Papers relating to the Norman Lockyer Observatory

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This collection consists mainly of papers relating to the administration of the Norman Lockyer Observatory, especially its Library. As well as containing administrative records of the Library and offprints of various scientific journals, some photographs are also contained, as well as notes on the history of the Observatory. The collection also contains the so-called 'Marconi telegram' notifying Sir Norman Lockyer of the first Atlantic transmission using Ether waves, sent from Marconi at Mullion, Cornwall, to Sir Norman Lockyer of the Solar Physics Observatory, South Kensington, London, 12 January 1903 'My best regards sent by Ether waves through space from Canada to England, Marconi'. Recto: Copy telegram to Marconi from Norman Lockyer 12 January 1903, 'Your Ether telegram received with thanks help our meteorology by telegraphing Atlantic barometer Lockyer'.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Norman Lockyer Observatory was begun by Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer (1836-1920), astronomer, as The Hill Observatory in 1912. Following the completion of building work at the site at Salcombe Regis, near Sidmouth, Devon, solar work commenced in 1913 using the Kensington telescope which had been brought from the observatory in South Kensington. The Observatory was officially established as a charitable trust in 1916, and was renamed in Lockyer's 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, the Observatory was established as a centre of astronomical excellence, and later became The Norman Lockyer Observatory Corporation of the University of Exeter (University College of the South West of England until 1955). The principal telescopes were donated by Lockyer and by Francis McLean, who had originally suggested the building of the observatory. A further telescope was donated by Robert Mond in 1932.

Lockyer's son Dr. W.J.S. (James) Lockyer held the post of Director from 1920 until his own early death in 1936, when he was succeeded by the assistant astronomer D.L. Edwards. After the Second World War, additional funds were provided by the University College of the South West (now the University of Exeter), and enabled the Observatory to continue operations. Donald Edwards died in 1956 and his assistant D.R. Barber continued astronomical work until his retirement in 1961. The site was then used for various geophysical observations until it was sold to East Devon District Council in 1986. The Council then refurbished the site (including the Frank McLean telescope), and the Observatory was reopened in 1989 for operation jointly by the Sidmouth Astronomical and Radio Societies, who merged to form the newly extended Norman Lockyer Observatory in 1995. A lending library is located at the Observatory, and some book and archive materials are also held temporarily at the University of Exeter Library pending the provision of permanent storage facilities at the Observatory.


The original arrangement of these papers has been retained. Box one contains all loose papers in the collection. Boxes two, three and four contain divided material taken from a very large bundle of related papers.

Conditions Governing Access

Usual EUL arrangements apply.


Listed by Charlotte Berry, Archivist, 18 February 2004 and encoded into EAD 28 May 2004.

Other Finding Aids

A handlist is available.

Conditions Governing Use

Usual EUL restrictions apply.

Custodial History

Given to the Library in 1999 via a member of the University's School of Physics to be added to the Norman Lockyer Observatory archive (i.e. the existing collection EUL MS 72).

Related Material

There are seven collections relating to Norman Lockyer and the Norman Lockyer Observatory at Exeter. 1. EUL MS 72, the papers of the observatory c1913-1989; 2. EUL MS 110, the correspondence and papers of Sir Norman Lockyer from the observatory; 3. EUL MS 114, papers on loan from the Royal Astronomical Society relating to Lockyer; 4. EUL MS 128, papers relating to the Norman Lockyer Observatory; 5. EUL MS 186, papers by Lockyer or relating to him from Sid Vale Heritage Centre; 6. EUL MS 236, letters to Sir Norman Lockyer; 7 EUL MS 246, Papers relating to the Norman Lockyer Observatory (University of Exeter). In addition the University is temporarily looking after papers (1991-) of the Norman Lockyer Observatory Society.

Other papers of Lockyer's are held at the following repositories: Royal Astronomical Society Library; Royal Geographic Society; Imperial College Archives; British Library and Cambridge University Library. Other papers relating to the Norman Lockyer Observatory are held at the University of Leicester (Special Collections).


Not known.