Jason Clarke Antiques

Victorian Telescope by Troughton & Simms with East India Company Engineers Dedication


For sale, a Mid Victorian three draw telescope by Troughton & Simms, London with presentation engraving for both the Bombay Engineers and the Bengal Engineers, East India Company.

This fine telescope measures 78cms extended, 26cms closed and has a one and three quarter inch objective lens. The telescope retains its original lens cap, leather barrel covering, dust-slide for the eyetube and engraving to the first draw to the esteemed makers, Troughton & Simms, London.

The other side of first draw is further engraved with the following dedication, “GLC Merewether, Bombay Engineers from Thomas C Manderson, Bengal Engineers.”

George Lane Cockburn (GLC) Merewether was perhaps the most successful of the pair. Born to the Very Reverend John Merewether in 1836, he attended Marlbourough College from 1848 to 1854 and then proceeded to the East India Company’s Military Seminary at Addiscombe from 1854 to 1856. He arrived as a second lieutenant in India just prior to the Indian Mutiny and had made lieutenant by the time he was involved in the Siege of Dwarka. During this period he served with both the Rajpootana and Okamundel Field Forces as a Field Engineer and received a medal for his participation. During the 1860’s he was heavily involved in the deepening of the harbour at Karachi for which he took a leading role owing to the ill health of WH Price who was in charge of the works. He also took part in the Abysinnian Campaign of 1867 – 1868 for which he received a second medal and also achieved the rank of Captain.

Following the completion of the Karachi harbour works, Merewether returned to Bombay in 1870 to take charge of the cities defences and also became heavily involved in the teaching and examination of engineering students through the University of Bombay. His promotion to Major occurred in 1873 and by the end of the decade he had risen to become the Assistant Director, General Public Works Stores for India at the India Office. Little information is available but there is also a suggestion in the records that Mereweather was both divorced and made bankrupt during this period.

Personal issues aside, a new position as Chairman of the Bombay Harbour Port Trust coincided with a promotion to Lieutentant Colonel in 1881 and then to full Colonel in 1885, a position which he seems to have held until his retirement in the late 1880’s whereafter his influence remained. In the early 1890’s a new dry dock was created in Bombay which was given his namesake and a road in the city still exists bearing his name. He eventually died in Brighton in 1910.

Thomas Claridge Manderson also trained through the East India Company’s Miltary Seminary, Born in 1839 just three years junior to Merewether, he attended Addiscombe between 1855 and 1858 and was posted to Chatham in 1858 with the rank of Lieutenant. There is little immediate evidence of his early career but he arrived in India from Chatham during The Indian Mutiny and joined The Bengal Engineers where in 1870 he became Captain and Major in 1877. His rise in the ranks was perhaps a little slower than his friend Merewether but he was made Lieutenant-Colonel in 1886 and finally made Colonel in 1890.

Manderson must have been equally talented as he is also listed as being a Superintending Engineer First Class and also Inspector General of Lahore. He eventually retired and died in 1901 in Barnstaple, Devon.

Finding the link between these two East India Company Engineers has been a task which has so far evaded me but both officers had distinguished service careers.

They were amongst the last students to have studied at the East India Company’s military Seminary at Addiscombe House and are very likely to have known one another during this period due to the small numbers of Engineers versus infantry and gunnery students. Manderson is listed as being at Chatham in 1858 at which point Merewether was already in India and involved in the (lesser known) Siege of Dwarka during the latter stages of the Indian Mutiny in September 1859. My suspicion is Manderson was also involved by this stage as he was listed as Lieutenant in 1858 in India and the telescope may well have been some form of gift after the hardships that both men endured.

The East India Company was disbanded during the aftermath of the Mutiny and the Engineers were consolidated into The Royal Engineers, the engraving on the telescope for both the Bombay & Bengal Engineers would therefore suggest a date close to this period. There also seems to be some association with the name of “Rennie” between the two parties. Manderson called his son, John Rennie Manderson whilst the Merewether family has a similar name in its records. It is therefore likely that some family connection exists which would require further research to uncover.

The makers of the this fine instrument, Troughton & Simms, were arguably, the most famous of British scientific instrument making firms from the period, the firm was created in 1826 by a merger of the Troughton business and that of William Simms and it continued to trade until just after the Great War. In 1922 it merged with T Cooke & Sons to become, Cooke Troughton & Simms. The company still exists today and now trades as Cooke Optics Limited with a focus on cinematography lenses. 

Prior to their merger, Edward Troughton was responsible for considerably expanding the Troughton family’s reputation for quality (the dynasty had begun in the 1750’s). He was apprenticed to his brother John in 1770 and later formed a partnership with him named J&E Troughton. Following John’s retirement in 1804, he maintained the business in his own right and was elected a Fellow of The Royal Society in 1810. He was considered a peer of the great Jesse Ramsden, responsible for numerous developments in surveying and navigational instruments.

William Simms was born in Birmingham but moved with his family to London where his father was employed in making marine compasses. He was apprenticed to a goldsmith, William Penstone but turned over to his father (also William) two years before completion. In 1815, he emerged and went into business as a Freeman of the Goldsmiths Company of London. Soon after, he submitted his plans for an ‘improved protractor’ to The Royal Society and was supported by Thomas Jones, the famous instrument maker from Charing Cross and originally one of Jesse Ramsden’s workmen. His work and ideas on the development of dividing engines brought him into close contact with Edward Troughton as Simms, re-divided an engine that had been made by Troughton some years earlier and required an overhaul but the relationship with Troughton is considered to have been formed after working together on a commission for Sir James South for the East India Company.

A superb telescope with a wonderful history covering the final days of The East India company, The Indan Mutiny and latter part of British rule in India. A piece which is highly worthy of further detailed research.

Circa 1860

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