Orwell Astronomical Society (Ipswich)

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Astronomical Interest at Ipswich Science-Gossip Society

On 28 September 1895, John Ellor Taylor died in Ipswich. He had founded Ipswich Science-Gossip Society (1869), Norwich Science-Gossip Society (1870) and was editor of "Hardwicke's Science Gossip" magazine during its initial run from 1875 to 1893.

In 1875, Ipswich Science-Gossip Society changed its name to Ipswich Scientific Society. In 1924, it amalgamated with Ipswich & District Field Club to form Ipswich & District Natural History Society.

The following material held in Suffolk Record Office describes astronomical interest at the Society.

GC444/1/1 Minute Book, 1869-73

Nothing of astronomical interest.

GC444/1/2 Minute Book, 1874-84

[page 23] Committee meeting held at the Secretary's residence, 23 June 1874. It was agreed that an application should be made to Colonel Tomline to allow the society to visit Orwell Park to see the grounds, pictures etc. Colonel Tomline duly gave permission.

General meeting, 03 July 1874. Discussion of the best means to get to Orwell Park. Finally it was proposed by Mr B Edwards and seconded by Mr Powles that "the journey be performed by road".

[page 24] Notice attached as follows.

5, Old Butter Market,
July 9th, 1874.

Ipswich Science Gossip Society.

Dear Sir,

By the kind permission of Colonel Tomline, an excursion to Orwell Park, to see the Grounds, Pictures, etc., will take place on Saturday next, the 11th inst.

Conveyances will start from the "Coach and Horses" Yard, Brook Street, at Two o'clock punctually. Fare, there and back, 2s. each.

If you wish to attend, and desire a seat in a conveyance, be good enough to let me know at once.

I am, yours faithfully,
Hon. Sec.

[page 36] General meeting, 04 September 1874. It was stated that the expenses of the excursion to Orwell Park being somewhat in excess of what was originally expected, a subscription was opened, and those members present contributed 1/- each, that sum being suggested in a letter from the secretary.

[page 54] Loose inserts of press cuttings of the fifth annual conversazione held in the Public Hall, 02 December 1874. Mr John J Plummer, MA, astronomer to Colonel Tomline, gave lecturettes on the "Cometary System" which were highly appreciated.

[page 60] General meeting, 06 January 1875. The secretary gave a report of the previous year's activities as follows.....

[page 64] On Saturday afternoon 11 July an excursion was made to Orwell Park, permission having been courteously given by Col. Tomline's reply to the Sec'tys application. The members inspected the grounds and choice collection of pictures and works of Art, and the Observatory, and were introduced to Mr J J Plummer, MA, the resident astronomer, who took them over the Observatory and showed and explained the magnificent telescope lately erected there under the superintendence of Mr Airy, son of Sir G B Airy. Refreshments were obtained at the "Anchor" Inn, Nacton. The journey was performed in two "breaks" from [text unclear] (Brook St, Ips) and 26 members attended. In point of numbers this was the most successful excursion during the existence of the Society....

[The report then goes on to the conversazione] The Society is much indebted to Mr Plummer for the lecture on the "Cometary System".

[page 76] Ballot paper attached re the change of name of the society.

[page 78] Meeting held 03 February 1875 at the Museum. It was proposed that the name of the society be changed from the "Ipswich Science-Gossip Society" to the "Ipswich Scientific Society"; the result of a postal ballot was 23-19 in favour. [List of members attached, marked to show results of ballot to change name.]

[page 164] Meeting, 07 March 1877. New member, J J Plummer, MA, astronomer to Colonel Tomline, Orwell Park. Proposed by Mr H Miller, seconded by the President (B Edwards).

[pages 166-167] There is an undated press cutting, attached between the meeting minutes of 07 March and 04 April 1877, detailing a visit to Suffolk by the "Geologists Association". The latter meeting was poorly attended due to the secretary being away from home with the geologists. Part way through the cutting there is the following passage:

Having thoroughly enjoyed the novelties of a coprolite pit and made a collection of fossils, the party, through the kindness of Col Tomline and Messrs Lucas, got into cars provided for them on the new Felixstowe line, and were conveyed, at a pace sometimes reaching thirty miles an hour, as far as Spring Road viaduct. Alighting there they walked to the "Golden Lion", and sat down to a capital dinner, under the presidency of Mr. Whitaker.

Later in this book there is attached a programme card for 1877 which states that the geologists' visit took place on 02 & 03 April 1877.

[page 169] J J Plummer attended the meeting held on 02 May 1877.

[page 215] Monthly meeting, 05 June 1878 at the Museum. Mr J J Plummer, MA, FRAS, of Nacton presented a paper on the "Aurora Borealis". [A press cutting is attached. This mentions that Mr. Plummer was the first person in England who had thought of applying the spectroscope to the elucidation of auroral phenomena, and he was only anticipated by a few months by Ångstrom in Sweden and Struve in Russia.]

[page 254] Annual Meeting, 07 January 1880. Mr H Miller proposed and Dr Taylor seconded that Mr J J Plummer, MA, FRAS, Nacton be made an Honorary Member of the Society. Carried n.c.

[page 262] Monthly meeting, 03 March 1880. Mr J J Plummer lectured on "Meteors". [An extensive press cutting is attached describing the meeting.]

[page 266] Monthly meeting, 05 May 1880. Mr E J Brown lectured on "The Ringed planet Saturn". [A short press cutting is attached describing the meeting.]

[page 268] Meeting 05 June 1880. Branford Edwards exhibited a handmade telescope speculum.

[page 281] Meeting 02 February 1881. Mr Plummer, FRAS described the display of Aurora Borealis witnessed by him at Nacton at 6.30pm on 31 January 1881.

[page 286] Meeting held 06 April 1881 at the Museum. Mr J J Plummer exhibited a drawing of a section of a meteorite.

[page 312] Meeting 03 May 1882. Mr Branford Edwards lectured on "The Reflecting Telescope".

[page 330] Meeting 07 March 1883. Mr E J Brown lectured on "The Moon".

[page 358]

By kind permission of the Engineer, it is proposed to visit the above on Wednesday afternoon, the 17th inst. Members will go by the train leaving Ipswich Station at 2.25 or Derby Road 2.40, returning from Felixstowe at 5.30 or 7.43. A "meat tea" will be ordered at the Pier Hotel for those who stay till the later train. Please let me know by Tuesday whether you will be present at the tea.

Yours faithfully,
Hon. Sec.

13th Sept., 1884.

[There is a press cutting attached describing the visit.]

[The book ends with minutes of a meeting held 03 December 1884.]

Biographical notes on some of the individuals mentioned above.

Bill Barton, FRAS