Norwich Astronomy Society


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Info2005 marked the diamond jubilee of our society. 60 years ago on the 26th September 1945 as the echoes of World War 2 had barely faded; six elderly gentlemen founded the society in a meeting held at 92 Cambridge Street, Norwich.

Mr Park was appointed secretary and Mr Minns was appointed chairman. They met once a month and agreed to pay half a crown into club fund. Things started to move ahead when Mr Bill Bennett stepped in to do a talk for the Baldic Society, as a USAAF servicemen who was due to talk on space travel could not turn up due to bad weather. At the end of the talk, 30 attendee’s expressed an interest in joining the society. At the 1953 AGM a Mr Charles Gates offered an 8" mirror and flat for constructing a club telescope. A year later, now with 40 members, the need for an observatory was becoming an issue.

1954 saw the Odeon cinema showing 'Destination Moon' with the society putting a display on in the foyer and offering members of the public the chance to view the Moon through a telescope. In early 1955, work began on the society's first observatory; this was a converted World War 2 air raid shelter on Daniels Road (now the site of a garden centre). In those days this site was right on the edge of the city. This construction work was funded by the sale of astronomical equipment left by the late Mr Holt and donated by his widow. Amongst the items donated was a partially finished 10" mirror which was later reground and polished by Mr Horace Dall.

The Daniels Road observatory was officially opened on May 12th 1956 housing the 8" reflector. In 1959 the new Dall 10" mirror formed the core of a new telescope in the observatory, housed in a square tube that up to a few years ago, was itself housed in the Herschel Dome at Seething. Despite all the progress of the 1950's the 1960's was to be a disappointing decade in comparison.

The 20th anniversary however, was marked by visit from the B.A.A. to Daniels Road. Patrick Moore took a photo of Mr Bill Bennett with the B.A.A. president standing at the observatory door. Despite this, only 23 paid up members were reported at the 1966 AGM. At the time the society was kept financially afloat due to personal donations from Mr Bennett, and feeds from a monthly "Sky at Night" column in the Eastern Daily Press. At the end of the 1960's there was suddenly a lot of renewed interest due in part to the Moon landings. Problems with light pollution were now a big issue, so an alternative site was eagerly sought.

The need for new site was further enhanced after a visit in 1970 by some members to Dr Dewhirst in Cambridge which resulted in the society obtaining a 30" glass blank plus a grinding machine. By 1973 the society had obtained a lease plus planning permission for an observatory at Colney Lane. The move to the new site was carried out over 1973. The new Herschel Dome and 10" reflector was officially reopened on April 15th 1974 by Mrs Angela Baldwin, the 4 times great grand daughter of Sir William Herschel. At the ceremony, the Chairman Mr Frank Harvey was presented with a restored star atlas, originally printed in 1842 and signed by Sir John Herschel; some 250 people attended the ceremony on a cold windy day.

During the rest of the 1970's work gradually continued on the 30" mirror and dome until disaster struck on the night of January 9th 1979 when the club house was destroyed by an arson attack. This was to result in the building of what was hoped to be a more secure club room. Sadly vandalism and various other anti-social activities such as break-ins and theft, plus fly-tipping were to plague the society in its latter days at Colney Lane with a further arson attack resulting in the Herschel Dome being badly damaged.

During 1982 the 30" telescope was finally completed and operational, Brian Mitchell having overseen much of the grinding of the mirror and the construction of the dome.

At the end of the 1980's NAS was to have problems due to the proposed n

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