I happened across the “British Pathe” channels on YouTube today, which contain 80,000 videos of the archive of British Pathe news films. A fantastic resource.
I immediately thought of our forthcoming trip to Herstmonceux, and wondered if there would be any historical archive footage of the Royal Greenwich Observatory at Herstmonceux. I found a few videos that may be of interest:
Britain’s biggest new telescope – “Sir Isaac Newton” at Herstmonceux 1967
Herstmonceux in 1963 – includes a great section on the 4-inch photo heliograph
Herstmonceux in 1957 – this is a bit of an odd one, as there is no sound and the title refers to “Sputnik II”. I assume it is unused footage, referring to Herstmonceux’s attempts to track the Soviet satellite? I think that’s the Thompson 30-inch in the video, but I’m not certain. [EDIT: CONFIRMED… This is the Thompson 30inch reflector]
There is almost certainly more stuff lurking in the archives. Can anyone else find anything that might be of interest?
Fantastic! They don’t make films, or accents, or music, or commentary like that anymore! “Terrifying terminology, these astronomers use, along with their weird apparatus and domes.”
Those who want to brush up on their history prior to the visit to Herstmonceux may wish to consult the following material. Firstly, Mike Dryland reminded me of some material which he wrote on the old website, prior to the Flamsteed’s first visit to Herstmonceux, back in 2004. See http://www.flamsteed.org/rgo.pdf . There is also a report from a talk by Rosemary Selmes who worked at Herstmonceux. See http://www.flamsteed.org/fasselmes.htm . Both links are really worth reading.
Secondly, thanks to Malcolm Porter for providing me with some other useful online material. A very interesting personal history by George Wilkins, who worked at the Royal Greenwich Observatory between 1951 and 1989 can be found here: http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/deptserv/manuscripts/RGO_history/ . More information on the story of the Royal Greenwich Observatory at Herstmonceux can be found here: http://www.ing.iac.es/PR/int_info/history.htm .
I found some more British Pathe material!
Duke of Edinburgh Visits Royal Observatory (Herstmonceux) 1958. This, again, seems to be raw unedited camera footage, so there is no sound:
One other piece of footage… not from Herstmonceux, but from Greenwich, which is entitled “Observatory Museum“. Again, this is raw footage without sound, but it’s fascinating to see many of the exhibits which are still in place today (and a few, such as Airy’s Altazimuth 1847, which are not).
Thanks for sharing these videos Mike. They’re very interesting (if not a little creepy due to the lack of sound on the latter ones).
I especially enjoyed the last one filmed at Greenwich. It’s good to see how things once were. What were those scare-crow-esque mannequin-type figures used for? Any ideas? They first appear @ 0.24.
Also amused by the chap ‘straightening up’ the quadrants that are fixed to the walls.
What were those scare-crow-esque mannequin-type figures used for?
These mannequins seriously creeped me out when I saw them… especially when our “guide” (who I believe is Sidney Parker… at least that’s who is named on the film) leans over the mannequin about 30 seconds in…. and then he moves the head into position!! I think I shouted “WHAT THE HELL’S THAT!!!” when I first saw it. Thank God they’ve now disappeared from the museum… though I suspect some may be lurking in the Kidbrooke storage facility (eeeek… an even scarier thought!).
They were clearly meant to represent the astronomers who used to work at Greenwich in a bygone age. I suspect they were removed when children ran screaming from the galleries shouting “there’s a man with no face lying down in there!!”
I need a lie down myself now.
Hahaha! Thanks for the clarification. They are seriously creepy – the stuff of nightmares! I think that I’d run out screaming if I ever encountered one of those… *shudder* And to think that they may still exist somewhere…
They are automatons and guns cannot kill them. We need Dr Who.
Not even Dr Who would venture to Kidbrooke 😉