Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Star Man of Hardwick

Astronomers can set up just about anywhere - or at least, they could before the days of street lighting and the lighting of car parks and supermarkets and so on. William Herschel set up his telescope in his back garden in Bath, and was visited there by crowned heads of Europe. He was the first person on Earth to see the planet Uranus.
More locally, Rev. Thomas William Webb set up his observatory in the garden of the rectory at Hardwick, just a mile or so outside Hay. In 1859, he wrote a guide for astronomers called Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes, which became the standard reference for amateur astronomers right up to 1917. A revised version of the book was published in 1962, and it is still widely used, though the earlier editions are now collectors' items.
In fact, Herefordshire was a veritable hotbed of astronomical interest in the 19th Century. While Rev. Webb was writing his book, Rev. Key at Stretton Sugwas was a telescope pioneer and inventor, and the head teacher of the Blue Coat School in Hereford, George Henry With, made over 200 mirrors for telescopes. Rev Webb and his wife Henrietta were also keen on the new technology of photography.

(Thanks to Brian for telling me about this)

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