|12 Mar 2008||Telescope foundations unearthed!|
Telescope foundations unearthed
The Newall Telescope was built by Thomas Cooke (1807-1868) at his Buckingham Works in Bishop Hill, York. The telescope had been ordered by a wealthy businessman Robert Stirling Newall (1812-1889). Newall had made his fortune manufacturing the submarine cables used to transmit telegraphs under the seas. Newall bought two large glass discs by Chance Brothers he had seen at an 1862 exhibition in London. He then got Cooke to make them into the object glass of a telescope. The Newall Telescope with its 25-inch (63.5cm) diameter object glass was the largest telescope Cooke had ever made. It was not an easy task and the difficulties may have contributed to Cooke's death in 1868 with the telescope being completed by his sons.
The telescope was referred to in Cooke's obituary as an `imperial philosophical machine'.
We still have an example of a Cooke telescope on our site. The Thorrowgood Telescope made in 1864, with a mere 8-inch objective glass.
The dome used to house the telescope was designed by R.S. Newall himself. It featured pre-fabricated parts allowing for ease of transportation.
The telescope was completed in 1871 and installed at Newall's house at Ferndene near Gateshead. Newall had intended to found an observatory in Madeira but pressure of business frustrated this aim. At the time of its installation it was the largest refracting telescope in the world.
In the IoA Library collection we have some drawings made of the Moon and sunspots made using the telescope by the pre-Raphaelite artist Henry Holiday (1839-1927) in 1870-71.
In 1873 its size was surpassed by a 26-inch (66cm) refractor at the US Naval Observatory. The Gateshead site was poor and the telescope was not used very much and attempts were made to relocate it to a better site. In 1889 Newall gave the telescope to the University of Cambridge.
Hugh Frank Newall (1857-1944) was the son of R.S. Newall and shared his fathers scientific interests. He supervised the installation of the telescope in Cambridge and settled down to making observations with it. Having had built the house at Madingley Rise as his accommodation. He moved in on 7th October 1891. He continued to work with the telescope until his death in 1944. After this the telescope was largely unused and it was offered to other observatories. It was taken in 1955 by the National Observatory of Athens where it was set up in a new dome on the Penteli Mountain in 1958. The expansion of the city of Athens has now brought light-pollution up to the telescope, making it unsuitable for professional astronomy. The telescope is now mainly used for amateur and public observing.