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.

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