Papers relating to the Norman Lockyer Observatory (University of Exeter)

Scope and Content

This small collection contains the following items relating to the finances of the Observatory in its capacity as the Norman Lockyer Observatory Corporation of the University of Exeter: general ledgers 1944-1949 and 1949-1967; bank statements 1947-1952 and 1952-1966.

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.

Access Information

Usual EUL arrangements apply.


Description compiled by Charlotte Berry, Archivist, 24 March 2004, and encoded into EAD 2 June 2004. Biographical details are taken from the Dictionary of National Biography.

Other Finding Aids

A handlist is available.

Conditions Governing Use

Usual EUL restrictions apply.

Custodial History

This collection was formerly called EUL MS 186 (add.), but was made into an independent collection in 2004 in order to reflect the differences in provenance between EUL MS 186 and EUL MS 246.

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).