SHA County Co-ordinator:

The Society would be delighted to hear from anyone with more information about this county’s links with astronomy. Can you add anything to the names of the people and places listed below? Please contact me if you have anything to add, however small.


No of SHA Members resident in this County …


Ball, Leslie (1911-1992) FRAS of ‘Auriga’, 27 Parkbrook Road, Northenden, Cheshire. A civil servant, he started with a 16cm Calver reflector, and later had a 25cm reflector which he built to mount a Slater mirror in 1935. His superb lunar drawings were much appreciated, and he did a lot of book illustrations. He continued observing until 1990. A member of “Mr Barker’s Circle”, an observing group of eight men active from April 1934 to December 1938 and May 1946 to May 1948 (see Hertfordshire, McKim 2013).

Burbidge, Margaret (1919- ), born Davenport, part of Stockport, astrophysicist who served at the University of London Observatory, Yerkes Observatoryof the University of Chicago, Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, England, the California Institute of Technology, and, from 1979 to 1988, was first director of the Center for Astronomy and Space Sciences at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), where she has worked since 1962.

Espin, Revd. Thomas H.E.C. (1858-1934), born Birmingham; after graduating from Oxford University he was appointed curate in West Kirby on the Wirral. Involved with the establishment of the Liverpool Astronomical Society.  Later he moved to County Durham and in 1888 he became vicar of Tow Law, a few miles south of Conset, County Durham, where he built his observatory there (ODNB) see Durham.

Hartnup, John Chapman (1806-85), astronomer  and first director of the Bidston Observatory (ODNB) see below.)

Longbottom, FrederickWilliam (1850-1933), hop merchant by trade, He operated several telescopes from his garden in Chester, including an 18½-inch Calver reflector. Longbottom was a keen astronomical photographer and went on to serve as Director of the BAA Photographic Section 1906-1926. He founded the Chester Astronomical Society in 1892 (see ‘Obit. Notices’, MNRAS, 94 (1934), 281).

Molyneux, Samuel (1689-1728), born Chester, politican and an amateur astronomer whose worked with James Bradley attempting to measure stellar parallax led to the discovery of the aberration of light. (see ODNB; Surrey).

Plummer, William (1849-1928), born near Greenwich. Trained at the ROG as a computer, and qualifying as an observer on the transit, in 1868 he joined Bishop’s Regent’s Park Observatory. Plummer later asserted that whatever skills he had acquired he owed to Bishop’s observer, John Hind. In 1874 Plummer was appointed First Assistant at the new University of Oxford Observatory. Professor Charles Pritchard never observed at Oxford, and the principal work fell to Plummer, as Pritchard always generously acknowledged. In 1892 Plummer was appointed director of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board’s Bidston Observatory, and remained there until his death (‘Obituary Notices…’, MNRAS, 89 [4] (Feb. 1929), 320-23). William’s son Henry Crozier Plummer became the first graduate assistant at the University of Oxford’s Observatory, and by appointment to Dublin in 1912 the only Oxford graduate between 1842 and 1939 to direct a British observatory.

Whichello, Dr. Harold  (1870-1945) BAA General Practitioner in Tattenhall where he resided at The Mount, owning a 6-inch Wray refractor (full history).


Bidston Observatory (1867-1914), Bidston, Birkenhead, (Merseyside since 1974), first established as the Liverpool Observatory in Waterloo Dock, Liverpool. Completed in 1849 it was jointly funded by the city council and dock authorities.  later in 1856 it was transferred to the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. In 1867 they relocated to Bidston Hill on the Wirral. The Observatory’s role was to test chronometers and give time to the city. The equipment was a 4″ Troughton & Simms transit, and a 8½” Merz equatorial with 4-foot circles by Simms, of 1845. The Director was John Hartnup, once one of Airy’s computers at the ROG, and recommended by him. His task was the demanding one of observing faint planets during daytime as they cross the meridian, to relieve Professor Challis at Cambridge of that task until Airy’s new Meridian Circle was ready (Scoffield 2006).

Bidston_Observatory Web

Later the Observatory was connected to Liverpool University and its Tidal Institute, which occupied the building after 1919.

Two seismographs 1897-1950s, surveying until the 1950s. meteorology section.

No astronomy since 1914, the original telescopes dismounted c.1970

Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics

Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics
Alan Turing Building
The University of Manchester
M13 9PL

Tel +44 (0) 1477 571321

Useful addresses

Local History Centres

Cheshire Local History Association

Cheshire Record Office, Duke Street, Chester CH1 1RL

Tel. 01244 602559 Fax. 01244 603812

The Family History Society of Cheshire – a group of 17 societies

Research Centre: The Festival Hall, Talbot Road, Alderley Edge, Cheshire, SK9 7HR
Tel. 01625 599722

County Record Office

Cheshire and Chester Archives and Local Studies Service,
Cheshire Record Office, Duke Street, Chester, Cheshire. CH1 1RL
Tel. 44 (0)1244 602574/972574

Societies and Organisations

Altrincham and District Astronomical Society (ADAS), founded 1964 by school boys at the 1st Timperley Scout HQ.  Member now meet monthly at the Timperley Village Club, 268 Stockport Road, Timperley (WA15 7UT).

Chester Astronomical Society (ChAS), meetings provide opportunities for informal discussion and regularly feature talks by professional and amateur astronomers. From September 2001, Chester Astronomical Society meetings will be held at the Burley Memorial Hall, Waverton, near Chester.

High Legh Community Observatory (HLCO), founded 2014.  Member meet monthly at St John’s Church Room, The Avenue, High Legh (WA16 6ND) and hold observing sessions at their observatory at Abbey Leys Farm in High Legh (WA16 6NS ).

Macclesfield Astronomical Society (MacAS), they  hold a Workshop, at the famous Jodrell Bank Observatory on the first Tuesday of each month and provide a Lecture by a visiting speaker and a Beginners class on the third and fourth Tuesday of every month respectively, at the Village Hall in Goostrey

Mid-Cheshire Astronomical Group (MDAG), founded 2013 by a group of students attending a local astronomy course, run by Andrew Davies (founder member) at John Dean college.  Members meet monthly at Forest Explorers, Delamere Forest, Linmere (CW8 2JD).

South Cheshire Astronomical Society (SCAS), a local group around Crewe with monthly lectures held at Dane Bank Avenue, Crewe, Cheshire (CW2 8AB) with club meets and observing at The Brittles Pavilion, Wistaston, Crewe (CW2 8HY).

Authors, lecturers, broadcasters
Academics and associated professionals


Telescope/equipment manufacturers


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