Monday, September 23, 2013

Ferncliffe Observatory

My abiding memories of the late RAS Librarian Peter Hingley include the wonderfully entertaining conversations we had based on his encyclopaedic astronomical knowledge. In addition, there appeared to be no part of the country with which Peter was not acquainted and he generally had an anecdote to tell about each. For example, noting that I live near Chester, he told me about his visits to the City as well as the hours he spent in the library of Hawarden Castle, just across the Welsh border in Flintshire. Similarly when I mentioned that I had grown up in Kent, he told me about the Ferncliffe Observatory at Tunbridge Wells, which had been built by the pioneering spectroscopist, Frank McClean (1837-1904), in the 1870s. This came as something of a surprise as I had no idea that Tunbridge Wells was once home to an important astronomical research centre. Moreover, it transpired that McClean’s residence...was located on the Pembury Road, one of the main routes into the town, and therefore I must have unwittingly driven past it dozens of times over the years. Peter kindly gave me copies of some photographs of McClean’s observatory from the RAS archives along with permission to publish them. 

Frank McClean and the Ferncliffe Observatory at Tunbridge Wells by Jeremy Shears

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