Wednesday 31 August 2022

They Needed Cookes to build the Sydney Harbour Bridge

 There had been plans to build a bridge across Sydney harbour since 1815 but nothing really happened in the 19th century. Although there were plans to build a bridge in 1914 World War 1 stopped all those ideas.

After World War 1 tenders were put out in 1921 for companies to put forward ideas for the bridge, in 1922 Cooke and Sons of York designed a new type of Level which would be used to help the engineers construct the bridge. This level enabled a difference in height of a quarter of an inch of any two lines at a dissonance of one mile to be determined.

This order was placed before Cooke and Sons became Cooke Troughton and Simms later in 1922.

Eventually in 1924 the Australian government awarded the contract to Dorman Long and Co Ltd of Middlesbrough who would also build the Tyne Bridge at Newcastle upon Tyne. The Sydney Harbour Bridge was formally opened in March 1932.

If you have ever been over the Sydney Harbour Bridge just remember that without the superb optical equipment of Thomas Cooke and Sons of York it would probably never have been built.

Tuesday 30 August 2022

Another Cooke for Yorkshire


I have very little information on Henry Mann 1806-1879 of Spen Bank, Cleckheaton, Yorkshire other than that in 1867 he purchased a 4.5 inch equatorial telescope at a cost of £100 (today this would be over £12,000) from Thomas Cooke & Sons of York

Monday 29 August 2022

The Astronomy Show

 Join me, Martin Lunn tonight and every Monday evening from 7.00 pm-9.00 pm on the Astronomy Show, I will take my weekly look at the night sky and look at all the latest news in astronomy. There will be the astronomical anniversaries this week plus the A-Z of Constellations and the Messier Marathon.

The Astronomy Show every Monday evening only on Drystone Radio 102 and 103.5 FM the show can be heard live on line at and the show can be heard later on the Drystone Radio Podcast.

Thomas Cooke and the French Expo of 1855

 The last French Monarch of France Napoleon III who was nephew to the Emperor Napoleon was rebuilding Paris in 1855 and wanted he Exposition of that year to be the most impressive. The Paris Expositions were begun in 1789.

Although Napoleon wanted it to be the greatest art and industrial event ever staged it had already been eclipsed by the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in Britain in 1851. The exposition would run from June to November 1855.

Among the exhibitors was Thomas Cooke of York who took the brave step of exhibiting a variety of optical equipment including a 7.5 inch equatorial with a clock work drive.

Cooke was exhibitor No. 392 and was described as selling astronomical and nautical instruments. He was in the 8th section ‘Arts connected with Science and Education’.

For Cooke it was a great success not only because he won a First Class Medal for his 7.5 inch telescope he also made some very good contacts. He met the astronomer Warren De La Rue and Lt Gen Edward Sabine, astronomer, geophysicist and explorer and Lt Col Strange from the East India Company, the latter two would be very important in ensuring that Cooke theodolites being used in the great survey of India.

He also introduced himself to the astronomers of Europe and in the following years there would be orders for telescopes and observatories from countries such as Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Russia and Sweden.

Sunday 28 August 2022

The Green Companion of Antares, Canada and a Cooke

Dr Ferguson of Fergus Ontario stated that at 4.00 am on the 28th March 1893, he found that Antares and its green companion so easily divided by his 3.5 inch Cooke that he tried smaller apertures and was always successful in “clearly and distinctly” separating them until he reaches 2.5 inches, when “the green star was visible as a thickening of the diffraction ring.

Saturday 27 August 2022

Transit of Mercury seen from Canada with a Cooke


Dr Donaldson of Fergus, Ontario was among many astronomers who watched the transit of Mercury on the May 8th/9th 1891. He used his 3.5 inch Cooke refractor and was singularly fortunate in his observations.

He reported that internal contact occurred at 6.57.45 Eastern Standard Time and that from the time the planet, as a wedge apparently, began to cut into the solar limb until it stood “clear, black, and distinct on the sun’s disc, only a very fine rim of brilliant light separating it from the outer darkness beyond the limb”, the “black-drop” was very noticeable and that evidence of it did not disappear until Mercury was well in the disc.

Friday 26 August 2022

Cooke eyepieces for Wolverhampton


In 1867 Charles Machin of Waterloo Road South, Wolverhampton, purchased three astronomical eyepieces from Thomas Cooke & Sons.

However I don’t know if he had a Cooke telescope or not, or even the type and size of this telescope.

Thursday 25 August 2022

A Cooke in Canada and the North Star

 In 1892 Dr J C Donaldson of Fergus, Ontario who had been testing the excellence of his 3.5 inch Cooke by ascertaining the smallest aperture with which he can see certain well known doubles.

On the night of October 9th he was able to see the companion of Polaris with his glass stopped down to an aperture of 1.8 inches.

With the same aperture on the 12th December, he saw the companion of Rigel, and the 4 stars of theta Orion, 

Wednesday 24 August 2022

Cooke for a church in Cheltenham

In 1866 the Rev Edward Litton of St Andrew the Apostle Church in Naunton, Cheltenham purchased a Thomas Cooke & Sons telescope of 4.5 inch aperture, plus a finder, 4 astronomical eyepieces, solar prism,  dew cap all in a red deal case. 

Edward Litton, appointed rector in 1860, was a noted writer on theology and a friend of Revd Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) who is said to have stayed several times at the rectory.

I don't know if they both used the telescope.


Tuesday 23 August 2022

Thomas Cooke, Haxby Road site in York


By the mid 1930s the various Thomas Cooke buildings in York were old and small and dispersed over different sites. It was decided to concentrate on one new site. In 1937 managers looked fo a new site and decided on a site on Haxby Road about 1.6 miles from the railway station.

The new site opened n 1939 and quickly production turned from civilian to military optical products. Demand was such that by 1943 seven floors of the nearby Rowntree's factory was taken over and the original workforce of 995 increased to a peak number of employees of 3,036 of these 1,184 were women.

After World War 2, the Haxby Road works returned to producing microscopes and surveying equipment. In 1963 the firm was taken over by Vickers Instruments and in 1989 it had moved into the production of electronic and software equipment and was sold to the American firm Bio Rad Measurements.

With the downturn in work the Haxby Road works was closed and demolished inn 2008.

Monday 22 August 2022

The Astronomy Show

 Join me, Martin Lunn tonight and every Monday evening from 7.00 pm-9.00 pm on the Astronomy Show, I will take my weekly look at the night sky and look at all the latest news in astronomy. There will be the astronomical anniversaries this week plus the A-Z of Constellations and the Messier Marathon.

The Astronomy Show every Monday evening only on Drystone Radio 102 and 103.5 FM the show can be heard live on line at and the show can be heard later on the Drystone Radio Podcast.

Nova Cygnus 1920 observed from Italy with a Cooke

 N.V. Ginori in Florence, Italy, visual observations of the spectrum of Nova Cygni 1920 were made with a McClean star spectroscope mounted on a 9 inch Thomas Cooke & Sons equatorial refractor. 

The spectrum was continuous with dark H/3 just visible on August 23d 1920. Subsequent observations on August 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th, September 1st, 3rd, 8th, and 11th record the changes in intensity of the hydrogen and enhanced metallic lines.

Nova Cygnus was discovered by William Denning in Bristol on August 20th 1920 at magnitude 3.5.

Sunday 21 August 2022

Observatories for the New Hebrides?

 A report from the Colonies and India newspaper on Saturday 17th January 1891 says that Mr. Clement Wragge, the Government Astronomer of Queensland, sailed from Brisbane the other day for the New Hebrides, where he is to superintend the erection of some observatories on the islands.

 It is plucky of the Queensland Government to take this matter up, and no doubt much useful astronomical information can be garnered by the aid of observatories in the Mid-Pacific.

I don't know if any observatories were set up and if they were what instruments were used.

Saturday 20 August 2022

A Temporary Observatory for Sydney

According to the Colonies and India newspaper from Wednesday 21st May 1890, H C Russell astronomer at Sydney observatory  has said that a temporary observatory is about to be established near Sydney for the purpose of carrying on astronomic photographic work in connection with a chart of the heavens about to be prepared by an Astro-Photo Committee charged by the Conference which met in Paris in 1887. 

The arrangement of the details has been allotted in zones to 19 observatories in the order of their latitude. Under this arrangement Sydney takes from 34° S. to 42° S., and Melbourne from 70' S. to the South Pole.

Friday 19 August 2022

A Cooke for Regent Street


 In 1865 William Ladd FRAS 1815-1885 ,  Regent Street, London ordered a 4 inch, Thomas Cooke & Sons Telescope. It came with  6 eyepieces, the cost was  £85.10.0 . 

Also purchased was a position double parallel wire micrometer with 4 eyepieces. The telescope came with a Tripod and iron pillar.

Thursday 18 August 2022

Two Cookes for South Australia


Two Cooke telescopes have just been completed for the Government of South Australia for the upcoming Transit of Venus in December 1874.

One telescope is an 8 inch telescope that will be used by the government astronomer at Adelaide. The telescope is based on the example exhibited by Cooke and Sons at the International Exhibition in London in 1871.

The instrument has been viewed by astronomers from the Royal Greenwich Observatory in London who were very much impressed by what they saw.

A second telescope is also being set out to Australia, also to the Australian Government and its destination will be Melbourne. It is a smaller 4 inch telescope.

Wednesday 17 August 2022

Serious Accident outside Mr Cook's shop in York in 1837

 August 18th 1837

At about 4.00 pm Mr Noton, a plumber of little Stonegarte in this city and his son were preceding up Stonegate in their pony carriage when their horse took fright. The pony and carriage set off at full speed, Mr Noton was thrown clear into a shop and was seriously injured. Mr Noton jnr also fell out but held onto the reigns, the carriage righted itself and the pony took off again with young Mr Noton being dragged along the ground. The pony and carriage then crashed into several crates of crockery ware and then demolished several squares of glass in the window of the shop of Mr Cook the Optician.

Mr Cook was unhurt and apart from the damage to the windows there was no serious damage done to the scientific instrument in his shop. The history of telescope making in York could have taken a very different course has the damage caused by the runaway horse proved to be more serious to Cook’s shop.

The pony and carriage finally came to rest when it got stuck at a lamp post, the carriage was badly damaged the pony was seemed OK. It is believed that the injuries that were suffered by Mr Noton senior would not prove to be fatal.

Note:- Thomas Cooke at this time does not have an 'e' at the end of his name.

Tuesday 16 August 2022

William Evan MacFarlane and his Cooke

 Dr. William Evan MacFarlane was born on the island of New Caledonia which is located in the Pacific Ocean between Australia and Fiji. He was born in 1866 the son of a missionary.

He was educated in England and entered the medical profession and after first practising in Edinburgh moved to China. However due to civil unrest and then the war with Japan MacFarlane returned to England. He then served with the British army during the Boer war as a medical officer.

In 1903 he obtained the appointment as Government Medical Officer to a large mining district in North Queensland, Australia where he remained to his death. Outside his medical career he was very keen on astronomy.

He took charge of the Walsh Hospital at Irvinebank, North Queensland in 1906 where he also installed on Hospital Hill an observatory which housed a Thomas Cooke 7in telescope.

He observed Nova Aquila 1918 which he named ‘The Vulcan Star’, which the nova is still known locally as. This was probably named after The Vulcan Mine, a tin mine adjacent to his home and observatory.

He died on August 18th 1919 from influenza, he never married. It was reported in the Cairns Post that the funeral of William MacFarlane was the largest and most impressive ever seen in Irvinbank with 200 mourners.

Monday 15 August 2022

The Astronomy Show

Join me, Martin Lunn tonight and every Monday evening from 7.00 pm-9.00 pm on the Astronomy Show, I will take my weekly look at the night sky and look at all the latest news in astronomy. There will be the astronomical anniversaries this week plus the A-Z of Constellations and the Messier Marathon.

The Astronomy Show every Monday evening only on Drystone Radio 102 and 103.5 FM the show can be heard live on line at and the show can be heard later on the Drystone Radio Podcast.

Jupiter seen from Manchester in 1869


Mr H. Ormesher of Manchester witnessed the partial transit of the 3rd satellite on the night of August 14th 1869. The satellite was visible as a bright spot 15 minutes after first contact.

On the night of the 24th August 1869 the 2nd satellite was observed during its ingress.

Mr Ormesher says “After first contact the satellite appeared to linger for some time” A somewhat analogous phenomenon is noticed on page 141 of Webb’s Celestial Objects,

Sunday 14 August 2022

S Delphinus observed from Manchester in 1865


Mr Baxendell read a communication on the variable star S Delphini at the meeting of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester on the 9th of November 1865. It stated that a maximum occurred on August 9th 1865, magnitude 8.9, the mean period being 332 days and the minimum equalling the 13.5 magnitude.

Mr Baxendell’s results were confirmed in a great measure by Mr G Knott of Cuckfield. The colour of the star is reddish and is more intense at the minimum.

Note - S Delphinus is now known to be a Mira type red giant variable star with a magnitude range of 8.3-12.4 and a period of 277 days.

Saturday 13 August 2022

100 Perseids seen over Leeds in 1901


The Perseids this year may have been affected by the Full Moon but over 100 years ago they were lots  being seen over Leeds.

Joseph H Elgie FRAS saw 100 meteors on the night of August 11th 1901, from his home in Leeds. 

In 1914 Elgie published 'The Stars, Night by Night' a review of the night sky

Friday 12 August 2022

Early Photos of the Moon taken with a Cooke


John Phillips 1800-1874 was an eminent geologist. He would become the first keeper of the Yorkshire Museum which was built by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society in 1829, he also had a great interest in astronomy and photography.

He brought a Thomas Cooke 6.25 inch telescope in 1852 which he set up in the Museum Gardens and in 1853 took some of the earliest photographs of the Moon. One very early one was taken on July 15th 1853. He was a keen observer of the Moon and the Sun. He used the 6.25 inch Cooke to observe both objects.

He left the Yorkshire Museum in York around 1854 and moved to work at the University of Oxford firstly as deputy reader in geology and then in 1856 he became professor of Geology.

He was still using the 6.25 inch in the early 1860s, but as with so many Victorian telescopes after his death in 1874 it just disappeared and I have no idea what happened to it.

Thursday 11 August 2022

Queen Victoria, a Comet and a Cooke

 Comet Tebbutt which was discovered by the Australian astronomer John Tebbutt graced the skies during the summer of 1861 over Europe.

 Among the people who observed this comet from Osbourne House on the Isle of Wight were Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and the future King Edward VII, the telescope which they used was a 5.25 inch refractor was made by Thomas Cooke & Sons of York.

Wednesday 10 August 2022

More on the Newbegin Cooke Telescope


BAA Vol 34 No 9 page 353 1924

SPECTROSCOPIC SECTION.— A . M. Newbegin, Sutton, Surrey. 6-inch Cooke photo-visual equatorial refractor, Evershed prism spectroscope.—Work on the height and position of the solar prominence s has been continued on the same lines as in former years.

The results for 1923 indicate that the solar minimum is past, and the activity is now on the upgrade. There is still no great activity in the prominence as a whole, but at intervals metallic outbursts of some strength have been observed. A detailed account of the observation s for the year is being prepared for publication. The new high-power spectroscope is nearly ready for final adjustment.

Tuesday 9 August 2022

A Cooke in Durham


BAA Vol 33 No 9 1923 page 337

T H E DURHAM UNIVERSITY OBSERVATORY.—Mr. Harold Thomson, F.R.A.S., was appointed Hon. Director of the Observatory in succession to the late Col. Ε. H. Grove-Hills, F.R.S. In this report, he reviews the equipment and work of the observatory.

The Almucantar and the Zenith Telescope are not in present use, and indeed the bad weather conditions prevailing in Durham almost preclude their use.

The 6.4 inch refractor, used for many years by the late Mr. Charles Grover at Sir Wilfrid Peek's Observatory, has been refigured by Messrs. Cooke, Troughton and Simms, York, and the object-glass will now divide double stars down to the theoretical limit; and whilst this was at the works, the Observer made use of the Hon. Director's 5-inch Cooke refractor, and 220 observations of variable stars have been reduced and will be forwarded to the Variable Star Section of the BAA . for inclusion in the Memoirs.

Monday 8 August 2022

The Astronomy Show

 Join me, Martin Lunn tonight and every Monday evening from 7.00 pm-9.00 pm on the Astronomy Show, I will take my weekly look at the night sky and look at all the latest news in astronomy. There will be the astronomical anniversaries this week plus the A-Z of Constellations and the Messier Marathon.

The Astronomy Show every Monday evening only on Drystone Radio 102 and 103.5 FM the show can be heard live on line at and the show can be heard later on the Drystone Radio Podcast.

The Cooke Newbegin Telescope


Mr. A. M. Newbegin, observing at Sutton, Surrey, with a Cooke photo-visual equatorial refractor and modified Evershed spectroscope, has continued his regular programme as in former years, recording the position-angles and heights of solar prominences.

The results for 1922 were published in the B.A.A. Journal, Vol. 33, No. 6.

Sunday 7 August 2022

A Cooke for sale in Scotland

 The Scotsman Saturday 12th April 1924

Costly astronomical telescope with 5.5 inch aperture with equatorial mounting and case as new by T. Cooke and Sons York and London, with camera, microscope and special eye pieces which belonged to the late G J G Todd, Gowan Lean, Newhaven Road.

 The advert was repeated on Saturday 12th April and Wednesday 16th April


Saturday 6 August 2022

Another Cooke for sale in Liverpool


Pall Mall Gazette Friday 2nd January 1885

Astronomical Observatory with Telescope and Appointments Complete

To be SOLD, a bargain, on account of the owner’s eyesight, an excellent equatorial-mounted TELESCOPE by Cooke, 4.5 inch diam; Dawes solar and numerous other eyepieces, micrometer, induction coil and battery, automatic and star spectroscope, spark condenser, clock by Cooke, barometer 7-10 diam, observing chair, complete sets of the memoirs and monthly notices of the RAS Astronomical Register and Observatory, with indexes, and a number of other astronomical works, all in the best possible condition. The above presents a very rare opportunity to astronomical students.

Address “Telescope”, care of Lee and Nightingale, Advertising Agents, Liverpool

Friday 5 August 2022

Cooke for sale in Liverpool in 1875


Liverpool Daily Post Thursday 5th August 1875

Second hand astronomical telescope for sale by the late Mr Cooke of York. 

G S Wood (late Abraham &Co ) Opticians 20 Lord Street, Liverpool.

Thursday 4 August 2022

The Cooke that travelled from Dover to Surrey then South Africa and finally America

 William Coleman 1824-1911 was the owner of Solton Manor near Dover, he had a strong interest in astronomy. He erected at his residence The Shruberry, Buckland near Dover an observatory housing an 8 inch Thomas Cooke and Sons of York telescope which was made around 1891. His main interest was in double stars.

He had work published in the Royal Astronomical Society Memoirs vol Iiii containing the measurement of his double stars made in the years between 1893-1896 using the 8 inch telescope. The list included 161 double stars. Another list published I the Memoirs vol Iiv for the years 1897-1899 looked at 131 double stars. Again using the 8 inch telescope.

William Coleman also had a smaller 4 inch Cooke and Sons telescope plus other accessories

which were sold by auction after his death.

Following William Coleman’s death in 1911 his estate which was worth over £40,000 left numerous bequests including that the Thomas Cooke and Sons 8 inch telescope and observatory were offered to the Royal Astronomical Society who then leased them to the Rev T.E.R .Phillips who then re erected them at Ashtead in Surry. The telescope and original observatory would be moved again in 1916 when Phillips became rector of Headley also in Surrey. Phillip’s work on the planets and in particular Jupiter and Mars using the 8 inch Cooke was particularly important.

The Rev TER Philips died in 1942 but the story of the Coleman/Philips telescope continued. In 1947 a group of people the Port Elizabeth Astronomical Society in South Africa wanted to establish an observatory there. By 1948 the money needed had been raised and the telescope went to Port Elizabeth. Originally housed in a run off shed by 1953 it was housed in an observatory and at the time was the largest telescope in South Africa used for public viewing nights.

The telescope was used through until the 21st century when a combination of lack of ageing membership and light pollution plus the age of the telescope meant that it was used less and less. With the possibility of it being scrapped. The the Antique Telescope Society came to the rescue and through their help Daniel Mobati of Oakland California in 2016 purchased the 8 inch Cooke telescope with the plane to have the telescope fully restored and placed in an observatory in the San Francisco Bay area. As of 2022 I do not know if the project has yet been completed.

Wednesday 3 August 2022

Will Hay, the White Spot on Saturn, Lamp posts and a Cooke

 The astronomer and comedian Will Hay discovered a white spot on Saturn in August 1933. The film star known is known for playing bumbling teachers or station masters, yet his work as an astronomer was unknown to most people even his neighbours.

He discovered the white spot on Saturn using his 6 inch Thomas Cooke & Sons telescope. When he was interviewed by the press as well as outlying the astronomical work he undertook he also made reference to the problems of light pollution. He commented that:-

He is delighted with his discovery for more than one reason. For some time he has been worrying Croydon council to shade the two lamp posts outside his house because their reflections seriously interfere with his work. He thinks that now perhaps they will realise that he is not just a funny man but someone of importance in the astronomical world.

Tuesday 2 August 2022

Sunspots seen from Manchester in 1870


Mr Henry Ormesher of Manchester writes that -

“On the 31st July 1870 while looking at sunspots with my 3 inch refractor, I saw a beautiful cluster of spots, occupying an almost central position on the disc. It occurred to me that the umbra in the largest spot appeared more dense on the eastern side. 

I therefore determined to examine it with my 5.25 inch refractor; I did so using a power of 181. The result was, that it resolved itself into a very fine nucleus of a somewhat oval shape. After making myself sure that this was the case, I examined the cluster, and was struck with the beautiful appearance of the brighter part of the Sun’s atmosphere. A very bright stream ran across the cluster in a zigzag direction, separating the penumbra. Some parts of this stream, particularly the upper part, appeared brighter than others, presenting a very mottled appearance”

Monday 1 August 2022

The Astronomy Show

 Join me, Martin Lunn tonight and every Monday evening from 7.00 pm-9.00 pm on the Astronomy Show, I will take my weekly look at the night sky and look at all the latest news in astronomy. There will be the astronomical anniversaries this week plus the A-Z of Constellations and the Messier Marathon.

The Astronomy Show every Monday evening only on Drystone Radio 102 and 103.5 FM the show can be heard live on line at and the show can be heard later on the Drystone Radio Podcast.

T Aquila discovered in Manchester


Mr Baxendell has forwarded details of a new variable star T Aquila that was discovered at Mr Worthington’s observatory in Manchester on July 28th 1863.

Today we know that T Aquila is a long period red giant star changing in brightness between magnitude 8.8 – 11.0 over a long irregular period of several months.