1960 - 1964

1965-1970 | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | post 2000

The founding of Keele Observatory dates back to the early 1960s, with the acquisition of the Oxford telescope from the Oxford University Observatory. This was due to the enthusiastic work of Keele's first Observatory's Director Dr R C Maddison (or Ron Maddison, as he was informally referred to). Much of the information here is from his personal recollections [1] [2].

In these early days, all Keele University students studied both science and 'the arts' and many hundreds (probably thousands) of students had their science experience in the very popular sessional astronomy courses that Ron ran. There are also many local people who have fond memories of his evening classes (as they were then called, rather than "continuing and professional education courses").

The main telescope that Keele acquired is a very historic one, having been made by Grubb of Dublin for Oxford University. The optics were refigured in 1923 by Cooke, Troughton and Sims [2]. The telescope is a 12" inch (310 mm) refractor, installed at Oxford in 1874 (some early research papers from Oxford; a retrospective history of Oxford's Observatory). This is still a splendid instrument to view the planets and Moon through. Keele also acquired the dome from Oxford; it had to be cut in two, to transport it by road. When the dome reached Keele, the two halves were reassembled by Harry Wardell, Head of Keele University workshops [2].. A parachute was then placed over the completed dome, and sealing carried out to make the dome watertight. In these early days (up to 1967) the Observatory dome opened straight out onto a field, as can be seen below (many an astronomer bumped into inquisitive cows when they left the dome).

The Dome ‌‌Grubb telescope
Keele Observatory in the early 1960s: just a dome
Note the octagonal telescope end (but see later images)
The Grubb telescope as first installed at Keele
Note the mechanical drive (with a handle to wind up a weight)
Grubb telescope   Grubb telescope
Note the hand-operated dome wheel in the background  Note the support plates, added circa 1891–2 to support an astrograph (removed in the early 20th century)
Grubb telescope Grubb telescope makers plate

Note the wooden steps used in the Observatory in the early days (also seen in Sky at Night filming)

Professor David Ingram (Head of Physics) looking through the telescope; but why are the lights on?

The brass maker's plate on the telescope

A very early modification was a new cover for the end of the telescope's objective. At Oxford, it had been covered by a velvet cloth 'hat', made for it by Dr Madge Adam. Dr Maddison replaced this by a radiator blind from a large truck. This was (and is) operated from the eyepiece end using a mechanical cable. One the above images, the end of the refractor is seen to be octagonal; after this modification the refractor had a square cover.

1965-1970 | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | post 2000