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 however small.

Email: Survey Officer


Barclay, Arthur. Kett (1806-1871), a brewer, he established his observatory (see Howse 1986) in the grounds of his Bury Hill House, Dorking (1848-c.1946).

Birt, William Radcliff (1804–1881), FRAS,  a British amateur astronomer and selenographer. He was a son of Surrey, but did his observing in Essex (see Essex page), and briefly at the Hartwell Observatory, Buckinghamshire.

Bray, Robert John (1929-) was born in Richmond, Surrey, on 14 March 1929. University of Oxford (BA 1952, MA 1956, DPhil 1956). He moved to Australia in 1956 to join the CSIRO Division of Physics, where he became Chairman of the Australian Astronomy and Space Exploration Liaison Group 1983-86 and Australian representative, Large Earth-Based Solar Telescope Foundation [LEST] from 1984. His field of research was solar spectroscopy.[Prof. Fred Rost, SHA CD].

Capron, John Rand (1829-1888) was born on 19th February 1829 in King Street (now Rufus Street), Hoxton Square, Shoreditch London. He was the son of a leather merchant. By 1841 he had moved to Guildford and was attending the Royal Grammar School. He was living with his uncle John Rand, the solicitor, in Quarry Street, opposite St. Mary’s Church. Capron’s observatory was built between 1867 and 1870 at his new home on the outskirts of the town. No record of the constructors seems to have survived but it may have been built by the local firm Thomas and James Loe, who completed Capron’s new home in January 1867.

Capron described owning an 8.5 inch Browning reflector mounted on an equatorial axis in “Nature” (vol. 3, page 28, November 10, 1870). The smallest telescope in the observatory was a 3.25 inch Cooke refractor which was mentioned in Capron’s article in “The Observatory” (vol. 1, no. 7, page 216, July 1877). Capron also described owning a 6 inch Cooke refractor which was also mounted on an equatorial axis (“The Observatory”, vol. 2, no. 17, page 160, August 1878). At various times between 1870 and 1888 the observatory also housed a collection of spectroscopes, including three manufactured by John Browning and one by Adam Hilger, the London-based scientific instrument makers.

Capron made many astronomical, auroral and spectroscopic observations from his observatory, and a few from a nearby folly, Booker’s Tower. His most important (non) observations were probably his fruitless photographic search for the alleged Planet Vulcan over 21st, 22nd and 23rd March 1877 (MNRAS, vol. 37, pages 348-349, April 1877).Capron also viewed a number of lunar eclipses (February 27th and August 23rd, 1877), the transit of Saturn’s shadow (September 1877) and various comets. Capron was probably best known for his auroral and spectroscopic work. He was admitted to the Royal Astronomical Society on 9th March 1877 and was elected to Council on 9th February 1883. He continued making astronomical observations until at least 1886, resigned from council in February 1888 and died at Eastbourne, Sussex, on 12th November 1888.

The observatory still survives, in very good condition, but it has proved impossible to trace any of the three telescopes or other scientific instruments. (Information supplied by Paul Fuller)

Carrington, Richard Christopher (1826-75), was Observer at the University of Durham Observatory (1849–1852) where he did good work but failed to gain essential new instruments (see Roger Hutchins, British University Observatories 1772-1939 (Ashgate, 2008). He left and in 1855 established his own observatory at Redhill, in Surrey. He was a pioneer observer of Sun. In 1859 he made the first observation of a solar flare (‘Carrington’s Flare’, also observed independently by R. Hodgson). In 1860 he was the first to note that the differential rotation of sunspots, known for a long time, was systematic, rotation at the equator being more rapid than on either side. The differential rates were first measured by Dunér. He also showed that the mean latitude of spots varies systematically during a cycle, a result obtained independently by Sporer (whose name is now attached to the phenomenon). A lunar crater is named in his honour (see ODNB, Clark 2007)  -is summary by Prof. Fred Rost (SHA CD).

Demainbray, Stephen Charles Triboudet (1710-1782), King’s Astronomer to  King George III (1768-82) – see ODNBKing’s Observatory, Richmond Park.

Demainbray, Stephen George Francis Triboudet (1759-1854), King’s Astronomer to  King George III (1782-1840)  –  see  ODNB, King’s Observatory, Richmond Park.

Evershed, John (1864-1956), born Gomshall, educated in Brighton and Croydon who first worked as a chemist.  Interested in astronomy from an early age, he was a keen solar observer and a founder member of the British Astronomical Association. Later, on the recommendation of William Huggins, he was appointed assistant director at the Kodaikanal Observatory, India in 1909. Here he discovered the radial circulation of gases in sunspots (Evershed Effect), for which he was elected to the Royal Society in 1915.  On retirement in 1923 he left India and moved to Ewhurst, Surrey where he set up a private observatory and built a large spectroheliograph with high-dispersion liquid prism. Here he continued his studies until 1950 when he closed the observatory and presented some of its instruments Royal Greenwich Observatory at Herstmonceux (see ODNB ; Obid., MNRAS, 117 (1957), 253-4).

Evershed [née Orr], Mary Acworth (1867–1949), born Plymouth Hoe and was educated at home.  A literary scholar, she developed an early interest in astronomy, meeting the astronomer John Tebbutt whilst living in Sydney, Australia.  Later, back in Britain she joined the British Astronomical Association by 1891 becoming a serious amateur astronomer. It was through a BAA expedition to Norway in 1896, to view a solar eclipse in that she met her husband John Evershed (1864-1956). Moving with him to India, when he was appointed to the Kodaikanal Observatory, where she assisted him with hi solar spectral work, she undertook research into the astronomy of Dante. Her later interest focussed upon the general history of astronomy and was instrumental in the foundation of the historical section of the BAA (ODNB; Obid., MNRAS, 110 (1950), 128-9-4).

Graham-Smith, Francis  [Sir] (1923– ), FRS, English Radio Astronomer, Director of the RGO (1976–1981) and Astronomer Royal (1982–1990). A son of Surrey, but not an observer here. Smith was born at Roehampton, in Surrey, on 25 April 1923. He studied at Downing College, Cambridge, his PhD. 1952, was for work in radio astronomy at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge. After a year at the Carnegie Institute in Washington, DC, Smith returned to At Cambridge where he worked in radio astronomy 1954-64, before moving to Jodrell Bank for the next ten years. In 1974 he moved to the Royal Greenwich Observatory (then still at Herstmonceux in Sussex), and the next year he also became a visiting professor in astronomy at the nearby University of Sussex. In 1976, Smith became the first radio astronomer to become director of the Royal Greenwich Observatory; and he played a major part in the choice of the site for what became the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory and in the early stages of its development He moved back to Jodrell Bank as its director in 1981, and in 1982 he was appointed Astronomer Royal in succession to Sir Martin Ryle. He was therefore the first (and so far only) person since 1971 to he both director of the RGO and Astronomer Royal, although he did not hold the two positions at the same time. He retired as Astronomer Royal in 1990. As well as being one of the key figures in the development of radio astronomy techniques, such as interferometry, and an able administrator, Smith has made important contributions to the study of pulsars, and to the investigation of the magnetic fields in interstellar space. [From Prof. Fred Rost, SHA CD].

Jeans, Sir James Hopwood (1877-1946), resided at West Humble see Lancashire

Lockyer, (Sir) J. Norman (1836-1920) – Wimbledon Observatory below (see Devon; County of London & Warwickshire).

Maloney, Francis Joseph Terence (1917-2008), born Mortlake, Surrey, writer and illustrator who developed an passion for astronomy. After fighting on the Republican side of the Spanish Civil War he served in the Signal Corp during World War II.  After the hostilities  Maloney settled in Kew where he observed with a telescope until the upgrading of streetlights from gas made observation near impossible.  Member of both the British Astronomical Society and the Royal Astronomical Society (see The Guardian Obit.;  The Eagle Society Obit.).

Maw, William Henry (1838–1924), FRAS., British draughtsman and editor of the journal Engineering, an original member of the BAA, its first Treasurer (1890–1913) and fifth President (1898–1900), active double star observer. See: Maw’s Observatory (1896-1927), Outwood, Surrey, where for 33 years he made excellent uses of the superb 8-inch Thorrowgood Refractor (see ODNB).

Molyneux, Samuel FRS (1689-1728), MP for Kew, amateur astronomer, lived at Kew House from 1721; he knew James Bradley at the Royal Society, and from 1721 worked with him on innovative telescope design, and then on observations that after Molyneux’s death led to the discovery of aberration. Bradley does full justice to Molyneux in Phil.Trans. 35, 406, p. 637 (ODNB) – See Kew Observatory [1] (1723-28).

Pearson, William, [Dr, Revd.] (1767-1847) – see ODNB;  Leicestershire  and  Pearson’s Observatory below.

Phillips, Theodore Evelyn Reece  [Revd.] (1868–1942), D.Sc., FRAS, English clergyman and very effective amateur astronomer from 1896 to 1942, noted for his studies of Jupiter, at Headley, Surrey. See: Sky & Telescope, Aug 1942 (1,10) p.16; and Hedley Observatory A graduate of St Edmund Hall college, Oxford. Appointed curate at Hendford, near Yeovil in Somerset, in 1896 he commenced observations of Mars and Jupiter using a 9¼-inch reflector. He took that instrument with him to Croydon, then Ashstead in Surrey, where he latterly had a 12¼-inch reflector. In 1911 the RAS lent him an 8-inch refractor. In 1916 he was appointed Rector of Hedley, Surrey, and erected an observatory there. An 18-inch With reflector was lent by the BAA, and with it he concentrated on the atmosphere of Jupiter, in the process recording more than 30,000 transits of Jovian satellites. He also observed Mars and Saturn. Phillips held several high offices in the BAA. In 1942 an honorary D.Sc. was conferred upon him by Oxford University in recognition of his contributions to astronomy (Davidson 1942).  From 1937-41 Phillips had the company of his friend and neighbour Percy Ryves, a keen Mars observer.

Rigaud, Stephen Peter (1774-1839) born Richmond, Surrey. Savilian professor at Oxford, and joint Observer 1814-39 at the King’s Observatory, Richmond assisting his uncle Rev. Demainbray.  See: ODNB; Radcliffe Observatory; King’s Observatory, Richmond below.

Sabine, Edward, [Major-General, Sir] (1788–1883), FRS, FRAS, British army officer, geodesist and astronomer of Irish origin, but lived and died at East Sheen, Surrey. He was appointed astronomer of the expeditions commanded by Ross and Parry in search of the North-West Passage in 1818 and 1819. The greater part of his life was devoted to researches on terrestrial magnetism. The establishment of magnetic observatories in various parts of British territory all over the globe was accomplished mainly on his representations. He discovered (1852) a connection between the periodic variation of sunspots and magnetic disturbances on the earth. The following year, Sabine also made a similar correlation with the Moon, establishing that that celestial body too had an influence on the Earth’s magnetic field. He concluded that the Moon must have a significant magnetic field of its own to cause such an effect. But for once he was mistaken: the effect is actually the result of gravitational tides in the ionosphere. Sabine was director of the Kew Observatory, and president of the Royal Society from 1861–1871; received the Copley medal of that Society in 1821 and the Royal medal in 1849; and was made K.C.B. in 1869. He died at East Sheen, Surrey, on June 26. 1883. [Encycl Britt 14th]. A lunar crater has been named in his honour (see ODNB).

Simmonds, George Hervey (1836-1921), assistant to Richard Carrington in observing, reducing and publishing the Redhill Catalogue which gained Carrington the RAS Gold Medal.

Simms, William (1793-1860), instrument maker, with observatory at his home ‘Bramblehaw’, Carshalton (ODNB) -.see observatory below.

Stewart, Balfour (1828-1887), superintendent of the Kew Observatory (1859-71) – see ODNB.

Thorrowgood, William John (1862-1928), of Wimbledon, Surrey.  The last private but brief owner of the famed 8-inch Cooke refractor first owned by Dawes, and then by Maw (see Maw Observatory below.

Thwaites , Christopher (1840-1929), born  in Holborn, London, he was educated at Uxbridge, Brighton then at King’s College, London, studying engineering. During his school days in Brighton, the headmaster first kindled his interest in astronomy. Although he left no formal observations in print, he observed the nebula of Orion and found there was no variation in its intensity. Thwaites worked in the railway industry in Ireland and on water supply projects in India. In 1870 he was a consultant engineer in Westminster and eventually set-up a private practice in Norwich.   With retirement in 1896 Thwaites moved to Epsom in Surrey and then travelled to India in 1898 with a 4.5-inch Cooke refractor to observe the solar eclipse. He continued his observations of the sun and made both observations and undertook photographic work until his death (see Obit MNRAS, 90, 381).

Waterfield, Reginald Lawson (1910-1986), born Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, educated at Winchester school and trained as a doctor at Guys Hospital, London. In parallel with his medical career he had life-long interest in astronomy. Starting with a 3-inch refractor he had access to larger telescopes including 25-cm Cooke refractor at Four Marks Observatory and 6-inch refractor owned by J. Player at Thirlesmere Hall, Cheltenham.  The latter instrument, he was later to own, when it was located at Headley, Surrey at the observatory of the Revd. T.E.R Phillips -see Surrey observatories.  Later in 1949, after suffering Poliomyelitis, which left him wheelchair-bound he moved the Player Telescope to Silwood Park, Sunninghill, Surrey – campus outstation of Imperial College, London.  In 1968 his observatory was moved to Woolston, North Cadbury in Somerset.  A keen observer of Mars, comets and solar eclipses, he was president and vice president of the BAA and RAS respectively (see Obit.,QJRAS, 28 [4] (1987), 544-6).

White, James Leslie (1911–2002), FRAS, British watchmaker and amateur astronomer, president of the British Astronomical Association 1978–1980, assistant secretary (1970–1978); acting librarian (1973–1978) and librarian (1978–1988).  He received the BAA’s Lydia Brown medal and gift in 1974. Obituary, JBAA 113, 56 (2003). After 1945 he became a watchmaker and! repairer, and ran a shop in Ewell, Surrey. He took a keen and active interest in astronomy. He lectured regularly at Morley College in London, where he built a planetarium in the church next door. He also gave regular talks to astronomical, societies in Brighton, Worthing and Southampton, and at Ewell Technical College (now NESCOT) in the 1950s and 1960s as well as astronomical weekends in various locations. He was a member of Ewell Astronomical Society from the early 1970s, becoming an Honorary Member, and attended meetings regularly. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society from 1948. and contributed many articles to their Journal. In 1965 he was invited by the Daily Telegraph to write articles on astronomy, and he gave up-to-date information on the planets and other objects which could be viewed monthly. [Neville Grabaskey, JBAA 113, 56 (2003)].

People associated with astronomy

Mees, Chales Edward Kenneth (1882-1960), born Wellingborough, a photographic scientist who first worked for Wratten and Wainwright Ltd. developing the first panchromatic film emulsions.  After the company was taken over by the Kodak Eastman company, he moved to their photographic laboratories in Rotchester, NY.  Later after taking American citizenship he developed sensitive photographic emulsions for use in astronomy (Clark, W., Charles Edward Kenneth Mees. 1882-1960’, BMFRS, 7 (1961), 172–96).

Usherwood, William (1821-1915), a portrait, miniature painter and photographer based in Dorking (1860-1907). He is noted for being the first person to successfully photograph of a comet using a portrait lens – Comet Donati, 1858 (Report of the Council to the Thirty-ninth Annual General Meeting of the Society, MNRAS, 19 (1859), 138-9; Pasachoff 1996).


Barclay’s Bury Hill Observatory (1848-55), Dorking, established by Arthur Kett Barclay (1806-69), the head of a brewing company.  He established an observatory at his home Bury Hill, near Dorking. He was a cousin of Joseph Gurney Barclay, whose more famous observatory was in Leyton, Essex. Sadly Arthur was paralysed in 1855 and unable to continue his observations.

The dome on his equatorial house was the second made by Charles May of Ipswich (after the first for Dr Lee), and was one foot less in diameter than the Hartwell dome, and had first been at his Norbury Observatory. He had a 5.9″ Troughton & Simms refractor of 8-feet focal length. He also owned a 2¾” transit instrument, and a fine Dent clock with mercury compensating pendulum. The  Observatory was built by Decimus Burton in 1847 and over the entrance is a piece by Dante and “Erected by Arthur Kett Barclay, 1848.” It is now a private house.

Headley Observatory (1916-1942), Headley, established by T.E.R. Phillips.  A friend and associate of Phillips was Ryves, Percy Mayow (ca 1876 – 1956), British amateur astronomer whose prime interests were the planet Mars and variable stars. Director of the BAA Mars Section 1942–1956. He lived for many years in Spain and earned a meager living. When in 1937 the Spanish Civil War broke out, Ryves was obliged to move back to England. There he lived within easy reach of Rev. T.E.R. Phillips’s observatory at Headley, and apparently was an active observer there from 1937-1941 using the 18-inch With reflector and the 8-inch refractor. (Ryves was director of the BAA Mars Section,  Phillips made many observations of Jupiter for the BAA.  His main collaborators were B.M. Peek and F. J. Hargreaves (see , Theodore Evelyn Reece Phillips).

Kew Observatory [1] (1723-28), Richmond, Surrey.  Samuel Molyneux FRS by marriage gained Kew House, Richmond. He ‘erected an observatory in a wing of the house, in which in the year 1725 he made, with a telescope of his own construction, in conjunction with [James] Bradley, the famous observations which, after his death, were continued by Bradley and proved the Aberration of Light. This was the original Kew Observatory  [sic]’. [Henry Scott. ‘History of the Kew Observatory’,Proc.Roy.Soc.Ldn., 39 (1885), 37-86]. Kew House was demolished in 1803, but King William IV in 1832 had a sundial erected on the site of its observatory, with a commemorative plaque (Howse 1986). – see Samuel Molyneux

Kew Observatory [2] (1842-2012), Richmond, Surrey. When the royal family relinquished ownership of the King’s Observatory at Richmond in 1840, it was taken over from 1842 to 1871 by the British Association for the Advancement of Science to be its physical laboratory. It was already often referred to as “the Kew Observatory”, and that now became the norm. The main work was still taking the daily transit of the Sun, and the rating of clocks, pocket watches, and certifying chronometers. Other work became important – the testing of thermometers, barometers, and survey instruments. Magnetic observations, and the correlation of reports from comparable stations world-wide was undertaken by the BAAS.

Meanwhile, from 1861-72 there was a brief revival of astronomy. By the 1850s there was increasing interest in studying the Sun, its influence upon the Earth’s magnetic field, and upon climate especially for any link with conditions that created famine in India. John Herschel urged systematic observation of the Sun by photography, and in 1854 the Kew Observatory Committee of the BAAS adopted the proposal. Warren De la Rue designed a photoheliograph, and the Royal Society funded the £150 required. The Kew photoheliograph had an aperture of 3.4″ (8.9cm) and a focal length of 50 inches (127cm). De la Rue took the instrument to Spain for the 1860 solar eclipse. In 1861 the instrument was again installed at Kew under the superintendent Balfour Stewart (1828-87). Installed beneath a dome, a daily photographic record was made at Kew of a full solar cycle until 1872. Then in response to public pressure for the ROG to adopt some physical work, the photoheliograph was removed there, and the daily records continued.

In 1871 control passed to the Royal Society, and thus allocation to Meteorological Office’s Physical Observatory from 1876 to 1900, including supervising the collection and analysis of world-wide meteorological.

In 1900 the observatory was transferred to the newly formed National Physical Laboratory, becoming its Observatory Department. In 1908 a separate observatory was established at Eskdalemuir to undertake magnetic work for which Kew was no longer suitable. On 1 July 1910 control of meteorological and magnetic work at Kew and Eskdalemuir Observatories passed to the Meteorological Office, Kew becoming styled the office’s Central Observatory, until 1914 when it was transferred to new buildings erected for the purpose at Teddington. The work of the Meteorological Office at the Kew Observatory came to an end in 1980 (Howse 1986). – see King’s Observatory, Richmond (below); Balfour Stewart (1828-87); Warren De la Rue; Edward Sabine.

King’s Observatory (1768-1840), Richmond, Surrey. At the suggestion of his friend and former tutor Dr Stephen Demainbray, the Observatory was completed in 1768 so that King George III and his family could observe the transit of Venus. This the King did, using a Thomas Short 6-inch brass reflector (now in the Science Museum). In this period before The Royal Observatory Greenwich [ROG] under George Airy began in 1851 to give standard time to the nation, local time prevailed in each part of the country. ‘The prime meridian’ was established through the transit instrument of the King’s Observatory, and observations of the Sun were made at mid-day to correct the excellent Regulator by Benjamin Vulliamy (1747-1811). The Observatory gave time to the Houses of Parliament, the clock on Horse Guards used by government offices, and also to other locations. No research was done or published.

In 1840 with the ROG now run efficiently by Airy, and the Nautical Almanac up to date, the government did not wish to maintain the King’s Observatory where the incumbent observer was now elderly. The King relinquished personal ownership to the Crown Estate; King George III’s collection of natural philosophy instruments, and Queen Caroline’s natural history collection, were disbursed to major museums. The principal astronomical instruments went to Armagh Observatory.

The Thomas Short 6-inch brass reflector with which King George III observed the Venus Transit in 1769 is displayed in the Armagh Observatory Museum, and several excellent photographs of it can be found on their 2011 website. The Benjamin Vulliamy regulator clock of 1780 which became the principal timekeeper for London until 1840, can be seen in the Science Museum, South Kensington, and there is a photo of it on their website.

The Observatory was in 1842 put at the disposal of the British Association of the Advancement of Science to use as its physical laboratory. It now became universally known as the Kew Observatory (Howse 1986). See: Dr. Stephen C.T. Demainbray (1710-82); Rev. Stephen G.F.T. Demainbray (1759-1854); Stephen Peter Rigaud (1774-1839). See: Kew Observatory (2) 1840-2012.

Lockyer’s Observatory (1862-1869), Wimbleton, established in 1862 in his garden, with a 6¼-inch refractor, in 1869 moved to St John’s Wood, Middlesex. Here in 1868 he discovered a new element in the Sun’s atmosphere – helium, and that solar prominences were upheavals in the Sun’s atmosphere from a region now called the chromosphere.

Maw’s Observatory, (1896-1927), Outwood, established by William Henry Maw.  This observatory is notably for being the site of the first long fruitful period in the history of the famed Thorrowgood Telescope when it was in the ownership of William Henry Maw (1838-1924) who installed it at his house at Outwood in 1896, and used it until 1927 for measurements of double stars.

The ‘Thorrowgood Telescope’ was built by T. Cooke and Sons of York and London in 1864, as recorded by the small embossed plate at the top of the pillar. The achromatic doublet object glass has an aperture of 8 inches and a focal length of 114 inches (f/14), and is of excellent quality. The first owner was Rev. William Rutter Dawes from 1865 until his death in 1868. In 1867 an attempt to buy the telescope for the Cambridge Observatory was made by J. C. Adams. He argued that it was of superlative quality, superior to the 9.6-inch at Dorpat and to Herschel’s 20-inch reflector at the Cape. Dawes had asked only £580 but after four months the Observatory Syndicate withdrew its provisional approval. The first long fruitful period in the history of the telescope was in the ownership of William Henry Maw (1838-1924) who erected this telescope at his house at Outwood in 1896, and used it until 1927 for measurements of double stars.  William John Thorrowgood (1862-1928) was actually the last private owner of this telescope. After his retirement in 1927 he installed the telescope at Wimbledon, Surrey, but had little time to enjoy it. He bequeathed it to the RAS, which offered it to Professor Eddington, Director of the Cambridge Observatory, initially for a period of 10 years. It is still there on extended loan, and used regularly. [Mark Hurn:]

Pearson’s Observatory (1811-21), Temple Grove, East Sheen, established by Revd. William Pearson (see Howse 1986).

Redhill Observatory (1852-61), Redhill, established by Richard Charington. After falling into controversy with Revd. Temple Chevalier while Observer at Durham University Observatory, and unable to achieve re-equipment of the observatory there, Carrington moved to Redhill in Surrey. To a 4½-inch refractor which he used to continue sunspot observations, he added a 5-inch Simms transit circle, which cost him £600. With this he and his assistant George Harvey Simmonds (1836-1921) between 1853 and 1857 catalogued 3,735 stars within 9 degrees of the Pole. Generated by what was the last privately owned meridian observatory, this was considered classic work, and was the last useful catalogue of stars produced by a private observatory. It gained him the RAS Gold Medal. His sunspot work was also acclaimed, and nominated for another medal. In 1861 the house and observatory were sold by auction. The Carrington Circle was purchased by the Radcliffe Observatory, and can now be seen in the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford. See Carrington, Richard Christopher (1826-75).

Simms’s Carshalton Observatory (1851-60), established by Wiliam Simms (1793-1860).  A timber frame room 16-feet x 8-feet, with a nearly flat roof, at his home ‘Bramblehaw’, Carshalton. Half was a computing room, half had a run-off shutter. His transit instrument was the 1.6-inch of 18-inch focal length, as described in Smyth’s Bedford Catalogue. Simms originally had a 3¼-inch Fraunhofer equatorial, but no clock. In 1852 he replaced it with a 4-inch refractor.

Societies and Organisations

Croydon Astronomical Society (CrAS), founded 1956 through the efforts of Mr and Mrs Best John Lytheer, Ken Stocker and Norman Wright following the formation of Junior Astronomical Society (now Society for Popular astronomy).  With a membership of around 100 (2016), meetings are held at the Royal Russell School (CR9 5BX). The society established an observatory, first at Addington then Kenley (present  site – CR8 5EP).

Ewell Astronomical Society (EwAS), Founded 1966.  Member hold monthly meetings (2nd Fri.) at Nonsuch High School for Girls, Ewell Road, Cheam (SM38AB)

Farnham Astronomical Society (FaAS), Founded 1971. Members meet bi-monthly at Aldershot Cricket Club, Guildford Road Aldershot Hants (GU12 4BP) and observe at the Alexander Observatory (10-inch Grubb refractor) on the parade ground at Aldershot Barracks.

Guildford Astronomical Society, (GuiAS) founded 1955 as a branch of the Junior Astronomical Society (now Society for Popular astronomy).  With a membership of around 180 (2016), meetings are held at the University of Surrey, Guildford (GU2 7XH) – see History of the Guilford Astronomical Society.

Walton Astronomy Group (WAG), Founded (?). Members meet informally monthly  at the Princes of Wales public house Escher.


Optical Services Limited, founded 1962 to produce specialist scientific optics for space, astronomy and high energy physics uses.  Based at Kenley they have established an international reputation supplying optics to NASA, ESA and CERN.


15 Responses to Surrey

  1. John Murrell says:

    Assuming that the list of Astronomers includes theorists one addition is Sir James Hopwood Jeans who lived at West Humble see More details on his acheivements on wikipedia at He was president of the RAS. Details of his gravestone are at

    • Survey of Astronomical History says:

      Dear John

      We already have a brief entry for Jeans on our Lancs. page as his birth place. I will add this extra information to the Cambridge and Surrey page with suitable links.


  2. John Murrell says:

    Does the scope of the history of individual counties include places that manufactured astronomical equipment and universities involved in astronomical research such as MSSL in Holmbury St Mary & Surrey University in Guildford ? If so I can contribute a few locations for Surrey.

    • Survey of Astronomical History says:

      Dear John

      Such information would be welcomed both for the current manufacturing centres and universities past and present. So far only university observatories have been included, but I see no reason why astronomical research institution should not be included especially if an observing facility is included.


  3. John Murrell says:

    Does the scope of observatories include magnetic observatories ? They could be taken to be observing the Earth or could be taken to observing the Sun in a different way to visual soalar observatories ?

    • Dear John

      There is no simple answer to your question as magnetic observations both impinge upon both astronomy and geology. I would be inclined to only list magnetic observatories if they were associated with the British observatories such as the ROG/RGO etc. However I am open to suggestions.


  4. John Murrell says:

    I have found another Surrey Astronomer,

    Usherwood Wiiliam, while his principal occupation was a painter and photographer see he took the first ever photograph of a comet when he photographed Donati’s comet on the 27th September 1858. More information is in The Journal for the History of Astronomy 1996JHA….27..129P. and MNRAS 1859MNRAS..19..105. (pg138). The report to the RAS meeting states this was the only succesful photograph of the comet they were aware of though some may have been taken in America. Unfortunatly the photograph and a copy sent to America appear to have been lost.

  5. John Murrell says:

    Kenneth Mees was a chemist from Croydon Surrey who was responsible for the invention of the first panchromatic dry plates used for astronomy by various people including Huggins. He was head hunted by Kodak and moved to the states where he was responsible for the development of the emulsions used on various astronomical plates and films. Does this qualify him as ‘an astronomer’ or should there be another category for people associated in some way with Astronomy ?

  6. John Murrell says:

    Hello Kevin,

    One notable ommision to the list is John Evershed – Born in Surrey and carried out his early work in Kenley before moving to India. He returned to Ewhurst in Surrey when he retired. He was also a founder member of the BAA. His obituary at 10.1093/mnras/117.3.253 gives a summary of the work he did and also his two observatories at Kenley ( I think this was in the window of his house !) and at Ewhurst. The Evershed Effect is also named after him. Suggest that you summarise the key points of his obituary for this site.


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