Norman Lockyer Observatory Papers

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection includes the working papers of the Observatory and research papers of members of staff. Financial records and annual reports are incuded, but some finanancial records are with the University of Exeter's own financial papers, currently deposited in Devon Record Office.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Norman Lockyer Observatory was begun as The Hill Observatory in 1913 by Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer (1836-1920), astronomer, and officially established in 1916. It was renamed in his honour in the year after his death by his family, who continued to play an important role in the running of the observatory. Following a generous endowment from Robert Mond, it was established as a centre of astronomical excellence, and later became The Norman Lockyer Observatory Corporation of the University of Exeter. The University was not able to attract the significant funding required to compete on the international stage of astronomy, however, and the Norman Lockyer Observatory Corporation was wound up in 1989-1991. The telescope was given to the Sidmouth Astronomical Society, a group of enthusiasts, who re-opened the NLO and established the Norman Lockyer Observatory Society to administer it.


The collection is arranged somewhat idiosyncratically, papers of Dr WJS Lockyer forming an initial series, followed by separate groups of administrative records and finally research papers and photographs.

Conditions Governing Access

Usual EUL arrangements apply

Acquisition Information

This collection was mostly deposited by the wound-up Corporation in about 1991.


A large number of publications were received with the collection, some of them Lockyer's own, and some containing inscriptions and annotations; these mostly remain the property of the Norman Lockyer Observatory Society. Some items have been added to the University Library catalogue and stored in the Reserve Collection.

Other Finding Aids

There is a rough handlist to the boxes. This notes that some boxes and files have their own handlists, copies of which are within the said box or file.

Conditions Governing Use

Usual EUL arrangements apply

Custodial History

The papers were kept along with many of Lockyer's own research papers at the Observatory until 1981. In that year a great deal of Lockyer-related and Observatory-related material began to come to the University Library on loan. On the winding-up of the Corporation in 1989-91, it was decided to offer the Norman Lockyer papers in the first instance to the Science Museum. In 1995 the Science Museum agreed that the correspondence and papers of Sir Norman Lockyer should remain at and become the property of, the University of Exeter. These papers thus have been withdrawn from this collection and separately identified under reference EUL MS 110. The remainder, this collection, is the remnant: largely the records of, and the papers generated by, the Norman Lockyer Observatory Corporation 1916-1989.