Observatory At Quarry Bank Mill, Styal, Cheshire

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    Posted by David Mottershead at 20:15 on 2012 Jul 17

    Recently, at Quarry Bank Mill, Styal in Chesire, the original formal garden behind the mill owners house has been ‘redisvovered’, restored and opened to the public, and I am told by the head gardner that they believe that an astronomical observatory was once sited in, or at the edge of the garden. However, no records have yet been found to confirm or deny this. It is known that the Gregg family, owners of Quarry Bank Mill, were interested in astronomy, and John Gregg had an observatory built at another of the families properties, Escowbeck House in Lancashire. I have been unsuccessful in my attempts to locate any evidence for an observatory at Quarry Bank, and wondered if anyone has come across any references to this, or has any knowledge of it.Many thanks.


    Posted by Roy Hughes at 17:26 on 2012 Jul 18

    At http://www.old-maps.co.uk/maps the 1874 map shows an "Observatory" almost due north of the mill. But I think this is just a view point as its marked B.M. 249.5. (If you want a look, coords 383459, 382943 should show it).


    Posted by David Mottershead at 20:10 on 2012 Jul 18

    Many thanks Roy, appreciated. I think, looking at the symbol that accompanies the notation ‘BM 249.5’ that this is a benchmark, and if so there must have been some structure for the benchmark to be on. According to the Ordnance Survey, benchmarks are normally only encountered on buildings and other semi permenant structures. Certainly by the later maps on Old Maps both the observatory and benchmark had gone. So this could well be the observatory referred to. Many thanks again.


    Posted by Jeremy at 21:01 on 2012 Jul 18

    This is potentially very interesting, David, and is certainly intriguingI had a look in a book which lists many observatories that were in existence in ~1907:http://www.archive.org/details/lesobservatoire00delpgoog(You can select to read on line – or download if you prefer)But I can’t see anything listed near Quarry Bank Mill, nor under the name of Greg. The list is of course not exhaustive and in any case 1907 may be a long time after it was pulled down.Go well!Jeremy ShearsCheshire, UK


    Posted by Callum Potter at 11:04 on 2012 Jul 19

    Jeremy, that’s a really interesting and useful resource – thanks for sharing it.Callum


    Posted by Denis Buczynski at 14:14 on 2012 Jul 22

    There was an Observatory donated to Lancaster City Council by John Gregg of Escowbeck near Lancaster (a wealthy Mill owner) around the turn of the 19/20th century. This was erected in Lancaster’s Williamson Park and contained an 8 inch Cooke refractor. This was in exsistence up until the start of the Second World War when it was dismantled by the City Council and effectively lost. I know that BAA member Peter Wade has researched this observatory and I think wrote an article for the JBAA about it(a job for searching the digital archive). Peter will have a good deal of knowledge of John Gregg and his astronomical activities. If you want his address, then email me and I will forward it onto you. The tale of demise of this fine observatory in Lancaster is sad and it tells a all to familiar tale of what can happen to these municipal facilities if their fate is left to those who have no knowledge or appreciation of them. The worry is that more will disapear. The Jerimiah Horrocks Observatory in Moor Park in Preston is at immediate risk. The observatory and 8 inch Cooke (visited by many a BAA group over the years) has been "MOTHBALLED" by its current custodians The University of Central Lancashire and has not been used for at least five years and the doors remain closed. There is no proposed plan for is long term survival.These municipal facilities have been the venue of choice by members of the public when there are well publicised astronomical events taking place. I well remeember there being hundreds queueing to look through the 8 inch refractor at Moor Park during the nights that Comet Halley was visible in the 1980’s and also the 2004 transit of Venus acroos the face of the Sun.Can the BAA become more vocal in its support and make the public more aware of the losses they face if more of these fine facilities are lost.


    Posted by Jeremy at 14:34 on 2012 Jul 22

    Hello Denis,You make some excellent points about saving municipal observatories. Sorry to here about the Preston Obsy.Peter Wade’s JBAA article is available at ADS:http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1992JBAA..102..160WGo well!Jeremy


    Posted by Nick James at 21:35 on 2012 Jul 22

    Hi all,Peter Wade’s paper on "Lancaster’s lost observatory" is in JBAA 102,3 (1992 June), pp 160-162.Nick.


    Posted by Nick James at 21:37 on 2012 Jul 22

    I see Jeremy got there before me. I’ll read page 2 of the comments next time!Nick.


    Posted by David Mottershead at 08:48 on 2012 Jul 23

    Many thanks to all who have replied to this thread, and for the information and references provided. I am confident now that the observatory shown on the maps that Roy provided the link for, was indeed the Greg observatory at Quarry Bank Mill – but what was in it and what happened to it I don’t as yet know. I shall keep digging and see what I can find on this specific observatory.I have found a reference book,part of which is previewed online, and which looks like it might have possibilities in this search, (although I need to look through what is online to determine this):http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=o-08AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA34&lpg=PA34&dq=Escowbeck&source=bl&ots=QdAUICbfwT&sig=TrN4Iuz5OajJQL_ZXc10LOziBr4&hl=en&ei=i4mCS97JKsKRjAf8pYWuCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Escowbeck&f=falseAgain, many thanks to all for their assistance and contributions so far.

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