Observatories: Surrey

Barclay’s Bury Hill Observatory [BBHO] (1848-1855), Bury Hill House, Dorking, established by Arthur Kett Barclay.  He established an observatory at his home in Norbury nr, Croydon then in the grounds of Bury Hill House. The dome for the equatorial house was the second made by Charles May of Ipswich (after the first for Dr Lee), and was one foot less in diameter than the Hartwell dome, and had first been at used on his Norbury establishment. He installed an 8-inch Troughton & Simms refractor (fl  8-feet), a 2¾-inch transit instrument and a fine Dent regulator clock with mercury pendulum. The building was designed by Decimus Burton (1847), with a sculpture (?) by Dante and plaque ‘Erected by Arthur Kett Barclay, 1848’. Sadly Arthur was paralysed in 1855 and unable to continue his observations. The bulding with dome survives, being a priate residence (Howse 1986, 69; Weale 1852, 61-2; Obit., MNRAS, 31 (1871), 103-4).

Carrington’s Churt Observatory [COC] (1870-1876), Middle Devil Jump Hill, Churt, established by Richard Carrington following the closure of his Redhill Observatory. A description of the layout and instruments to be installed are provided in volume 30 of MNRAS. These consisted of a large equatorial telescope, an altazimuth on hte Steinheil principle and a regulator clock by Bond.  It is not clear whether the establishment was completed as described (Carrington 1869; Obit., MNRAS, 31 (1871), 103-4).

Carrington’s Redhill Observatory [COR] (1852-1861), Redhill, established by Richard Carrington, after he resigned as his position as observer at Durham University Observatory.  He was in dispute with with the director Revd. Temple Chevalier over re-equiping of the facility.  He continued to use a 4½-inch refractor that he had  used  to make sunspot observations and added a 5-inch Simms transit circle (£600). Carrington and his assistant George Harvey Simmonds catalogued 3,735 stars within 9 degrees of the Pole (1853-7). Generated by the last privately owned meridian observatory, it was considered a classic work, and was the last useful meridian catalogue produced by a private observatory. It gained him the RAS Gold Medal. The sunspot work was also rewared with, nomination for another medal. After Carrington’s death the house and observatory were sold by auction, circle being purchased by the Radcliffe Observatory – now at the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford (Obit., MNRAS, 36 (1876), 137-42Clark 2007).

Doberck’s ‘Kowloon’ Observatory [KOS] (1908-1931), Sutton, established as a private institution by Dr William Doberck and furbished with a 7 1/4-inch Cooke refractor.  Assisted by his sister Anna N. he undertook double star observations (Stroobant 1931; MacKeowen 2007, 58; Doberck 1909).

Evershed’s Observatory [EOG] (1925-1950), established by John Evershed in 1925 at his home at Ewhurst near Guildford, Surrey. Instruments included refracting telescopes and and built a large spectroheliograph with high-dispersion liquid prism (Stroobant 1931; Obit., MNRAS, 117 (1957), 253-4).

Kew Observatory [KeOR] (1842-     ), Richmond, Surrey, established when the royal family relinquished ownership of the King’s Observatory, Richmond in 1840.  The building and site was taken over  by the British Association for the Advancement of Science as a physical laboratory (1842-71)- already referred to as ‘the Kew Observatory’. Main work was still transits of the Sun, timepiece rating, testing of thermometers, barometers, survey instruments and magnetic observations. From 1854 photographic solar observation were undertaken using the Kew Photoheliograph (3.4-inch, fl 50-inch) designed by De la Rue – Royal Society grant (£150). Taken to Spain for the 1860 solar eclipse then re-installed at Kew under Balfour Stewart and used until 1872. The observatory then passed to the Royal Society, and allocated to Met. Office’s Physical Observatory (1876-1900). It was then transferred to the newly formed National Physical Laboratory – Observatory Department with a separate observatory founded at Eskdalemuir  magnetic work in 1908 – Kew no longer suitable. In 1910 control of meteorological and magnetic work passed to the Met. Office, Kew becoming the office’s Central Observatory until 1914, then transferring to  Teddington. The work of the Meteorological Office at the Kew Observatory came to an end in 1980 (Scott 1885; MacDonald 2018; Howse 1986, 75) – see King’s Observatory, Richmond (below).

King’s Observatory [KiOR](1768-1840), Richmond, Surrey, established for King George III  to view the 1769 ToV – advised by Dr Stephen Demainbray, former tutor. The King observed the event uing a Thomas Short 6-inch brass reflector – now at Armagh Observatory along with the Demainbrays (father & son) and Stephen Peter Rigaud.  The observatory was equipped with a transit instrument and mual quadrant, both by Sissons,  and a fine regulator clock by Ben. Vulliamy (Morton and Wess 1993, 408, 420-1 & 504)  In 1840 royal ownership was relinquished and passed to the British state. King George III’s collection of natural philosophy instruments and Queen Caroline’s natural history collection were dispersed to Kings College, London (now Science Museum, London), Armagh Observatory and other major museums. In 1842 the Observatory was put at the disposal of the British Association of the Advancement of Science who used it as a physical laboratory – henceforth known as the Kew Observatory – see above entry (Howse 1986, 80; Scott 1885). 

Lockyer’s Wimbledon Observatory [LOWH] (1862-1865), Wimbleton Hill, established by  N.L. Lockyer in 1862 in his garden, initially with a 3 3/4-inch refractor and later with a 6 1/4-inch one, in a temporary papier-mache tube – now at the Norman Lockyer Observatory. According to his biography, it appears that observing was done from the garden rather than any permanent structure.  His Hampstead observatory is described as his first one in the same work (Lockyer and Lockyer 1928, 8-9 & 27)

Maw’s Observatory [MOO] (1896-1927), Outwood, Surrey, established by William Henry Maw in the grounds of his home.  Th observatory was equipped with a 8-inch Cooke refractor (f14), an instrument first owned by Dawes (1865-8) – Thorrowgood Telescope now at the IoA, Cambridge. For this whole period it was used for the measurement of double stars (Obit., MNRAS, 85 (1925), 311-4).

Molyneux’s Kew Observatory [MOK] (1723-28), Kew House, Richmond, established by  Samuel Molyneux – gained Kew House by marriage. He ‘erected an observatory in a wing of the house, in which in the year 1725 he made, with a telescope of his own construction, in conjunction with [James] Bradley, the famous observations which, after his death, were continued by Bradley and proved the Aberration of Light. This was the original Kew Observatory  [sic]’. Kew House was demolished in 1803, but King William IV in 1832 had a sundial erected on the site of its observatory, with a commemorative plaque (Howse 1986, 75; Scott 1885). 

Northrop’s Observatory [NoO] (1950s-1990s), Cheam, established by David K Northrop and later known to have housed a 5-inch Refractor  by Cooke, Troughton & Simms on a Grubb mount that was previously own by W. Hunt in Nottingham (Northrop 1980).

Pearson’s Temple Grove Observatory [PTGO] (1811-21), Temple Grove, East Sheen, established by Revd. William Pearson but only equipped with minor instruments (Howse 1986, 70).

Phillip’s Headley Observatory [POH] (1916-1942), Headley nr. Epsom, established by Rev. T.E.R. Phillips.  A friend and associate of Phillips was Percy Mayow Ryves, a British amateur astronomer whose prime interests were the planet Mars and variable stars. Director of the BAA Mars Section 1942–1956. He lived for many years in Spain and earned a meagre living. In 1937 he was obliged to move back to England and lived within easy reach of Rev. T.E.R. Phillips’s observatory at Headley, and apparently was an active observer there from 1937-1941 using the 18-inch With reflector and the 8-inch Coleman Cooke refractor on loan from the RAS – Ryves was director of the BAA Mars Section. The Cooke telescope was later returned to the RAS who donated it for the establishment of a public observatory in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.  Phillips made many observations of Jupiter for the BAA.  His main collaborators were B.M. Peek and F. J. Hargreaves (Stroobant 1931; Marriott 2006Obit., MRAS, 103 (1943), 70-2).

Simms’s Carshalton Observatory [SOC] (1851-60), ‘Bramblehaw’ Carshalton, established at his home by Wiliam Simms .  A timber frame room 16-feet x 8-feet, with a nearly flat roof, one half a computing room with the other fitted with a run-off shutter. This part housed a transit instrument (OG 1.6-inch fl18-inch). Simms originally had a 3¼-inch Fraunhofer equatorial, but no clock – replaced in 1852 with a 4-inch refractor (Weale 1951, 59-61).

Thorrowgood’s Observatory [TOW] (1927-8), Wimbleton, established by W. J. Thorrowgood at his home.  Equipped with a 8-inch Cooke refractor formerly owned by Dawes, Maw, and now the property of the RAS and on loan to the IoA, Cambridge (Obit., MNRAS, 89 (1929), 325).

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