An Astronomical Legacy

Two men (one in a lab coat, one in a waistcoat) stood next to a round mirror that is about two feet taller than them.

David Sinden (left) and George Oliver with the 72 inch Helwan mirror.

The Grubb Parsons legacy lives on. Professional astronomers from all over the world continue to use the mirrors and telescopes made by Grubb Parsons to make new discoveries about the Universe.

During the late 1970s traditional companies like Grubb Parsons started to struggle against growing competition from international manufacturers. Grubb Parsons tried new ideas, including selling more telescopes for amateur astronomers. They also designed new light-weight mirrors for future space-based telescopes. However, financial problems led to the company's closure in 1985.

The lasting legacy of Grubb Parsons lived on through the work and new companies of key ex-employees. For example, David Sinden, the last chief optician at Grubbs, founded the Sinden Optical Company in Byker. The technical director of Grubbs, David S. Brown, took up a post at Durham University to do further research into optical systems and their applications in astronomy.

Did you know... 

David Sinden restored Reverend Thomas Espin's telescope from Tow Law, County Durham. Sadly, it now sits unused in an abandoned observatory in Close House, Heddon on the Wall.

Relevance today

This blueprint is for a space telescope designed by Grubb Parsons. It was never built but a modified version (not involving Grubb Parsons) was the International Ultraviolet Explorer. It was put into orbit by NASA in 1978.

Related artefacts

Grubb Parsons 8-inch mirror

A Grubb Parsons 8-inch mirror that was made around 1960 for an amateur astronomer’s telescope.

On loan from the Jurgen Schmoll private collection

Letter written with a typewriter.

Letter from Grubb Parsons to the owner of 8-inch mirror

The letter is from Grubb Parsons to the owner of the 8-inch mirror, telling them that their mirror is ready to collect.

On loan from the Jurgen Schmoll private collection

Grubb Parsons Amateur Telescopes

Close-up image of a red telescope with the word "Perseus" written on it.
Orange cylindrical telescope with an eye piece attached. The telescope is next to a door. The word "Andromeda" is written on the tube.

These two amateur telescopes are examples of the telescopes made not long before the Grubb Parsons business ended. Back then, small telescopes made in the US were becoming increasingly popular amongst amateur astronomers.

The Perseus telescope (red) is a 9-inch Maksutov and the Andromeda (orange) is a 5-inch Newtonian.

Only 12 of the Perseus telescopes were produced before Grubb Parsons went into administration around 1985

Persues telescope on loan from the Jurgen Schmoll private collection
Andromeda telescope on loan from the John Nichol private collection