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Observation by Alan B Thomas: Catalogue by H. W. English, Brentwood, E...

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Alan Thomas


Alan B Thomas


2020 Apr 10 - 11:27


2020 Apr 10 - 11:54



Target name

Catalogue by H. W. English, Brentwood, Essex c.1960


Catalogue by H. W. English, Brentwood, Essex c.1960

About this image

In the post-war period, war-surplus suppliers were one source of gear for aspiring telescope builders. This eight-page catalogue by H.W.English of Brentwood offered hundreds of ex-Government optical items, including telescope lenses, eyepieces, prisms, filters, concave mirrors, telescopes, telescope kits, photographic lenses, cameras, binoculars, microscopes, predictor telescopes (?), opthalmascopes, periscopes, projection lenses and a host of electrical items.

One curious offer is a 5" Mk.V Heliograph, with leather case which "if cut up yields over 2 sq. ft. of leather enough to mend 4 pairs boots or shoes." Even then it is hard to imagine many people mending their own boots . . . !

I know nothing more about H.W.English except that a book titled 'How to Use Lenses and Mirrors' was published by H.W. and C.R. English in 1970.

While not part of the Grand History of Astronomy, such firms may perhaps deserve a footnote in the story of the popularisation of Astronomy in Britain in the second half of the twentieth century.

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Andrew Smith
Andrew Smith, 2020 Apr 10 - 12:52 UTC

I remember buying lenes from him.Dad also had a cobblers iron at home for mending boots. Very useful when the  nails came through and hurt your feet.

Regards Andrew 

Alan Thomas
Alan Thomas, 2020 Apr 10 - 14:21 UTC

Hi Andrew. Funnily enough, we had one of those boot irons, a three-legged affair. I think ours must have come from grandparents. I don't think anyone in our house used it. 

Necessity was the mother of invention back then. Are there any equivalents of H R English today? I don't suppose many amateurs make their own instruments now - a ccd camera or a Mak-Cas doesn't seem amenable  to DIY. But maybe it does go on. I know there's a group in London.


Martin Lewis
Martin Lewis, 2020 Apr 10 - 20:07 UTC

That brings back memories Alan.

Well remember going to HW English in the 70s and 80s and bought a pair of solid brass geared drives which I joined together to make my first equatorial mount. Put me off equatorials for life!

I just dug through my box file and found a 64 page catalogue with its price list dated 1st May 1980! I also found an even earlier one with 32 pages with price list but no date on it.

Happy to scan in either if anyone is interested.


Alan Thomas
Alan Thomas, 2020 Apr 11 - 15:58 UTC

That''s interesting,  Martin. Yes do scan your items - this bit of history is worth recording, and if we don't do it who will?

Best wishes


Martin Lewis
Martin Lewis, 2020 Apr 14 - 20:55 UTC

Hi Alan,
It will be a lot pages. Where shall I send it once scanned?



Alan Thomas
Alan Thomas, 2020 Apr 15 - 15:00 UTC

I don't know. Perhaps you should contact Mike Frost, Director of the Historical Section for advice.

Best wishes


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