Thomas Thorp's Observatory

In 1912, at Uplands in Prestatyn, Thomas Thorp, engineer and inventor of the coin operated gas meter, built a revolving observatory within which he operated a telescope of his own design.  And why not?  A curious sight to be sure, best observed coming down the hill from Gwaenysgor, an incongruous and fantastic copper dome rising up above the houses around - thrilling science fiction in bemused, net twitching suburbia.  Thorp employed the telescope until his death in 1914, and it was not long after the outbreak of World War One that it was sealed up after the worries of tremulous neighbours were communicated to the Admiralty, fears that the Observatory was being used to signal German U-Boats off the Prestatyn coast.  The telescope was later given to a school in Wigan.

Thorp had a lifelong interest in astronomy, and after creating all manner of scientific instruments, making a considerable amount of money in a variety of engineering exploits he retired to his hobby of night sky viewing.  He was made a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1902, and was the vice-president of the Manchester Astronomical Society.  He also took part in expeditions to view total solar eclipses in Algiers and Burgos.  One gets the distinct impression that Thomas Thorp worked only with the intention of making enough money to be able to retire to Prestatyn (as many do) and watch the skies.

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