Literary and Scientific Institution, High Street
The institution was established in 1853 [Kelly, 1883]. It was described in 1854 as “well patronised by the principal inhabitants” [Post Office]. In 1883, it included a library of “1 000 volumes of useful and standard works, newspapers and periodicals, with London and provincial directories”, with a lecture room separately located in St Peter’s Street [Kelly, 1883]. From 1899, there is no mention of the Great Marlow Literary and Scientific Institution, but it is possible that it became the Great Marlow Institute, which appears in directories for 1899 [Kelly, 1899], 1911 [Kelly, 1911] and 1915 [Kelly, 1915].

High Wycombe Natural History Society
In the sources so far consulted, this society is mentioned in directories for 1883 and 1899 only. On a page devoted to the geology of Buckinghamshire, High Wycombe Natural History Society is mentioned under Natural History and Scientific Societies [Kelly, 1883; Kelly, 1899]. However, it does not seem to appear elsewhere in the 1883 or 1899 directories. Furthermore, in 1907 and 1915 on the geology of Buckinghamshire page, under Natural History and Scientific Societies, The High Wycombe Literary and Scientific Institution (see below) is mentioned.

The High Wycombe Literary and Scientific Institute
See Wycombe Literary and Scientific Institution

Milton Keynes Astronomical Society (MilKAS):
Founded in 1972 in Bletchley by Richard Lambert and several school friends, in 1976 MKAS began meeting at what was then the Bradwell Abbey Field Centre. MKAS converted a former farm outbuilding into a meeting room and built an observatory adjacent to the meeting room at Bradwell Abbey. By the time of the Bradwell Abbey Open Week in June 1978, MKAS had a membership of 25 and had approximately doubled in size during the preceding year [Bradwell Abbey]. From 1986 to 1988, MKAS participated in a national astronomy quiz and the MKAS team reached the semi-final, where MKAS met and lost to Mexborough and Swinton Astronomical Society [Astronomy Now, 1989]. In 1988, MKAS had a membership of about 20, with interests ranging from deep sky photography, double star measurements with a home-made filar micrometer, to sunspot recording. A project at that time was the construction of a 12 inch f/8 reflector, using optics loaned by the British Astronomical Association [Astronomy Now, 1988]. In 1990, the first Richard Lambert Memorial Lecture was held in memory of the founder of the Society and the lecture has been held annually ever since. A list of the Richard Lambert Memorial Lectures can be found on the MKAS website [http://www.mkas.org.uk/mem_gen_rlml.htm]. In February 2001, MKAS achieved charitable status. In March 1997, MKAS returned to its roots in Bletchley, when it began to meet at Rectory Cottages. MKAS meetings continue to be held at Rectory Cottages, Church Green Road, Bletchley on alternate Fridays beginning at 8.00 pm.

Sites associated with MKAS: MKAS meets at Rectory Cottages, a medieval building on Church Green Road in Bletchley. Further information about the building can be found on the Rectory Cottages Trust website [Rectory Cottages Trust]. MKAS formerly met at Bradwell Abbey Field Centre, where it had its own meeting room and observatory [Astronomy Now, 1988] (see Observatories – Richard Lambert Observatory above).
Artefacts associated with MKAS: There are two especially unusual artefacts associated with MKAS. A scale-model of a Space Shuttle, which had previously been used in the James Bond film “Moonraker”, was subsequently held by MKAS and was a display item at the meeting room at Bradwell Abbey. The space shuttle model was on display at the Bradwell Abbey Open Day in 1978 [Bradwell Abbey] and was used in a display at the Milton Keynes Central Library in December 1987 as part of the MKAS fifteenth anniversary; a photograph of the Space Shuttle model appeared in Astronomy Now [Astronomy Now, 1988]. St Mary’s Church, Shenley Church End, has a kneeler featuring the MKAS logo, which was produced as part of a Millennium project to produce new kneeler covers for the church.

New Wolverton Science and Art Institute
See Wolverton Science and Art Institute

North Bucks Junior Astronomers
This former astronomical society was based at the Bradwell Abbey Field Centre, Milton Keynes.

Olney Mechanics’ Institute, High Street, Olney
It is listed in directories for 1883 [Kelly, 1883] and 1899 [Kelly, 1899] and 1907 [Kelly, 1907], but very little detail is given. It is not listed in directories for 1854 [Post Office, 1854], 1911 [Kelly, 1911] and 1915 [Kelly, 1915].

Open University Astronomy Club, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes
The OU Astronomy Club is based at the Open University Campus at Walton Hall, Milton Keynes.

Open University Society for Astronomy and Planetary Sciences (OUSAPS)
The membership is drawn from the OU as a whole and is not confined to the Milton Keynes/Buckinghamshire area.

Princes Risborough Literary Institute and Reading Room, High Street, listed in directories for 1899 [Kelly, 1899], 1907 [Kelly, 1899], 1911 [Kelly, 1911] and 1915 [Kelly, 1915]. It is not included in a directory for 1883 [Kelly, 1883].

Slough Mechanics’ Institute and Reading Room, Church Street, listed in directories for 1854 [Post Office] and 1883 [Kelly, 1883]. In 1883, it had a library of 800 volumes [Kelly, 1883]. It is not listed in directories for 1899 [Kelly, 1899], 1911 [Kelly, 1911] and 1915 [Kelly, 1915].

Wendover Literary Institution/Society, High Street. Variously listed as an “institution” and a “society”, the Wendover Literary Institution was built in 1865, by the late Lieut-General Philip Smith [Kelly, 1899]. In 1883, it was stated that lectures were occasionally delivered and that there was a “commodious reading room” with a library of 500 volumes [Kelly, 1883]. However, in 1899 [Kelly, 1899] and 1915 [Kelly, 1915], the library consisted of 250 volumes, but there was a periodical exchange of books with an external library (in 1899) and a bookseller (in 1915).

West Wycombe Literary and Mechanics’ Institute
It had a reading room and library, which was open from 10.00 am to 10.00 pm daily [Kelly, 1883; Kelly, 1899]. In 1899, the library comprised 300 volumes [Kelly, 1899].

Wolverton Science and Art Institute, Church Street
Opened in 1864, in connection with the Department of Science and Art at South Kensington, the City and Guilds of London Institute and the Society of Arts, it contained several classrooms, a reading room, library and large lecture hall seating 500 persons. In 1891, it was enlarged to include a chemical laboratory and gymnasium, then in 1910 a mechanical laboratory was added [Kelly, 1915]. Dunleavy states that it was originally founded in 1840 as the Wolverton Mechanics’ Institute, but did not have permanent buildings until 1864, when it became the Science and Art Institute. The building was destroyed in a fire in 1970 [Dunleavy].

Wycombe Astronomical Society (WyAS)
Based at Woodrow High House, near Amersham, Wycombe Astronomical Society was formed in 1981.

Wycombe Literary and Scientific Society, Church Square, High Wycombe
Established in 1844, in 1883 it occupied a “handsome building” in Church Square [Kelly, 1883]. It occupied the upper portion of the Shambles, an octagonal building built in 1761 from designs by architects James and Robert Adams [Kelly, 1899; Kelly, 1915, pp229-230]. The library comprised 1 300 volumes [Kelly, 1883; Kelly, 1899]. From the late C19th to the early C20th, membership declined, from over 300 members in 1883 [Kelly, 1883], to 135 members in 1899 [Kelly, 1899], then to 110 members in 1906 [Kelly, 1907] and about 90 members in 1915, the final year for which membership data has so far been found [Kelly, 1915].

Authors, Lecturers, Broadcasters

Bonnycastle, John (c.1760-1821), mathematician, born Whitchurch, Buckinghamshire. As private tutor to the sons of the Earl of Pomfret he lived in Easton Neston in Northamptonshire. Much of his work was in London, and from October 1782, he was mathematics master at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. In July 1807, he became professor of mathematics. He wrote several textbooks on mathematics and was also author of An Introduction to Astronomy (1786), a popular introduction to astronomy and one of the best-selling astronomy books for many years (ODNB).

Booth, Rev James (1806-1878) succeeded Rev Joseph Bancroft Reade as vicar of Stone and was presented to the living of Stone in 1859 by the Royal Astronomical Society. He was very committed to the promotion of education for all classes both within the parish of Stone and more widely. He was instrumental in the establishment of several schools in and around the parish and also started an evening school in connection with a Young Man’s Mutual Improvement Society. He served as vicar of Stone until his death in April 1878 (Sherwood; ODNB).

Challis, Rev James Law (1833-1919) succeeded Rev James Booth as vicar of Stone and was presented to the living of Stone in 1879 by the Royal Astronomical Society. He was also vicar of Hartwell from 1902, when the livings of Stone and Hartwell were united. Challis was actively interested in astronomy; soon after taking his degree in 1856, he acted as assistant to his father James Challis, Plumian Professor of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge. While vicar of Stone he presented a series of winter evening lectures on astronomy, given in the parish room and which were greatly appreciated. Challis is listed as resident in Stone as vicar and rural dean in 1899 [Kelly, 1899].He resigned the livings of Stone and Hartwell in 1916 and move to Exmouth, where he died on 11 November 1919. However, he was buried at Stone church (Hurn; RAS, 1920).

Collins, Cecil James Henry (1908–1989), painter, sometime resident near Speen, Buckinghamshire, whose influences included contemporary scientific illustrations of both cell biology and astronomy (ODNB).

Grover, Henry Montague (1791-1866), writer with an interest in astronomy, he wrote Soundings of antiquity: a new method of applying the astronomical evidences to the events of history (1862). He was also Rector of Hitcham, Buckinghamshire from 1833 (ODNB).

Healy, Richard (1634-fl.1658), mathematician and astrologer, he published almanacs for Aylesbury and Buckingham for 1655 and 1658 (Capp 1979, 311).

Lambert, Richard (?), founder of the Milton Keynes Astronomical Society (MKAS), died in 1976 aged 20. The former observatory of the MKAS was dedicated to his memory (see Observatories – Richard Lambert Observatory above). Since 1990, MKAS has held the annual Richard Lambert Memorial Lecture.

Newton, John (1621–1678), mathematician and clergyman, he was probably born in Lavendon, Buckinghamshire. He advocated the use of decimal arithmetic in a series of connected books, including Astronomia Britannica (1657) – (ODNB).

Oughtred, William (1575-1660), mathematician, tutor and clergyman, was born at Eton, Buckinghamshire. Oughtred is generally considered to be the inventor of both the circular and rectilinear slide rule [Westfall], (though Delamain published a description of a circular form before Oughtred and the modern form of the slide rule was designed in 1850 by Amedee Mannheim [O’Connor and Robertson]. Publications included Circles of proportion and the Horizontal instrument (1632), which included descriptions of slide rules and sundials. He also wrote some minor works on watch making and methods to determine the position of the Sun. As a teacher, his pupils included Christopher Wren (O’Connor and Robertson; ODNB).

Sharp, John (fl.1739-1757), described as a “Student in celestial sciences”, he lived at West Wycombe and published The British Diary for 1740 – 1746 (Capp 1979, 331).

Stone, Edward (1702-1768), Church of England clergyman, discoverer of the active ingredient of aspirin and amateur astronomer, was born in Lacey Green, Princes Risborough. After the transit of Venus on 6 June 1761, Stone published The whole doctrine of parallaxes explained … by an arithmetical and geometrical construction of the transit of Venus in 1763. The book included the identification of places where the next transit, that of 1769, could best be observed. A second edition of the book followed in 1768 (ODNB).

Wells, Edward (1667-1727), clergyman and educationist, was rector of Bletchley, Buckinghamshire from March 1716. He published several mathematical works, including Elementa arithmeticae (1698), Young Gentleman’s Astronomy, Chronology and Dialling (1712), Young Gentleman’s Arithmetick and Geometry (1713), Young Gentleman’s Course of Mathematicks (1714), and Young Gentleman’s Trigonometry, Mechanicks and Opticks (1714). These volumes included mathematical aspects of geography, for example use of globes and determination of latitude and longitude (ODNB).

Acedemics and Associated Professionals

1. Historical
Dr Richard Busby was headmaster of Westminster School and Lord of the Manor at Willen, Bucks (now part of Milton Keynes) [Figg]. At Westminster School, his pupils included Robert Hooke and possibly Christopher Wren. However, sources differ on the latter point; Figg and Willen People [Figg; Willen People: Dr Richard Busby] both include Christopher Wren, but Downes states that Wren’s attendance at Westminster School from 1641 to 1646 is unsubstantiated (ODNB).

2. Current
NOTE: At the present time it is not possible to provide details of named individuals. However, the following academic institutions are actively involved in education and research in astronomy and related disciplines

Open University
Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA
Website: http://www.open.ac.uk/
See the following website for addresses including details for requests for course information http://www3.open.ac.uk/addresses/
The following are also based at the Open University
Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute
Website: http://pssri.open.ac.uk/
Interdisciplinary Centre for Astrobiology


Science History Publications Ltd was formerly based at Halfpenny Furze, Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire
NOTE: This is not the current address for Science History Publications, which at the time of writing is based in Cambridge.
They publish the Journal for the History of Astronomy and its supplement Archaeoastronomy, as well as other publications relating to the history of astronomy.

Robert Wyer [Wyre] (fl. 1524–1556), printer and bookseller, the place and date of his birth is unknown, but it has been suggested that he had links with the Wyers who were printers in Wendover, Buckinghamshire. He printed publications on a wide range of subjects, both religious and secular, including astronomy (ODNB).

Telescope Manufacturers

Henry Fry Lovegrove, High Street, Slough
“…practical optician and watchmaker; philosophical apparatus of every description repaired and adjusted, old scientific instruments re-lacquered, bronzed, gilt & silvered […] See advertisement” [Kelly, 1883]

References and Bibliography

Astronomy Now 1988, Society News: Milton Keynes Astronomical Society, Astronomy Now, Vol 2:10, October 1988, p20

Astronomy Now 1989, Astronomy Now Quiz: The Final, Astronomy Now, 3:7, July 1989, p6

Beattie, Chris: email to the Buckinghamshire county co-ordinator, received 08 August 2009

Peter Biswell, Bicentenary of the Birth of Dr John Lee, Journal of the British Astronomical Association, 94:3, pp125 – 126, 1984

Bradwell Abbey, Bradwell Abbey Open Week Official Programme, 10th – 17th June [1978]

Davenhall, Clive, ‘Report of SHA Autumn Conference’ (7 October 2006), SHA Newsletter, Issue 13, February 2007, pp8-9

Dunleavy, Brian, The Science and Art Institute, Wolverton Past – History before 1960  (retrieved 2 Feb. 2011)

Figg, John, ‘St Mary Magdalene [Church], Willen‘ – Historical notes (retrieved 4 Feb. 2011)

GenUKI, Tingewick; Quote from Lysons S and Lysons D, Magna Britannia: Buckinghamshire (1806)

Grover, Jerry: email with document about Charles Grover, sent to the Buckinghamshire county co-ordinator, received 16 January 2008

Hartwell House Hotel, Restaurant and Spa (retrieved 31 Oct.2010)

Historic House Hotels Ltd (retrieved 30 Jan. 2011)

Hurn, Mark: email to the Buckinghamshire county co-ordinator, received 30 June 2006

Hurn, Mark: email to the Buckinghamshire county co-ordinator, received 25 July 2006

Hurn, Mark, ‘From Eagle-eyed to the Southern Railway: The Owners of the Thorrowgood Telescope 1864 – 1928′, paper presented at the SHA Autumn Conference, 7 October 2006.

Kelly’s Directory of Buckinghamshire, 1883; p266 (High Wycombe Natural History Society); p279, p285 (Aylesbury Mechanics’ Institute and Literary Society); p289 (Beaconsfield Literary and Mechanics’ Institute); p297, p300 (Buckingham Literary and Scientific Institution); p307, p310 (Chesham Mechanics’ Institute); p355, p358 (Great Marlow Literary and Scientific Institution); p372 (Olney Mechanics’ Institute); p382, p385 (Slough Mechanics’ Institute); p385 (Henry Fry Lovegrove); p402 (Wendover Literary Institution/Society); p416 (The High Wycombe Literary and Scientific institute); p424 (West Wycombe Literary and Mechanics’ Institute); p471 (Literary and Scientific Institutions)

Kelly’s Directory of Buckinghamshire, 1899; p10 (High Wycombe Natural History Society); p21 (Aylesbury Literary Institute); p59, p60, p62, p63 (Chesham Mechanics’ Institute); p141 (Olney Mechanics’ Institute); p153 (astronomical observatory on Datchet Road, Slough); p155 (John James Hall); p156 (Alexander Stuart Herschel); p165 (Rev. Jas Law Challis); p180, p181 (Wendover Literary Institution/Society); p191, p192 (Wolverton Science and Art Institute); p198, p206 (Wycombe Literary and Scientific institute); p208 (West Wycombe Literary and Mechanics’ Institute); p271 (Literary and Scientific Institutions)

Kelly’s Directory of Buckinghamshire, 1907, p170 (Col John Herschel and Alexander Stuart Herschel); p208 (West Wycombe Literary and Mechanics’ Institute); p216 (Wycombe Literary and Scientific institute); pp297-298 (Literary and Scientific Institutions)

Kelly’s Directory of Buckinghamshire, 1911; pp316-317 (Literary and Scientific Institutions)

Kelly’s Directory of Buckinghamshire, 1915, p12 (High Wycombe Literary and Scientific institution); p27 (Aylesbury Mechanics’ Institute and Aylesbury Literary Institute); p179 (Observatories in Slough: Datchet Road and Observatory House, Windsor Road); p182 (Col John Herschel); p202 (Rev Erasmus Williams and Tingewick Parish Church); p209 (Wendover Literary Institution/Society); p221 (Wolverton Science and Art Institute); pp229-230, p239 (Wycombe Literary and Scientific Institute); p322 (Literary and Scientific Institutions)

Leggett, Mike, ‘What’s in a name?’, Faraday, Energy Express [Shenley Lodge] Community Newsletter, Spring 1993, p6-7 (for further information about this document contact the county co-ordinator, Mike Leggett)

Leggett,Michael J, ‘What’s in a Name: The history behind Shenley Lodge road names’, 1994 (for further information about this document contact the county co-ordinator, Mike Leggett)

MKWeb, Artwalks (retrieved 31 Jan. 2011)


Norwood, Rev Tim: email communication to the county co-ordinator about the Herschel Window, St Laurence’s Church, Upton, Slough, received 24 November 2010

 O’Connor, J J and  Robertson, E F, John Frederick William Herschel

O’Connor, J J and  Robertson, E F, William Oughtred

The OU Community Online, New Robert Hooke portrait unveiled (retrieved 4 Feb. 2011)

OU PSSRI, Open University Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute (retrieved 4 Feb. 2011)

Post Office Directory, Kelly, 1854; p71, p72, p76 (Aylesbury Mechanics’ Institution and Reading Rooms); p85 (Buckingham Literary and Scientific Institution); p89, p92 (Chesham Mechanics’ Institute); p116 (Great Marlow Literary and Scientific Institution); p137 (Slough Mechanics’ Institute); p142 (Rev Joseph Bancroft Reade; Rear-Admiral William Henry Smyth)

Quick, Kevin, Datchet, GENUKI (accessed 24 April 2009; Link no longer functioning 31 October 2010)

RAS, Biographical notice of James Epps, Esq., MNRAS, 5 (1840), 24-5

RAS ,’Election of Fellows to the Royal Astronomical Society’, MNRAS, 59 (1898), 53-4

RAS, ‘Election of Fellows to the Royal Astronomical Society’, MNRAS, 59 (1899), p202

RAS ‘Notes’, Observatory, 26 (May 1903), pp222-223

RAS, ‘Obituary Notices: Fellows:- Challis, James Law’ MNRAS, 80, (1920), p.345

RAS,’Obituary Notices: Fellows:- John James Hall’, MNRAS, 102 (1942), 65-6

Reectory Cottages Trust (retrieved 6 Feb. 2011)

Rose, Alan: email to the Buckinghamshire county co-ordinator, received on 25 July 2009, following conversation with representatives of the Haddenham Museum at the Buckinghamshire Family History Society Open Day, also on 25 July 2009

Sherwood, Sylvia: emails to the Buckinghamshire county co-ordinator, received 26 July 2009, 29 July 2009 and 03 August 2009, following discussions with representatives of Records of Stone Parish at the Buckinghamshire Family History Society Open Day on 25 July 2009

Sir William Herschel, Slough Borough Council (retrieved 30 Jan. 2011)

Taylor, Andrew , The Herschel Window (retrieved 30 Jan. 2011)

Westfal, Richard, Galileo Project,  William Oughtred

Willen People: Dr Richard Busby (retrieved 4 Feb. 2011)

Willen People: Robert Hooke, , (retrieved 4 Feb. 2011)


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