This telescope (Quoting from Orchiston 1997 and others) was built by Grubb in 1884 and ordered in the mid 1880’s by J.W. Sutton (c. 1844-1914) of Brisbane. Sutton was the owner of the Kangaroo Point Iron Works and involved in shipping in the course of his business. The telescope was ‘imported from Dublin’, and was ordered for a Brisbane Gentleman, presumably John Potts (1828 – 1905) who paid £180 for it landed in Brisbane.

Potts, who lived in Vulture Street, South Brisbane, had been described as scrivener (a professional or public writer, notary, etc.) but was also a land developer sometimes in conjunction with his son ‘Johnny’ who was described as a ‘conveyancer’. The latter description comes from a Queensland Supreme Court Case heard 10 Sep 1888. Not very long afterwards Potts sold the telescope to Mr Stanley for £90. This loss of £90 in his purchase price would not have been large for him during the land boom of the late 1880’s.

Mr C. J. White1It is likely that C.J. White was the Lecturer in Charge of the Sydney Teacher’s College, and the communication referenced, as researched by M. Moy, was by correspondence and not verbal. who had acted also as an intermediary in this and other telescope sales was told by Potts that his son, Johnny, for whom Potts had possibly purchased the telescope, had fallen in love with a girl he did not approve of. Potts senior told White “If Johnny takes a liking to an Earthly Venus I do not approve of, he shall never see the heavenly Venus through my telescope. Johnny apparently never did! John William Potts married Ethel Sarah Harcourt on 11th June 1888 in Brisbane. Potts senior appears to have been as good as his word!

The remains of the foundation of Potts’ observatory appears to have been converted into a fountain from a description of the sale of ‘Chorlton Villa’ in 1892 by the Mortgagee, after the financial depression of the early 1890’s. “On a slightly- raised terrace within a few yards of the veranda, a superb Marble Fountain with Large Masonry Basin and Base”. In later years it was described as a 10’ 8” diameter fishpond. It was a good high observatory site close to the house.2Sources D Eglinton Circa 1916, M Moy/K. Holmes poster paper for 1994 NACAA, Holmes article Pages 4&5 Nov 1994 Astronomical Association of Qld. Newsletter, and S Hutcheon research 2019.

Sutton does not appear to have made any use of the telescope, simply being the importer, and Mr John Potts does not appear to have used it very much either before he on-sold it to Stanley in the late 1880’s, certainly before the early 1890’s since it does not appear on the liquidation file. Brisbane Architect, FDG Stanley (1839 – 1897) was a prominent figure who had been the Colonial Architect and ran a very successful architectural practice. He installed the 6” Grubb refractor in a 3.7 metre square observatory with a roll-off roof at his ridge-top home ‘Ardencraig’ at Toowong.3Location Corner Jephson and Golding Streets. – Present street names.

In Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society41895MNRAS.55.316T (and in newspaper reports) James Park Thomson describes this instrument with which he observed the 11 November 1894 transit of Mercury. Quoting from the RAS Monthly Notices:

‘…an equatorially mounted refracting telescope, 6 foot focal length, with object glass 6 inches in diameter, built by Sir Howard Grubb in 1884. It is the property of Mr F.D.G. Stanley, F.R.I.B.A. The telescope rests on a hollow cast-iron column, 5 feet 9 inches in height and 18 inches diameter at the base, in which is placed the driving clock. The whole metal work is mounted on a stone and concrete foundation carried down to the solid rock 6 feet below the surface of the ground, perfect freedom from vibration being thereby secured.

The observatory which is situated at “Ardincraig,” (sic) Toowong, the private residence of Mr Stanley, is a wooden building 12 feet square with roof arranged so as to roll entirely off on a railway and framing built to receive it. There can be no doubt whatever that, in a fine climate, this arrangement possesses many advantages to which I shall refer later on.’

Thomson continues: ‘ …Included in the equipment of the observatory is a transit instrument, by Carl Bamberg, of Berlin (1879). This is placed upon a stone pedestal…’ 5This telescope was on loan from the Queensland Government Survey Office, and after Stanley’s death was returned to them.

About the author

Peter Anderson
Peter Anderson
Peter has been involved in practical amateur astronomy and involved with the local astronomical society since 1958. Has been a member of the AAQ since its inception in 1978, and is the Associations unofficial Historian.
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