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).

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).

Fernley Observatory [FO] (c.1901- ), established by the corporation of Southport after they were given the observatory and telescope and observatory of Joseph Baxendell [Sr.] by his son in 1901.  The observatory structure and telescope were install upon a new  single story brick structure in Hesketh that was initially known as the Town Observatory.  Run by the Education department of the corporation, it was later renamed after John Fernley who donated £100 to its construction.  Private access was later given to the Southport Scientific Society who were the forerunners of the Southport Astronomical Society who now run the observatory (Stroobant 1907).

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).

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).

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 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).

Pex Hill Observatory (see Leighton Observatoy 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 to that installed at the Jeremiah Horrocks Observatory which was it 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- and . 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 1993).

This was later displaced by a 15-inch reflector with mount by Howard Grubb of Dublin with the existing Cooke telescope piggy-backed on the declination counter-weight axis. The latter instrument with mount was then given to Dunsink Observatory, Dublin, the Cooke refractor being retained for mounting with a new 20-inch Grubb reflector with mount that Roberts installed at at his new home at Maghull, Lancashire

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.

Stonyhurst College Observatory [SCO] (1838- ), Clitheroe, established in 1838 with small instruments. In 1868 rebuilt and re-equipped with an 8-inch Troughton & Simms refractor suitable for micrometrical 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).

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 nr. Southport, established  by Edward Turner Whitelow (1854-1932), 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).