Warwickshire

Astronomers

Clarke, George Thomas Smith- FRAS] (1884-1960), born Bewdley, Worcs., an automotive and medical engineer, and keen amateur astronomer in Coventry.  Building his own telescopes and a spectrohelioscope, he observed from home.  Clarke also gave advice on the building of the proposed 100-inch telescope at the new Royal Greenwich Observatory, Hertsmonceux and was associated with the Jodrell Bank radio telescope through Sir Bernard Lovell (see WorcestershireODNB).

Fisher , George  [Rev.](1794-1873), born  Sunbury, Middlesex, retiring to Rugby – see London for career (Middlesex; County of London).

Jackson, John (b.1838-fl.1881), born in Nuneaton, former ironship builder and amateur astronomer (see 1881 English census).

Lockyer, Sir Joseph Norman (1836-1920), born Rugby, died  Salcombe Regis, Devon (see Surrey; County of London; Devon; ODNB).

Peek, Bertrand Meigh (1891 -1965), born in Dorset and privately educated. After serving in the army during the First World War he followed a career in teaching in Birmingham (1918-) and Canterbury (1946-55) as BAA President (1938-1940) and has a lunar crater named after him.(see Hockney 2007, 1672-3).

Reynolds, John Henry (1874-1949), born in Birmingham and educated at King Edward School. His career was in business, but he gave 50 years of outstanding service to astronomy. He established an observatory at his home ‘Low Wood’, Harborne. He is best known for his photometric research on galactic nebulosity and external galaxies; his management of the RAS Treasury 1929-47, notwithstanding his holding the Presidency 1935-37, that saved the Society from possible ruin; and building large reflectors and donating them to other observatories. The 30″ Reynolds telescope at Helawan in Egypt enabled Harold Knox-Shaw to do pioneering work there in nebular photography, and an experience that motivated him after 1924 to move the Radcliffe Observatory to South Africa. Beyond contemporary obituaries, the definitive and nicely illustrated account of Reynolds and his observatory is: Ron Maddison, ‘The Telescopes of John Henry Reynolds of Harborne, Birmingham, England: An Outstanding Grand Amateur’, AntAs, 5 (February 2011), 36-40.

Seabroke, George Mitchell (1838-1918), was an early pioneer in measuring the speeds of stars at the Temple Observatory, Rugby School, Warwickshire, in the 1880s (Obid., MNRAS, 79 (1919), 231-3).

Shuckburgh-Evelyn, Sir George Augustus William [6th Baronet] (1751-1804), educated at Rugby School and Balliol College, Oxford, graduating in 1772. After travels around Europe he moved to Shuckburgh Hall Warwickshire after inheriting the baronetcy on the death of his uncle in 1773.  Shuckburgh made a series of astronomical observations, publishing an ephemeris, published between 1774 and 1797. In 1791 he installed the Shuckburgh telescope, a 4.1-inch refractor, by Jesse Ramsden at his private observatory Shuckburgh Hall – see observatories below. In 1774 he became a Fellow of the Royal Society and was co-winner of the Copley Medal in 1778. After his death the Shuckburgh telescope was donated to Royal Observatory, Greenwich (see ODNB).

Stratton, Frederick John Marrian (1881-1960), born in Birmingham. Educated at King Edward’s, at mason College, then Gonville and Caius, Cambridge, he graduated third wrangler in 1904, and was Isaac Newton student in 1905. Until 1914 he was assistant director of the Solar Physics Observatory after its transfer from Kensington. After the war, he commenced one of the first courses in astrophysics to be given in Britain. On H.F. Newall’s retirement in 1928, Stratton was appointed Professor of Astrophysics and Director of the Solar Physics Observatory, and held these posts until 1947. Apart from his teaching, and useful books, perhaps his greatest contribution to British astronomy was his effective mentoring of outstanding Cambridge talent which filled the leading professional posts at observatories before and after World War II. For this, see: Hutchins (2008); for contemporary appreciations (see Obit., QJRAS, 2 [1] (March 1961), 44-9; W.H. McCrea’s article, QJRAS, 23 (1982), 358-62; ODNB).

Waters, Henry Hayden (1880-1939), born Coventry – see Middlesex page.

Wolfendale, Sir Arnold W. [FRS] (1927- ) born Rugby, astronomer who graduated from manchester University.   After a career at Durham University and he became Astronomer Royal (1991-5), then prof. Emeritus at Durham University (DurhamLancashireWiki; ‘Profile: Prof. Sir Arnold Wolfendale FRS’, A& G, 49 [4](2008), p.4.11).

Observatories

Shuckburgh Observatory (1791-1804), established by Sir George Augustus WilliamShuckburgh-Evelyn with a 4.1-inch Ramsden equatorial of 1792 – the famed ‘Shuckburgh Equatorial’ passed to the ROG in 1811. Also a clock of 1791 by Arnold (see Howse 1986).

Temple Observatory (1871- ),  Rugby School. In 1871-72 the school obtained the famed 8¼” Alvan Clark equatorial of 1859 that had belonged to William Rutter Dawes. Work commenced on doubles, achieving 0.5 arc sec resolution, and a catalogue was published in 1875.
Meanwhile, land was purchased, and in October 1877 the Observatory completed together with a Curator’s house, at a cost of £1,234 of which the Observatory cost £458. The Observatory also had a 12⅛” With reflector, a 15″ reflector, and a heliostat.
The Observatory was directed by James M. Wilson (1836-1931; teacher in maths and natural science) and then by George Mitchell Seabroke (1838-1919; President of the BAA in 1900). In its time it was a world-class observatory for double star work, and corresponded with S.W. Burnham and Otto Struve. From 1873 in co-operation with Joseph Gledhill who used a 9⅓-inchCooke, observations led to A Handbook of Double Stars, with a Catalogue of Twelve Hundred Double Stars and Extensive Lists of Measures (London, Macmillan, 1879). This was an extraordinary achievement by Crossley, Gledhill and Wilson – the first of its kind to give name, synomyn, RA and Dec (1880), magnitude and colours, and a short history. Seabroke continued at rugby and produced seven more catalogues by 1910.
Using the With reflector and heliostat, an intense programme of visual and spectroscopic observations of the Sun had been made in liaison with J.N. Lockyer. Papers were published in MNRAS and Proc.R.S., and some were cited by G.E. Hale in his 1890 thesis. This work was discontinued when the ROG began solar work. The Temple Observatory re-opened after refurbishment in late 2011 (see Marriott 1991).

Chesterton Windmill – the man who probably commissioned it, local grandee Sir Edward Peyto, was an astrologer and astronomer, and there’s a tradition that the building was originally an observatory that he used to look at the stars – presumably the rotating top, turned by means of a hand winch, housed Peyto’s telescope.

Societies and Organisations

Heart of England Astronomical Society (HoEAS), founded in 1972, originally as the Chelmsley Astronomical Society, firsting meet at Chelmsley Library (Solihull). At an early stage the group built a small run-off observatory in the grounds of Coleshill Hall Hospital for a 6-inch reflector, later upgraded to a larger domed building for larger instruments including a 17-inch reflector. With the sale of the hospital for re-development the observatory was abandoned in 1987.  Members now meet and observe from premises in the village of Furnace End.

Rugby and District Astronomical Society (RDAS), founded 2007 by 5 keen like minded amateur astronomer.  The group has around 30 members (2017) now meets monthly  at Church Lawford village hall (CV23 9EE).  They are involved in activing observing and have an outreach programme with local schools and youth groups.  Notable members include: Geoffrey Johnstone (Dir., Deep Sky section, BAA); Mike Frost (Dir. BAA Historical section); Chris Longthorn (member BAA Deep sky section, Speaker and imager) & Dr Johanna Jarvis (Astrophysicist).

Usefull addresses

Local Record Office

Priory Park

Cape Road

Warwick CV34 4JS
England

Tel 01926 412735
Fax 01926 412509

Email: recordoffice@warwickshire.gov.uk

URL http://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/countyrecordoffice

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