Manchester Astronomical Society

Manchester Astronomical Society, Godlee Observatory, Sackville Street Building, University of Manchester, Manchester M1 3BU
Tel: +44 (0) 161 306 4977 (24 Hour Voicemail)

Established: 1903

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Godlee Observatory Virtual Tour


Francis Godlee


The Godlee double telescopes (made by Grubb of Dublin), which have been in regular use since 1903, are rather unusual although the precedent for this combination had been set 16 years earlier, when Dr Isaac Roberts discussed with Sir Howard Grubb the particular requirements of a large astrographic reflector subsequently erected at Roberts' private observatory at Maghull near Liverpool in April 1885. Here, a 20" Newtonian designed for taking photographs at the prime focus was counterbalanced by a 7" refractor for visual use.

plate_camera_600.jpg roberts_twin_equatorial_500.jpg

On 10 October 1887 Dr Roberts became the first to photograph the spiral structure of the "Andromeda Nebula" (as the Andromeda Galaxy was referred to, at that time) using this instrument. The observatory was later moved to Crowborough, Sussex, from where, in 1893, Roberts published his important 'Photographs of Stars, Star Clusters and Nebulae'.




Since 1946, members have had free access to the observatory which is equipped with an 8" refractor, counterbalanced by a 12" Newtonian reflector. The refractor is used mostly to view the moon and brighter objects, including the Sun projected as a 15" disk onto a screen fastened to the tailpiece. Unfortunately, the location of the observatory, close to the city centre, no longer permits good views of deep-sky objects - if, indeed, it ever did.


Godlee double telescopes



The Godlee telescopes could therefore be regarded as a tried and tested combination in which the City, members of the branch and, indeed, Sir Howard could have every confidence. The ancillary 6" f/6 plate camera mounted on the refractor was an obvious choice for wide field photography, particularly for mapping starfields and for comets. Again there were precedents in the large number of short focal length astrographic lenses of similar aperture in use at the time in America, some of which had been supplied by Sir Howard after trial and error designs had been tested at Greenwich.

6” Plate Camera

Roberts' observatory


The Godlee Observatory (and the telescopes therein) was presented to the City of Manchester in 1903 by Francis Godlee. The tower which houses the observatory is a well know landmark to commuters using the nearby Piccadilly Railway Station (although few will realise what the building is used for).