The Cooke Darlington Telescope
story of the telescope begins in 1890, when the vicar of Eryholme, in
Richmondshire, North Yorkshire the Reverend Walter Stewart, had it
installed in his home, Ellcott House, in Hurworth near Darlington.
was "a 5-inch equatorially-mounted refractor" built by T
Cooke and Sons of York.
cost £374, and was regarded by one and all as a very fine instrument
, a vast amount of money at the time.
1904, Mr Stewart, who was born in Hurworth, was offered a new living
in Longley, Gloucestershire. Because Longley is a long way, the
telescope had to remain, and so Mr Stewart offered it to Darlington
council for about £130.
seemed natural to place the telescope at the new technical college in
Northgate, built in 1896, but the college was still £2,163 in debt
and the councillors were in no mood to increase its overdraft for the
sake of a telescope.
the last minute, 29 of the town's leading citizens emptied out their
pockets and scraped together enough money to prevent the telescope
being sent to the saleroom.
formally presented it to the town on November 8, 1904, and the
following year it was set up in the college's back yard.
its view of the skies was not good and it was planned to move it to
the college roof for "an uninterrupted view of the heavens".
an astronomical advisor reported: "If the telescope is to be
regarded as a pastime then that position would be satisfactory
enough, but if a scientific use is to be made of the instrument the
position is absolutely unsuitable. The ordinary tram and other forms
of traffic set up a great deal of vibration."
Lodge Park, next to the college, was dismissed as a site because town
centre smoke would have obscured the heavens, so a site in South
Park, next to the bowling green, was chosen.
telescope was installed in December 1906 in its wooden, revolving
observatory. Students of the skies had to pay 6d each, and inform the
park superintendent if they intended to arrive after the park gates
were locked for the night.In
February 1908, Professor Dixon, one of the telescope's supervisors,
even started an astronomy class at the technical college to make use
of the instrument.
in October 1910, the class was discontinued because it had no
1912, it was reported that "very little use is being made of the
telescope", and by 1919 there was even less.
January 1931, the Darlington and Stockton Times reported: "The
telescope is seldom used now; in fact very few people know of its
the request of Darlington Grammar School, which is now the Queen
Elizabeth Sixth Form College, the telescope was removed to playing
fields off Abbey Road.
its 100 ft high observatory was not popular with residents of
February 1951, the observatory was broken into, but police recovered
the stolen equipment a couple of months later.
1979, Barry Hetherington, then chairman of the Cleveland and
Darlington Astronomical Society, reported that the telescope needed a
1992, there was a fire in the wooden observatory and a lump of melted
metal was sold as scrap. Six months later, someone seems to have
realised that this lump was in fact the remains of the Darlington
that year, it was reported that the base, the internal workings and
the observatory wheels had survived the blaze and were being kept in
a metal container.
was some vague talk about them one day being included in a new,
£50,000 telescope, but that that idea was quietly eclipsed.