Research into this county was carried out by the late  Kenneth J Goward FRAS


Airy, George Biddell [KCB] (1810-1892), seventh Astronomer Royal, from the age of 13 spent much time with his uncle in Playford, Suffolk. See: County of London – Royal Observatory, Greenwich. Airy maintained a home in Suffolk and spent vacations and maintained friendships there (ODNB).

Biddell, George Arthur (1824-1901), cousin of G.B. Airy, worked as an engineer at Rasomes Sim &  Head. Superintended the erection of their Orwell works and the Great Airy Transit Circle at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.  After retirement he followed his interest in astronomy, being elected in 1892 to the newly founded  British Astronomical Association (see Grace’s Guide).

Barnes, J.B., Colonel (?), resided in 1930s at North Cottage, Maybush Lane, Felixstowe. Kept meticulous notes on Astronomical terms and mathematical problems. Amassed his notes on voyages around the world in 1903 and 1908, subsequently added to on further voyages 1924 to 1927. 12.06.07. notes now in possession of Mrs Wragg of Coddenham.

Bennett, Arthur Frederick [FRAS] (1871–1937), resided at Leiston (Obit. MNRAS4 (1938),  245-6; Obit.: JBAA, 47[9] 1937, 333-4).

Blackall , Samuel, Rev. (1816–1899).

Boreham, William Wakeling (1804-1886) – see Essex page.

Bower, George Noel (1885-1951), born Norwich, son of James Garton Bower (see Norfolk) who worked for the colonial customs service in India for most of his life.   He joined the British Astronomical Association in 1913 and was the first to see Nova Aquilae 1918 (JBAA, 28 (1918), p.243). Before Indian independence he moved back to England to reside at Eye, in Suffolk.

Bransby, John  (1760-1835), Land surveyor, instrument maker and bookseller.  based in Ipswich, he published on the use of globes in astronomy and geography.  A fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, he was described as astronomer and mathematician in burial records.

Brown, Basil John Wait (1888-1977), born Bucklesham near Ipswich, an archaeologist most famous for excavating the Sutton Hoo, who had an interest in astronomy.

Buckton, Harold [Rev.] (1864-1944/8) Resided at Bury St Edmunds. See Mobberley & Goward,’The Bury St Edmunds Athenaeum Observatory’, JBAA, 115 (5), Oct. 2005, 251-61.

Calver, George (1834-1927) – see Essex page

Chevallier, Temple [Rev.] (1794-1873), born Badingham, Suffolk – see Durham

Clarkson, Roland Lebeg Towley [FRAS] (1889-1954), had a lifelong interest in astronomy from childhood.  By 1922 he was active in the Ipswich section of the Chaldean  Society.  Later by the 1950s he resided at Trimley where he was the founder and president of the Ipswich and District Astronomical Society (IDAS). A keen lunar observer his observing book are held by the BAA. In recognition of his observing skills a crater,  now Gassendi A, was named in his honour. (see details on Orwell Astronomical Society site; Clarkson, R. L. ‘The Origin and History of the Formations on the Surface of the Moon’, JBAA, 64 (5) April 1954, 202-5).

Cook, Alice Grace, FRAS (1877-1958), resided at Stowmarket (see ‘Death of Alice Grace Cook’, JBAA, 68 , p302.; Kristine Larsen, ‘Shooting Stars: The Women Directors of the Meteor Section of the British Astronomical Association’, Kristine Larsen, ‘Shooting Stars: The Women Directors of the Meteor Section of the British Astronomical Association’, AntAs, Issue 3 (Dec. 2006), p75-82).

Collinson, Edward Howard, FRAS (1903-1990), resided at Westfield, Culpho and Playford (see Obit.: JBAA, 101[1] 1991, 12-3 & Obit., JRAS, 32,  p.207).

Cowell, Philip Herbert (1870-1949), retired to Aldeburgh – see County of London page.

Crickmore, Thomas (1782-1822), optical instrument maker, Ipswich, with an interest in astronomy, known to have made reflecting telescopes.

Eld, Francis John [Revd.; FRAS] (1830-1922), born Foleshill, Warwick.  Head Master of the Grammar School at Worcester.  After retirement he moved to Lowesoft, taking the living of Polstead (see WorcestershireFrancis Eld – Bill Barton)

Hardy, Samuel Rev. (1720-1793) Rector of Little Blakenham. Author of books on the Moon and Telescopes. Kept Meteorological observations from his Rectory (see: Obit.: Gentleman’s Magazine, Dec. 1793, p966).

Irving, Ronald Nicholas (1915-2005), born Teddington, Middlesex.  Lived briefly (1925-7) in Hitcham, Suffolk (see Middlesex for more details).

Ledger, Edmund (1841–1913), resided at Barham as Rector (1877-98).  Appointed Prof. of Astronomy at Gresham College (1875-1908), he authored The Sun, Planets and their Satellites (Obit.: MNRAS74 (1914), p274).

Lofft, Capel (1751-1824), born London, educated at Cambridge, he trained as a lawyer and first practised at Lincoln’s Inn in 1775. Later he inherited an estate at Troston Hall near Bury St. Edmunds.  Better known as a radical writer and editor he was a polymath with an interest in astronomy.  He is known to have possessed a private observatory and published observations in The Monthly Magazine, or, British Register.  Due to criticism Lofft spent his last years in self-exile at Montcalieri, near  Turin where he died (ODNB; WIKI).

London, William (b. 1833 – d. Jun. 16 1916), bank clerk and then manager who lived his entire life in Woodbridge, at ‘Quay House’.  Used a 3 1/4-inch Wray refracting telescope and then a 15 1/2-inch reflector which was donated to a local school on his death.  An ‘Original Member’ of the BAA and went on eclipse expedition to Vadso, Lapland in 1896.

May, Charles [FRAS] (1800-1860), born Alton, Hampshire and  resided in Ipswich [1840/50s] (see William Barton ‘Building steps to the stars’, Astronomy Now, Dec. 1999, 54-5 & Obit.,MNRAS, 21 (1861), 101-2).

Plummer, John Isaac  FRAS (1845-1925), resided at the Astronomer’s House, Nacton (see Whiting 2006).

Prentice, John Philip Manning, FRAS (1903-1981), resided at Stowmarket (see Obit., JBAA, 92 (3), (1982), 138-9 & Obit. QJRAS, 23 (3), (1982), 452-5).

Stuart, Charles(1795-1872), born Ipswich, a printer/compositor who lived at 20 Elm Street, Ipswich from 1841.  Reported observations of the 1852 solar eclipse frpm Ipswich using a small refracting telescope.

Stevens, Charles (1852-1918), born Dalston, East London where he lived until 1900 and worked as a civil servant living at Wemyss Road, Blackheath. Stevens then started working for the Post Office in London and in 1906 moved to Peterborough as Postmaster. He then located to Ipswich in 1909, still as Postmaster. Here he retired in 1914 and where he died (1 Dec. 1918) at Constable Road, Ipswich. He was married twice and had two daughters and one son.

Elected (10 Feb. 1899) fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society at the invitation of a Percy Davis who worked at the Nautical Almanac Office and was supported by the Superintendent (NAO), A. M. W. Downing. To quote from his obituary (MNRAS, 80, p.359), ‘Apart from his official duties, he was most interested in music and astronomy.

Tomline, George, Colonel (1813 – 1889), resided at Orwell Park House, Nacton (see ‘Suffolk’s Great Eccentric:See: Colonel George Tomline 1813 – 1889’ David Allen. Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History Vol XL1 Part 1 (2005) pp 79 to 101; Colonel George Tomline).

Vince, Samuel (1749-1821), born Fressingfield, Suffolk – see Cambridgeshire page.

Walker, Anne (b. 1864) born in Wickham – see Cambridgeshire page.

Wilson, Mrs Fiammetta, nee Worthington, FRAS (1864 – 1920), born in Lowestoft and Meteor Observer (see ‘Obituary’ MNRAS, 81 (1921), 266-9).


Orwell Park, Nacton. (Founded 1874)

Main Instrument: 10-inch Troughton & Simms Refractor

A contemporary image of
Orwell Park Observatory
as seen from the
adjacent clock tower.

Orwell Park Observatory, near Ipswich, 1874-

Established by Colonel Tomline, with a 10″ Merz refractor. The principal work was observation of comets. The former country house is now a school, and in recent times the Observatory has been superbly restored by members of Orwell Astronomical Society, who use it as their base. For full history and photographs, see their excellent website.

Athenaeum Club, Bury St Edmunds (Founded 1858)

The Athenaeum Observatory Dome on top of the Athenaeum.

Main instrument; 4-inch Troughton & Simms Refractor inside the dome


The Bury St Edmunds Athenaeum Observatory’ Mobberley & Goward. JBAA115, 5,p.251-61 (2005 October)

Tom Boles FRAS, Coddenham (Founded 2001)
Main Instruments: 14-inch SCTs
Refrences: ‘Coddenham Observatory in Suffolk, England’
Tom Boles. More Small Astronomical Observatories
Springer-Verlag 2002 pp 203 to 212

Martin Mobberley
Cockfield (Founded 1980s) Main Instrument: 14-inch SCT on Paramount 12-inch Reflector stored in ‘Dog Kennel’ shed with rails to slide out  instrument

References: Martin Mobberley

Edward Howard Collinson FRAS, Playford (1980s)
Main Instrument: 10-inch Calver Reflector
Refrences: History Section

William Wakeling Boreham, Haverhill (1850s)
Main Instrument: 6-inch Refractor

Charles May FRAS, Bolton Lane, Ipswich (1840/50s)
Main Instrument: Merz 6 1/4-inch Refractor
‘The Observatory of Charles May ESQ FRAS’
Observatories of London and Vicinity, Weale 1851 pp 71 to 72
May’s Observatory, Ipswich, 1831-51
The observatory of John Lee and Admiral Smyth’s friend Charles May (1800-60) of Ransom and May, Ipswich. A 20″ transit, and a 6⅓” Merz achromatic refractor “of exquisite quality”. The transit room was 17′ x 12′ x 9′, an equatorial room 6′ high ‘on the Bedford plan’, with dome similar to Lee’s [Main, 1851, p. 71].
See: Ken Goward, ‘By Way of Thanks: Sir George Biddell Airy and his appreciation of the craftsmen and engineers of Ipswich’, Also MNRAS, 21, 4 (Feb. 1861), 103-05.

Arthur Frederick Bennett, Leiston (1922 to 1937)
Main Instrument: 6″ Cooke Equatorially Mounted Refractor

A F Bennett at his 6″ Refractor

St Peter’s Church Tower, Cockfield (1767-1773)

Main Instrument: Transit Instrument

Cockfield Church – note the repair at top of tower
where transit instrument slot was sited.

‘The Rev. William Ludlam (1716-1788) and the Cockfield Tower Observatory’
Mobberley. Journal of the British Astronimical Association
Vol 116 No3 pages 119-126 (2006 June)

Societies and Organisations

Chaldean Society, Ipswich branch (1920s & 1930s)

Darsham and Surrounding Hamlets Astronomical Society (DASH)founded 2013 in to encourage astronomy, for both beginners and the more experienced.  The members (25) meet at Westleton Village Hall, North Suffolk, observing from the nearby common.

Ipswich & District Astronomical Society (IDAS), founded 1948  from 25 members of the Ipswich & District Natural History Society, led by Roland Clarkson.  The astronomy section later ceded formining IDAS.  The Society occasionally used Orwell Park Observatory, but its main interest were lectures and telescope construction rather than observing.  A lack of leadership with the departure of Clarkson the group folded by 1957.

Lowestoft & Great Yarmouth Astronomical Society (LYRA), founded 1967, originally as the Yarmouth Astronomical Society. Members (40 – 2016) meet at Parkhill Hotel, Oulton Village (NR32 5DQ). The society restored and formerly used the Observatory and 12-inch reflecting telescope in the grounds of Kirkley High School, Lowestoft (see A Brief History of LYRA by Ron Larter).

Orwell Astronomical Society – Ipswich (OrwAS), founded 1966-7 by school friends who approached Orwell Park School to re-instate the Orwell Park Observatory (see above).  Much of the society’s activities have been involved with the restoration and maintenence of the observatory.

Stour Astronomical Society (StouAS), founded 2003 (formerly Stour Valley Astronomical Society) for amateur astronomers in the Stour Valley area.  Members meet at the Memorial Hall, Cavendish (CO10 8A).

Authors, lecturers, broadcasters

Sir George Biddell Airy KCB (7TH Astronomer Royal) 1801 – 1892

John Isaac Plummer FRAS (1845 – 1925)

Edmund Leger (1841 – 1913)

Academics and associated professionals

Sir George Biddell Airy KCB (7TH Astronomer Royal) 1801 – 1892

John Isaac Plummer FRAS (1845 – 1925)

George Claver FRAS (1834 – 1927)

Charles May FRS FRAS (1800 – 1860)

Telescope / equipment manufacturers

George Calver, Telescope and Mirror maker, Walpole from 1904 to 1927

Ransomes of Ipswich (also variously called Ransomes & May, Ransomes,Simms & Jeffries, Ransome & Head, Ransomes & Rapier) manufacturers of telescope mounts at Orwell Works, Ipswich in the mid 19th century.

Optical Vision Limited. (Sales outlet) Unit 2B, Woolpit Business Park, Woolpit, Bury St Edmunds, IP30 9UP.


4 Responses to Suffolk

  1. Richard Goodwin says:

    I’m trying to look up Alfred Goodwin who was Secretary of the Ipswich & District Astronomical Astronomical society until he had a heart attack in1957. Have you any links?
    (I remember as a small child watch Saturn at Orwell Park and being tired and very cold.)
    Richard Goodwin
    01256 771855

    • Survey of Astronomical History says:

      Dear Richard

      I am afraid I have no information on the person you are seeking, I would suggest you contact an astronomy society in the Suffolk area such as the Orwell Society.


    • Paul Whiting says:

      I will raise with the archivist of the Orwell Astronomical Society, the successor to the IDAS.

      Paul Whiting
      OAS Treasurer

    • Paul Whiting says:

      further to my previous reply, here is a link to our website concerning IDAS. Alfred Goodwin was actually Chairman for a while, acting also as secretary when the post suddenly became vacant. If you have any more details we would be grateful to see them.


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