Observatories: Middlesex

Bishops Meadowbank Observatory [BMOM] (1861-1877) [2] Meadowbank House, Twickenham, established by George Bishop, Jnr., son of George Bishop (1785-1861). Upon the death of his father, he moved the 7-inch Dollond refracting telescope and mount with the dome to a new larger observatory building at his riverside home in Twickenham.  The move was forced due to the smoke and lights of London  obscuring the southern horizon from Regents Park.  John Hind moved there initially in order to continue his own observations, then George Bishop, a 24 year-old double star observer, returned until the Observatory was closed in 1877. He was assisted from 1868-74 by William E. Plummer who had been trained at the ROG. Plummer went on to be First Assistant at the new University of Oxford Observatory in 1875. The instruments and valuable library were given to The Royal Observatory (now Capodimontes Observatory), Naples (ILN 1869; Howard-Duff 1985, 25).

Count de Brühl’s Observatory [BOHM] (1790-1815), Harefield House, Harefield, established by Count  de Brühl at his home.  Equipped with a 2-foot Altazimuth Circle by Edward Troughton, London (ODNB; Howse 1986, 73).

Common’s Ealing Observatory [COEM] (1876-1903), Ealing Common, established by Andrew Common in a shed in his garden, with an 18-inch silvered glass reflector (1876) –  later disposed of to the the Duncombe Observatory, Leeds. In 1879 he designed a 36-inch mounting for a Calver mirror, using it for astrophotography. He replaced it in 1889 with a 60-inch reflector (ODNB).

De la Rue’s Cranford Observatory [RCOM]  (1857-73), established by Warren de la Rue to house his 13-inch reflector,  fitted a clock drive. He became a pioneering astro-photographer, designed the heliometer for Kew Observatory, and in 1873 when difficulties with his eyes compelled him to cease observing, he gave his reflector and the contents of his observatory to the new Oxford University Observatory (ODNB; Obit., MNRAS, 50 (1890), 155-64; Le Conte 2011, 18-9).

Goodacre’s Finchley Observatory [GFO] (1909-1929), ‘Waratah’, Holden Road, Woodside Park, London, established by Walter Goodacre at his home. It was equipped with an 18-inch Calver reflector on a equatorial mount replacing a smaller 12-inch similar instrument by the same maker. The large Calver telescope was then displaced by a 10-inch Cooke refractor that was formerly located at Worthington’s Observatory at Four Marks, near, Winchester, Hants. The latter telescope was subsequently moved in 1929 to his retirement home in Bournemouth while the reflector was purchased by Prof Issei Yamamoto. It may have been installed at the Kwasan Observatory in Kyoto, Japan – see Telescope museum, Tawa, Japan (Obit., MNRAS, 99 (1939), 310-1Obit., JBAA, 49 (1938), 38-40).

Goodacre’s Musewell Hill Observatory [GMHO] (1906-09), Muswell Hill, London, established by Walter Goodacre at his home. It was equipped with an 12-inch Calver reflector on a equatorial mount. The telescope replaced by a larger 18-inch Calver reflector when Walter Goodacre  moved to Finchley in 1909 (Stroobant 1907, 131; Obit., MNRAS, 99 (1939), 310-1).

Hay’s Hendon Observatory [HOHM] (1935-c.1949), The White Lodge, Great North Way, Hendon, established by the comedian and actor, Will Hay. At his new  Hendon home he reassembled his 6-inch refractor by Cooke (c.1890s) on an equatorial mount in a substantial domed building. The telescope saw limited use due to Hay’s failing health in late 1930s and 40s (Mobberley & Goward 2009).

Klein’s Stanmore Observatory [KSO] (c.1880s-1898), ‘The Red House’, Stanmore, established by Sydney Turner Klein at his home. The observatory was adjacent to the house, being equipped with a 18/20-inch Calver reflector carried on an equatorial mounting and being dedicated to celestial photography (Denning 1891; Obit., MNRAS, 96 (1936), 294).

Merlin’s London Observatory [1920-1946] (MOEM), 107 Argle Road, West Ealing. London, established by Eliot Merlin in the back garden of his home. The wooden Romsey type building, with canvas covering, housed a 12 ¼-inch Newtonian reflector by Linscott and a transit instrument. These and other instruments were donated to the BAA after Merlin’s death (McKim 2017).

Mill Hill Observatory (see University College London Observatory)

Minchenden School Observatory [MSOM] (1936-1966), Southgate House, Southgate, London, established at the Grammar School by the Science master, Dr William Cameron Walker (1896-1978). An astronomy society had been instigated some years earlier with observations made from a raised platform that straggled a wall using small portable telescopes. The structure was extended to house a domed wooden building that housed a 5 ¼-inch refractor by Steinheil with a Cooke equatorial mount – originally at Osbourne House, IoW, on loan from the BAA. The observatory survived at least until the 1960s when telescope lens was stolen (1963) and fire nearly destroyed the structure in 1966 (‘Notes’, Obs, 59 (1936), 200; Holton 2018).

Offord’s Observatory [OOE] (c.1897-fl.1907), 62 Gordon Rd., Ealing, established by John M. Offord in the garden of his home. It was was furnished with a 12-inch reflector by With on an equatorial mounting housed in an ornamental run-off shed resembling a conservatory/greenhouse. A member of the photographic section of the BAA he used his telescope to photograph the planets (Offord 1897).

Rayleigh Observatory [ROH] (c. 1890s; 2012- ) Harrow School, Harrow-on-the-Hill, established on the roof of the Physics Department. It is equipped with a computer controlled SCT instrument and mount it supports the teaching of GCSE astronomy. It replaces an earlier observatory that existed at the school in the 1890s (Howson and Warner 1898; Goodnews Planet, 6 Feb., 2013).

University of  London Observatory (see University College London Observatory)

University College London Observatory [UCLOM] (1929- ), Hendon, London, established as the observatory of the University of London at Hendon. In 1924 the 24-inch Grubb reflector of 1881 was offered by J.G. Wilson of Daramona Observatory, Ireland. It was accepted, with its 1893 mount, and a 10-ft Rowland grating spectrograph, and Cooke coelostat. Hendon Council granted a long lease at nominal rent. The University Senate granted £5,000 and all the colleges contributed – a rare example of corporate consensus and generosity in founding a university observatory. The building was opened October 1929, for the use of students of all the colleges in the Faculty of Science. In 1935 when the Radcliffe Observatory moved from Oxford to South Africa, the Astronomer Royal Sir Frank Dyson effected the offer of the Radcliffe 24/18-inch photo-visual Double Refractor and its dome. These were accepted, and the telescope installed in its new building in June 1938.
In the 1990s the Double Equatorial was completely refurbished, and is cherished and regularly used (Stroobant 1931; Hutchins 2008).

Walker’s Observatory [WLOHM] (c.1800s-1816), ‘Manor House’, Middlesex, established by William Walker after he moved to London.  The observatory is known to have been equipped with a Dollond refractor (2 3/4-inch) and a 6-inch cassegrain refector by Tulley and a similar  reflector (3-inch) by Watson that is preserved in the collections of the Science Museum, London (Hutton 1815, 129, Johnson 2021, 32-3; Kitchiner 1818, 105; Kitchiner 1825, 171).

Water’s Observatory [WTHM] (fl.1931), Durham Road, Harrow, established by Henry Hayden Waters at his home and equipped with a  5-inch Zeiss refracting telescope on loan from the BAA (Obit, MNRAS, 100 (1940), 264-5Stroobant 1931).

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