Cumberland

Astronomers

Fallows, Fearon (1788-1831), born in Cockermouth, Cumberland, from a humble background. After basic training in mathematics, and as a local schoolmaster, he received financial support to study mathematics at St John’s College, Cambridge, graduating in 1816.  Elected a fellow he went on to teach mathematics at the University of Cambridge. In 1820, through his connections with John Herschel, was elected as fellow of the Astronomical Society and also granted a fellowship to the Royal Society.  He was appointed as astronomer at the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa by the Admiralty.  Between 1821 and 1829 he worked on the development of the first southern hemisphere observatory. The Royal Society published his ‘Catalogue of 273 Stars’ in 1824.Fallows and all his observatory staff contracted scarlet fever in 1830, and despite partial recovery Fallows died in 1831 (see Obit MNRAS, 2, 63; ODNB).

Fletcher, Isaac (1827-79), established the Tarn Bank Observatory, 1848. He made many observations, and contributed 16 papers to Monthly Notices of the RAS, on double stars, star positions, Jupiter, saturn and the Sun.  For a good biographical note, see Peter D. Hingley, ‘The Shuckburghs of Shuckburgh, Isaac Fletcher, and the history of the English Mounting’, AntAs, Issue 7 (Spring 2013).

Hills, Edmond Herbert Grove (1864-1922), born at High Head Castle, Cumberland. A man of wide scientific interests including optics, photography, and surveying. His main astronomical interest was solar physics, and he attended eclipse expeditions and befriended leading astronomers. In June 1911 he was appointed honorary director of Durham university Observatory, and first proved that its novel almucantar telescope of 1900 was unreliable. He then designed a suspended zenith telescope, and was rigorously testing this instrument at the time of his death. Hill’s gift of his valuable spectroscopes, heliostat and 12-inch mirror in 1909 to Newall’s Cambridge Observatory helped to consolidate Cambridge’s dominance of British observational astrophysics.  As Treasurer of the RAS, Hills identified a crisis in the post-World War One finances, and instituted a fund which saved the Society.

Pattinson, Hugh L. (1796-1858), born at Alston, Cumberland (see Durham).

Pearson, Revd. Dr William (1767-1847), born at Whitbeck, a small village at the extreme south-west limit of the old county of Cumberland (see Leicestershire)

Observatories

Tarn Bank Observatory (1848-79), established by Isaac Fletcher, a Quaker, near the village of Greysouthen, near Cockermouth, close to the River Derwent. He aspired to work with the simplest means. Admiral Smyth was his inspiration and adviser, his purpose to re-observe some multiple stars from the Cycle. Fletcher built am 18-feet tower and 14-feet dome. From 1847 to 1864 he used a 4¼” Cooke refractor on a Dollond long polar axis mount, an instrument “of little dimension but great optics” with seven eyepieces and powers up to 500, on an Old English mount. Fletcher observed until 1864 and determined the orbits of three doubles, and measured many others. In 1859-60 he obtained a 9½” Cooke of 12¼-feet focal length, for double star work. His purpose was to re-observe Smyth’s Bedford Catalogue, and produce a new edition, for which purpose Smyth assigned to him his entire interest in that work.

Source: Andre and Rayet, Vol. 1, (1874) pp 160-62.

The Observatory also had a transit by Simms, and a clock by Frodsham. The 9″ refractor is still in use in Wanganui Observatory, New Zealand. For a good account of Fletcher and his observatories, see Peter D. Hingley, ‘The Shuckburghs of Shuckburgh, Isaac Fletcher, and the history of the English Mounting’, AntAs, Issue 7 (Spring 2013);  Howse 1986.

Whitehaven Observatory (1850-56), established by John Fletcher Miller, FRS (1816-56) was a cousin of Isaac Fletcher of Tarnbank, and had a reputation as a meteorologist before he joined the RAS and the RS. He built an observatorywith an elegant revolving conical roof, adjacent to the family’s tannery in Wellington Row. Miller observed double stars, Encke’s Comet, Saturn, the Sun and Mercury. Like Fletcher had a 4.14″ Cooke achromat with Simms micrometer, but German mounted with clock drive. Perhaps that was an earlier instrument, because another source says Miller mounted a 9½” Cooke at Whitehaven. Fletcher had a high regard for Miller’s measurements and used them to compare to his own observations.

Useful addresses

County Record Offices 

Cumbria Record Office and Local Studies Library, Barrow
Cumbria Record Office and Local Studies Library, Whitehaven
Cumbria Record Office, Carlisle Headquarters
Cumbria Record Office, Kendal
The Castle
Carlisle CA3 8UR
England

Tel 01228 607285
Fax 01228 607274

Email carlisle.record.office@cumbriacc.gov.uk

Societies and Organisations

Authors, lecturers, broadcasters

Acedemics and associated professionals

Publishers

Telescope / equipment manufacturers
Contact

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