Observatories: Lancashire

Alston Observatory [AO] (1950s- ), Alston Lane, Longridge, near Preston, part of the Jeremiah Horrocks Institute for mathematics, Physics & Astronomy, UCLAN (University of Central Lancashire).  The principal Historic instrument includes the Wilfred-Hall telescope, formerly at the Hepplewoodside Observatory, Northumberland.  Donated to the Royal Astronomical Society by Dr Wilfred-Hall executors the telescope was transferred to Preston council (Nature 1953).

Baxendell’s Observatory [BxO] (1877-1887), Birkdale near Southport, established by Joseph Blaxendell at his home at 14 Liverpool Rd. Birkdale which he renamed  ‘The Observatory’. It was equipped with a 6-inch Cooke refractor, given to him by good friend Sir Thomas S. Bazley, to undertake variable star observations. On his death his son Joseph donated the telescope and observatory to Southport corporation, later installed in a new building known as the Fernley Observatory (ODNB).

Chatwood’s Observatory [COWS] (c.1895-1902), ‘High Lawn’, Worsley Broad Oak Park, Worsley, established by Samuel Chatwood adjacent to his home. The observatory was equipped with a 9 1/2-inch Cooke refractor mounted on an English Cross-axis mount made entirely of iron. The telescope was formerly owned by Isaac Fletcher in an observatory at his home of Tarn Bank. It does not appear that it was seriously used as no observations were published and in 1902 the telescope was sold to the Wanganui Astronomical Society in New Zealand where today it is the Ward Observatory (Nakamura & Orchiston 2017, 301-10).

Furness Astronomical Society Observatory [FASO] (1975- ), Newton-in-Furness, established by Furness Astronomical Society – now FSLAS. After the society observed from the garden of Eddie Dixon, a founding member, a fibre glass domed observatory was built. It is now equipped with a 10-inch reflector and a 12-inch SCT LX90 telescope.

Dawes’s Ormskirk Observatory [DOO] (1831-9), Ormskirk, established by Rutter Dawes with a 3¾-inch Dollond refractor (5-feet focal length) on an Old English mount. In the autumn of 1839 he moved to become Observing Assistant at Bishops Regent’s Park Observatory (Howse 1986).

Godlee Observatory  [GO] (1904- ), Manchester, established for the Manchester Municipal Institute of Technology by the gift of Francis Godlee, the splendid observatory cost £10,000, and opened in 1904. It is located on top of the north-east wing of the Whitworth Street façade of the School of Technology. The principal instrument was/is a 8-inch Grubb refractor and 12-inch Newtonian with 6-inch photographic doublet, mounted on a dual axis (per the Thompson Telescope for the ROG). Annual reports were issued 1905-29, but there was no significant astronomy after 1916, and the observations were principally meteorological. In 1926 the Curator died, and the Observatory was increasingly neglected until 1946. It has been wonderfully restored and is currently the home of the Manchester A.S  (Stroobant 1907; Stroobant 1931; Kilburn 2002).

Greg Observatory [GrO] (1892-1960), Williamson Park, Lancaster, established by Lancaster Corporation as a public observatory. It was equipped with a 7 1/2-inch refractor on equatorial mount and a 2 3/4-inch transit instrument, both by Cooke and a spectroscope.  These were donated by Albert the brother of John Greg (d.1882), the original owner who had an observatory at his home ‘Escowbeck House’ near the village of Caton.  Due to neglect from the 1940s onward the observatory was in a state of dereliction by 1960 when it was demolished. The surviving instruments were stored by the council, but were sold for scrap in the 1970s (Wade 1992; Wade 1997; Buczynski 2019a).

Hesketh Park Observatory [HPO] (c.1901- ), Southport, established by Southport Corporation after they were given the telescope and observatory of Joseph Baxendell [Sr.] by his son, in 1901.  Often called the Fernley Observatory the structure and instrument were installed upon a new single-story brick structure in Hesketh Park  funded by a donation of £100 from John Fernley. Known initially as the Town Observatory, it was run by the Education department of the town corporation.  Private access was later given to the Southport Scientific Society – forerunners of the Southport Astronomical Society. Later in the 1950s, its running was transferred to Southport College and then to Southport A.S. who now run the observatory (Stroobant 1907).

Jeremiah Horrocks Observatory [JHO] (1927- ), Moor Park, Preston,  established and built by Preston Council, opening on June 29th 1927, the day of a total solar eclipse. The new observatory, initially known as the Preston Municipal Observatory [PMO1], lay in the path of totality and some 30,000 people thronged on Moor Park to witness the event.

The main instrument in the observatory is an 8 inch Thomas Cooke refractor c.1867, originally acquired for the Deepdale Observatory in 1912. The Observatory now belongs to the University of Central Lancashire, and is one of the 500 synoptic weather stations around the UK that forms the climatological network of the Met Office. It is home to the Preston & District A.S.

Lassell’s Starfield Observatory [LSO] (1840-61), established by William Lassell at his home on the West derby Road, near Liverpool. His first telescope was a 9-inch reflector he made himself, on a forked mount of his own design – which proved weak, but was the first equatorially mounted reflector in the world. He then built a 24-inch reflector (1845) which he took to Malta in 1852-53, and a 48-inch (1859) which travelled to Malta in 1861-64. (‘Notices of the past year’, MNRAS, 8 (1848), 88-9; Howse 1986).

Leighton Observatory [LeO] (1994- ), Pex Hill,  Cronton near Widnes, established by the Liverpool Astronomical Society at the Pex Hill visitor Centre to house a 16-inch reflector donated by Mr Reg. Platt.  Renamed the Leighton  Observatory it now houses a 12-inch LX200 Meade SCT (LAS).

Liverpool Astronomical Society Observatory [LASOL] (1903-2000s), Technical School (Nautical College), in Byrom Street, Liverpool, established after the donation by Thos. Glazebrook Rylands of a 5-inch Cooke refractor with equatorial mount in 1888. Run by the Liverpool Astronomical Society, it was housed under a dome at the top of the building along with a 3-inch transit instrument. Before that it was housed at the Nautical Academy in Colquitt Street in the city. Due to changes in building use, now own by Liverool museum, the site was vacated – see Leighton Observatory below  (Stroobant 1907, 128).

Liverpool City Observatory [LCO] (1844-1866), Waterloo Dock, Liverpool, established by the by Liverpool City Council and the Mersey Docks and Habour Board with J.C. Hartnup (1806-85) appointed as first director.  The observatory was moved in 1866 to Birkenhead on the Wirral, Cheshire and renamed the Bidston Observatory (Schmidt and Dearden 2019; Howse 1986).

Manchester Physics Institute Observatory [MPIO] (1895-c.1903 ?), established by the Manchester Victoria University Physics Institute (former Owens College) after they received the donation of a 10-inch Cooke refractor from Sir Thomas Bazley.  Also known as Owens Observatory it was situated on the top of the Physics building but was little used (Hutchins 2008).

Moor Park Observatory (see Jeremiah Horrocks Observatory above)

Namyth’s Patricroft Observatory [NFOP] (1842-1856) Fireside House, Patricroft, established by James Nasmyth in the garden of his home. An open-air observing site, which housed a 20-inch reflecting telescope on an altazimuth mounting – later moved to Penshurst in Kent (Kilburn 2005a).

Pex Hill Observatory (see Leighton Observatory above)

Preston Municipal Observatory [PMO] (1882-1927), Deepdale Park, Preston, established by the Preston Scientific Society – also known as the Deepdale Observatory.  This was equipped with a 9-inch Cooke refractor which appears to be distinct from that installed at the Jeremiah Horrocks Observatory which was its replacement (Obit., MNRAS, 106 (1949), 145-6).

Roberts’s Maghull Observatory [RMO] (1882-1890), Maghull, Liverpool.  Established by Isaac Roberts after he moved from Rock Ferry, Birkenhead in 1883.  Here he continued  his photographic experiments using a 5-inch Cooke triplet and other portrait lenses. These were mounted with a  new 15-inch Grubb reflector – later presented to Dunsink Observatory. The results for Orion nebula (M42) were equivalent to Common’s results using a 36-inch Calver mirror reflector. The Grubb mount also carried his earlier 7-inch Cooke refractor as a counterpoise – so called ‘Twin Telescope‘.  In 1885 he took delivery from  a 20-inch photographic reflector by Grubb with a much heavier mount, made to his exacting specification (devised by Huggins) with the 7-inch Cooke refractor counterpoised as a guidescope. The instrument at first proved unsatisfactory, but Howard Grubb rectified the issues. Roberts planned a chart of the sky with 15 minute exposures. In November 1886 a 3-hour exposure produced a superb photograph of the Pleiades Cluster, revealing is nebulosity. In December 1888 a four-hour exposure on the Andromeda Galaxy M31 revealed exquisite and previously unseen detail. These successes largely restored Grubb’s reputation after the debacle of the Great Melbourne Reflector. In 1890 he moved to Crowborough in Sussex (Obit., Proc.RSLon., 75, 356-62;James 1993a).

Salford Observatory [SOSGM] (1971- ), Chasely Field Centre, Salford, established by the Salford Astronomical Society, after the offer of a telescope from Jodrell Bank.  The telescope an 18 1/2-inch reflector with an open-tube is carried on a fork mount.

St Edward’s College Observatory [SECO] (1888-c.1930), Penrose Street, Everton, Liverpool, established by St Edward’s Roman Catholic College. The Observatory  was located in the grounds of the college in a square building topped with a dome housing a 7 1/2-inch refractor (Merz OG?) with equatorial mount by T. Cooke and Sons. The telescope along with the building and dome was donated to the college by Isaac Roberts a well-known local builder andamateur astronomer. With re-development of the site the observatory was moved to St Joseph’s College, Upholland (Gilligan 2014).

St Joseph’s College Observatory [SJCO] (c.1932-1996), Upholland, established by St Joseph’s Roman Catholic College (est. 1883) – both seminary and school. It setup with the transfer of the telescope and dome from the observatory at St Edward’s College that closed in 1936. The telescope and observatory was sited atop a tower in the building, the work being undertaken by Cooke, Troughton & Simms. Although the college flourish until the 1960s declining student numbers forced its closure by 1986, with accommodation offered until 1992 followed by abandonment by 1996 (Gilligan 2014).

Sharples School Observatory [SSO] (2015- ), Sharples School, Bolton, established by Sharples School as a teaching facility with help from the Bolton Astronomical Society. The domed building with adjoining classroom is located in the school grounds that houses a computer controlled SCT instrument (Bolton Herald, 9th Dec, 2015).

Stonyhurst College Observatory [SCO] (1838- ), Clitheroe, first established  at the Jesuit college as a meteorological station in a small octagonal building with small instruments. In 1866 a new observatory was built and re-equipped with an 8-inch refractor by Cary with mounting by Troughton & Simms (?) used for micrometrical and spectroscopic work. In 1893 the 15-inch ‘Perry Memorial’ refractor by Grubb was mounted on the earlier mounting.  These telescopes were used by Fathers  Weld, Perry and Sidgreaves, for solar, nova and spectra observations.  The observatory also provided astronomy teaching, but little of this is recorded (Howse 1986; Kavanagh 1907).

The Astronomy Centre [TAC] (1982- ), Clough Bank, Todmorden, established by Peter Drew, Rob Miller and Linda Simonian as a volunteer-run community observatory, both for amateur and public outreach. The site is currently equipped with two 16-inch SCT reflectors, a 30-inch Dobsonian reflector, an 8-inch refractor, 12-inch binocular telescope and a camera obscura.

Whitelow’s Birkdale Observatory [WBO] (c.1910?-1932) Birkdale near Southport, established  by Edward Turner Whitelow, a leading Manchester astronomer, after he purchased the Alvan Clark 7⅓-inch object glass in 1894, commissioned by W.R. Dawes in 1857, used at his Haddenham Observatory and then sold in 1859 to George Knott of the Cuxfield Observatory, Sussex, a leading double-star observer of his day.  After his retirement in the first decade of the new century, Whitelow built his Observatory at Birkdale with a 14-foot diameter dome. He also owned 5-inch & 3 1/2-inch Cooke refractors. He observed double stars from Burnham’s Catalogue, but encouraged by and in correspondence with Jules Janssen of the Meudon Observatory, he became a specialist in observing and photographing sunspots and active areas on the solar surface. After his death in 1932 the Observatory and valuable equipment was donated to Stonyhurst College Observatory (Stroobant 1907).

Wilding’s Observatory [WOBP] (1896-1900), Swillbrook House, Bartle, near Preston, established by Richard Wilding. Used for astrophotography it housed an equatorially mounted 19-inch reflector with a 6-inch refractor for guiding with a 5-inch portrait lens. A founder member of the BAA he headed their photographic section (Report of the Branches, JBAA, 8 (1898), p.218).

Worthington’s Crumpsall Observatory [WOCH] (c.1847-1858), Crumpsall (Old) Hall, jct. crescent Rd. & Cheetham Street, Crumpsall, Manchester, established by Robert Worthington (1805-68). It was equipped with a 5-inch equatorially mounted refractor (Dancer?) and a 13-inch reflector, the latter being made by Joseph Baxendell. He was given free use of the observatory as its owner had lost the use of one eye, which impaired his ability to make observations (Baum 2007; Obit.-Baxendell, MNRAS, 48 (1888), p.157).