A Look at the Past: Town’s room with a view

PUBLISHED: 17:17 10 October 2006 | UPDATED: 11:00 06 May 2010

Shortmead Street in 1957, showing four cottages with dormer windows. The observatory was behind

Shortmead Street in 1957, showing four cottages with dormer windows. The observatory was behind

The Royal Astronomer and his observatory in Biggleswade A previous article in The Comet entitled A Maclear Vision on July 29, 2004 detailed the career of Thomas McClear, the distinguished astronomer. He was born in 1794 at County Tyrone in Ireland and

Ellis & Everard is now Travis Perkins and their yard is entered at the site of these cottages.

The Royal Astronomer and his observatory in Biggleswade

A previous article in The Comet entitled A Maclear Vision on July 29, 2004 detailed the career of Thomas McClear, the distinguished astronomer.

He was born in 1794 at County Tyrone in Ireland and went to Guy's and St Thomas's Hospitals in London to study medicine.

In 1815 he was appointed to the Royal College of Surgeons.

Thomas Maclear.

He became house surgeon at Bedford Infirmary and established a friendship with Admiral Smith, a Bedford astronomer.

He then joined his uncle Thomas McGrath in a medical practice at premises in High Street, Biggleswade, now three shops, Shoe Co, Lloyds Chemists and Fruit and Flowers.

M'Grath (sic) and Maclear, surgeons are listed in Pigot and Co's directory of 1830.

Thomas Maclear set up his observatory in Shortmead Street behind a property owned by Thomas McGrath.

There is a plan of the premises contained in a letter preserved in the archives of the Royal Astronomical Society.

It consisted of two adjoining rooms.

The Transit Room was 8ft square and the octagonal observatory with a rotatory roof containing his telescope was 8ft in diameter.

The total cost was £50.

The observatory is clearly shown in the 1838 Tithe Award Plan and the present location would appear to be somewhere in Travis Perkins' builders yard.

After leaving Biggleswade in 1833 he became the Royal Astronomer at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa and gained an international reputation. He was knighted in 1860.

Both Sir Thomas and Lady McClear (daughter of Theed Pearce, Clerk of the Peace for Bedfordshire) are buried in the grounds of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich.

Thomas McGrath (whose sister Mary was Thomas McClear's mother) died in 1838 aged 73.

His son Thomas McGrath MD married Caroline Barnett, daughter of Charles Barnett of Stratton Park.

There are memorial tablets in St Andrew's Church to Thomas and Caroline McGrath.

Up My Street

SANDY VIEW

Sandy View comes off Nursery Close, which in turn is off Potton Road. It looks towards Sandy hills.


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