Lancashire Observatories


Alston Observatory (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 (‘The Wilfred Hall Telescope’,Nat., 172 [Aug. 1, 1953], p.186).

Wilfred-Hall Telescope_Alston Observ

Wilfred-Hall Telescope

Birkdale Observatory, Southport (active c.1910?-1932) In 1894 Edward Turner Whitelow (1854-1932), a leading Manchester astronomer, purchased the Alvan Clark 7⅓-inch object glass 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, and he also owned 5-inch and 3.5-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. Upon Whitelow’s death in 1932, his Observatory and valuable equipment was donated to Stonyhurst College Observatory.

The Godlee Observatory, Manchester (1903- )
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 was 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.

Jeremiah Horrocks Observatory, Moor Park, Preston (1927- )
The Observatory in Moor Park was built by Preston Council and opened on June 29th 1927, the day of a total solar eclipse. The new observatory 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 (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-inchreflector (1845) which he took to Malta in 1852-53, and a 48-inch (1859) which he took to Malta in 1861-64.
Lassell’s peers knew that “The discovery of the satellite of Neptune, the final observations of Colla’s Comet, those of the satellites of Uranus, and of the interior satellite of Saturn, show that his personal skill and instrumental means place his Observatory at Starfield in the same line with the Imperial Observatory at Pulkovo, or the Harvard College Observatory. It must not be forgotten that Mr Lassell has to struggle with a very different atmosphere and somewhat delicate health; that the construction of the instrument is original, the large mirror the work of his own hands, aided by machinery of his own creation, and placed in a building of his own architecture; that he has had no assistance of any kind, and not much sympathy nor countenance, except from this Society”. (MNRAS, 8 [4], 88-89; Howse 1986).

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

Liverpool Observatory (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 the Wirral, Cheshire and renamed the Bidston Observatory (Scoffield 2006; Howse 1986).

Maghull Observatory (1882-1890), Liverpool.  At his new home in 1883, Isaac Roberts began his photography, and with an 18-inch Grubb reflector (later presented to Dunsink Observatory) and 5″ and other portrait lenses. he achieved results on the M42 Orion nebula equivalent to Common’s with his 36-inch Calver mirror reflector.
In 1885 he took delivery from Grubb of a 20-inch Grubb photographic reflector made to his exacting specification on a mount designed by Huggins with the 7-inch Cooke as a finder scope. The instrument at first proved unsatisfactory, but to his great credit Howard Grubb put everything right. 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 1888 Roberts retired, and began using a Calver instead of the Grubb mirror. In 1890 he moved to Crowborough in Sussex.

Pex Hill Observatory (see Leighton Observatoy above)

Stonyhurst College Observatory (1838- ), established in 1838 with small instruments. In 1868 rebuilt and re-equipped with an 8″ Troughton & Simms refractor suitable for micrometer and spectroscopic work. In 1893 added the 15-inch Perry Memorial refractor by Grubb. This is an important observatory with a considerable history. See Stephen Perry, above (Howse 1986).

Whitworth Park Observatory (1892) Manchester. A small meteorological observatory was given to Owen’s College (later Manchester University) by the Whitworth Trustees, for the use of the Physical Department, in 1897 endowed by the Trustees, and in 1905 moved to Whitworth Park near the MMIT building, and supervised by the Curator of the Godlee Observatory. In the 1920s undergraduates took the daily readings.
Separately, in about 1895 Sir Thomas Bazley gave his 10″ Cooke refractor, and in 1898 it was mounted on top of the Physical Institute in Coupland Street, together with a 3″ Cooke transit of 1866, and a small spectroscopic laboratory, to form the Physics Institute Observatory. The refractor was placed at the disposal of the North Western Branch of the BAA, but only limited use was made of it before the branch was dissolved in 1903, and the new Manchester A.S. used the Godlee Observatory.

Dawes’s Observatory, Ormskirk, (1831-9), Dawes established the observatory (1831-9) with his 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 the Regent’s Park Observatory (Howse 1986).