Hampshire Astronomical Group

Celebrating 50 years (1960 - 2010)

5" and 4.5" Dome

Vice-Admiral B.C. Watson CB DSO RN saw action in both World Wars, having served with the Harwich Force of Light Cruisers during the First World War and, following promotion afterwards, held several important service posts. He was Director of the Royal Naval Staff College at Greenwich from 1934 to 1936, Rear Admiral Submarines from 1938 to 1940, and Commodore of Convoys before being appointed Admiral Commanding and Governor of Iceland from 1943 to 1945.

The famous telescope makers, Thomas Cooke and Sons of York and London built this fine professional instrument sometime in the early 1890 period. It is believed to have been previously owned by a former Astronomer Royal, Sir Harold Spencer Jones (1890-1960), from whom Admiral Watson obtained it many years ago, and used it from a small observatory at his Hambledon home.

The Admiral eventually bequeathed it to the Royal Navy, and sometime after his death in 1976 action was initiated to restore and re-house the telescope. Hampshire Astronomical Group became involved in this project, and offered a suitable site at its established Clanfield Observatory, just two miles south of HMS Mercury, who became the recipient of the bequest.

The telescope was completely refurbished jointly by HMS Mercury and the Hampshire Astronomical Group, and put into private storage awaiting the provision of a suitable dome to house it.

Through the interest and help of the respective officers concerned at the Royal Greenwich Observatory at Herstmonceux in Sussex, an old redundant dome there was made available at a scrap price.

After inspection, the dome was removed, dismantled, and transported to the Clanfield Observatory where it was reassembled and placed in its present position upon the concrete wall that had been built for it jointly by members of the Hampshire Astronomical Group and ratings from HMS Mercury.

The wall and dome building project took over three years to complete with much dedication and resourcefulness, especially from group members, who operated on a "shoe string" budget as there was no public money or grants made available at the time.

Though over one hundred and ten years old, the restored telescope will provide excellent views of the night sky for many more years to come, educating and instructing group members and visitors alike.

In 1990, the clock drive, with its falling weight mechanism, was disconnected and replaced with an electronic stepper motor to provide improved tracking.

The telescope has a 5-inch diameter achromatic doublet objective lens, with a focal length of 88 inches (f/17.5), and a full set of the original eyepieces and accessories (star diagonal etc.) are available in their original wooden cases.

The original German equatorial mounting includes setting circles, which have been re-marked, as the telescope is believed to have been originally built for use in the Southern Hemisphere.

During 2007, the telescope was refurbished and with the addition of a 4.5" Beck Refractor, makes this dome even more historic and useful as a training tool for our astronomy courses, and for general planetary observation

The dome itself over the summer is being upgraded to take a motor drive system, as the dome is heavy and operated by hand, which employs two people to align the dome to the scope.


Refurbished Refractor Telescopes

Here is an image of the final twin mounted Beck & Cooke telescopes following the summer (2007) refurbishment of the telescope and dome.

The 'Beck Beck & Smith' telescope (shown on the right in this image) was kindly donated to the Group by Roger James who acquired the telescope in the 1920's. The telescope was built in the early 1880's.

The image performance has been shown to be superb and optically as good as the Cooke refractor. Brian Knight re-engineered the mounting so that the original Cooke mounting could safely accommodate the twin telescopes and still remain balanced and perform with the current motors and electronics.

With the twin mounting, this greatly enhances the ability to see objects in two differing magnifications - for instance seeing the moon in high magnification through one telescope and then showing the moon to visitors in lower magnifications.

David Harris installed electrical power to the dome and this enabled motors and gears to be fixed to the dome structure. The dome rotation is now fully automated and rotates with ease. It is now planned to also motorise the shutters.

The telescope and dome was formally re-opened by the Group in late October 2007 with Roger James and his family in attendance.

In the picture (left) are the twin telescopes along with the paint sprayer, Christopher Smith, who works at White Rose Body Shop in Liss. Christopher painted the telescopes for the Group - The Group wished to extend its thanks to White Rose for their support.