Shropshire, space and the moon landing
On the 20th July we will be celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the first moon landing. Earth dwellers have always been fascinated by the night sky with its stars and planets, and often obsessed with Earth’s satellite, the Moon. From the archives, we can find evidence that the past people of Shropshire shared in this attraction with all things space.
In 1849, Shrewsbury man, Henry Blunt made a model of the surface of the Moon. He sent the model which he described as ‘an accurate representation of a portion of the Moon’s surface as it appears through a Newtonian telescope of seven feet focus, under a magnifying power of about 250’, to the Royal Astronomical Society. The model that portrays in detail the volcanic crater Eratosthenes was intended for use as astronomical educational material. There is a photograph of the model in the Local Studies collection reference: BB65 v.f.
Blunt was not alone in his scrutiny of space. In 1882, William Moseley of Buildwas wrote a letter to his father about a telescope that he could use whilst staying with a Dr Clayton. The telescope had been set up to watch a transit (possibly the transit of Venus in front of the sun). Unfortunately, the weather was too wet to see the transit. In the letter, he draws a diagram of the chromatic refracting telescope and describes it as having ‘glasses which magnify a 1000 times a most excellent telescope indeed’. (Ref: 2089/3/17)
Books on astronomy were made available to the people of Shropshire long before William Moseley had chance to see the sun and moon through Dr Clayton’s telescope. The Bridgnorth Parochial Library holds ‘The young gentleman’s astronomy, chronology, and dialling. Containing such elements of the said arts or sciences, as are most useful and easy to be known’. (Ref: B7587) The book was published in 1712, but it is unknown exactly when the book was made available to the people of Bridgnorth. The Library may have had a benefactor interested in astronomy as it contains four of the seven books in the Shropshire Parochial Libraries collection that have astronomy in the title. The Bridgnorth volumes are more scientific than the astro-theology books held by other parochial libraries in the county.
Shropshire people also enjoyed exhibitions and lectures about astronomy. In 1835, Mr Franklin gave two lectures on Astronomy at the Assembly Rooms in Shrewsbury. (Ref: 665/4/203) In 1849, there was an exhibition at the Music Hall entitled: ‘Illustrations on Astronomy, by Dr. Owens and exhibition of splendid pictorial subjects and dissolving views by Mr. J. Sutton’
Finally, in our celebration of the anniversary of the moon landing we will leave you with a poem from the Madeley Parish records entitled
‘Lines Addressed to the Moon During the progress of the eclipse on Friday 13 October 1837’ (Ref: P180/U/1/8/2)
Lo’ Heaven’s effulgent, silver Queen,
So rob’d in sable garments seen,
Though late she shone resplendent, bright,
To chase away the gloom of night.
She angry seems, on us sends down
A dark forbidding threatful frown.
Is she offended? Has she hurled
Her wrath against this lower world?
Why, a propitious silver Queen,
Why all this wrathful anger seen?
Are gods at war? Do spheres contend?
Where shall the mighty conflict end?
Arise, Arise, A King of day
Assert thy right, the contest stay.
Thy rising light the war shall end,
And make the Moon the Earth be friend.
This dark Eclipse, this midnight gloom,
Reminds of nature’s final doom,
When Sol, with all his splendid light,
Will (plunging in eternal night),
Ashamed hide his face, retire,
And leave the world to burn in fire.
While thunders roll and lightnings glare,
The Moon on sanguine hue will ware,
The flaming lamps of ether full,
Blown out by Him who made them all.
Then will the spheres no more contend,
Their strife, their glory too will end.
While orbs are from their orbits riven,
And hurled down, to ruin driven,
Shall I annihilated be?
Or live to all eternity?
Post written by archivist Sara Downs