Nelson & His World

Discussion on the life and times of Admiral Lord Nelson
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 Post subject: Nelson's telescope?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 12, 2013 9:22 pm 
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Just noticed this story about a telescope for sale. The owner claims it belonged to Lord Nelson, and had been passed down through her family, from a William Cook (Cookie).
http://www.stuff.co.nz/nelson-mail/communities/9508907/Nelsons-telescope-goes-up-for-sale

It all sounds very dubious to me, not least the mention of cabin boy? All a bit 'Treasure Island' for my liking!

Does anyone have any information or ever heard mention of William Cook (Cookie)?


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 Post subject: Re: Nelson's telescope?
PostPosted: Sat Dec 14, 2013 9:20 pm 
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Hi T

This story does seem pretty dubious.

I don't like the inscription. i.e. If Nelson has ever owned the telescope I don't see that he would have had it inscribed - let alone that way.

And if he had owned it and gifted it to someone I don't see that the recipient would have had it inscribed that way.

HOWEVER Nelson was one for giving little gifts to people. There were occasions when he seemed to have Nile medals to hand if he met an old sailor who claimed that he had not received his medal.

AND I know I have seen occasions when he gave telescopes to young midshipmen who had done some sort of exemplary act. I'm sure I once wrote down about 3 well-authenticated examples - but I don't know what I ever did with that list.

That doesn't change my overall opinion re this telescope but it does leave the tiniest possibility that it could be true.

MB


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 Post subject: Re: Nelson's telescope?
PostPosted: Sat Dec 14, 2013 11:04 pm 
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There were two men in Victory at Trafalgar named William Cooke. Both were marines rather than cabin boys (whatever they were!), and were in their 30s and 40s, so presumably not alive in Australia in the 1880s.

I also agree with Mark that Nelson is unlikely to have elevated himself to full admiral with an engraving like that.

I'm more interested in Nelson's 'private bucket'. Was this his champagne bucket, or the other one?

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 Post subject: Re: Nelson's telescope?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 16, 2013 11:28 pm 
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AS dubious as this story sounds, for some reason William Cook interests me. I decided to do a little web browsing to see if I could find any further information on him. William Cook is a name which commonly appears among records for transported convicts, but a couple of dates did tie in.
A paragraph from a report for the Sydney boat show 2006, (where the items were first exhibited) states:

Personal artifacts from Lord Horatio Nelson's captain's cabin aboard HMS Victory will make their public debut since being shipped from the England to Australia back in 1824.

Nelson's telescope and personal bucket have never before been on public display but kept by a private family in Australia for over 186 years. The two relics which have been passed down through the generations by Lord Horatio Nelson's 'cabin boy' on the Victory William, Thomas Cook, are believed to be authentic remaining pieces from the famed Battle of Trafalgar - where England's greatest warrior fell and England's greatest victory was won.

A Queensland family, descendants of William Cook, have finally brought to light what appears is one of the most significant maritime artifacts of the era - a four section Telescope used by Lord Nelson as well a personal bucket from the ship.


If the date 1824 is correct, a record of a William Cook arriving in Australia exists:
http://www.convictrecords.com.au/ships/mangles/1824

Captain of Mangles was John Coghill, a brief report of the voyage appears on another website:
http://www.jenwilletts.com/convict_ship_mangles_1824.htm

Whether this is the right man or not is highly debatable. Although, this is a good match geographically as well as occurring in 1824! Its a shame the records don't elaborate a little more on personal details, ages etc..


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 Post subject: Re: Nelson's telescope?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2013 11:11 am 
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Hi Trimmer,

I was confused about the difference between Sussex Assizes, Sussex Quarter Sessions and from William Cook’s record: ‘Sussex Special Sessions and Gaol Delivery.’ All three descriptions were allotted to convicts being transported on board the Mangles.

Looking up the phrase ‘Gaol Delivery’ (also called ‘Commission of Gaol Delivery’) it is described as a judicial hearing of the charges against all prisoners awaiting trial in the area prisons.

The information you found at http://www.convictrecords.com.au/ships/mangles/1824 is replicated (with a little extra info) at: http://www.historyaustralia.org.au/twco ... ngles+1824

The extra info seems to indicate that William Cook was sentenced on 22 December 1823 before his transportation onboard the Mangles on 6 July 1824. His sentence was transportation for life, and he must have spent some time in a holding gaol before it was carried out.

The Sussex Gaol Delivery records appear to be at the National Archives – though the catalogue details are too sketchy to drill further without visiting/ordering a copy (which are usually very reasonably priced.) Here’s the link to TNA page: http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.u ... tes=Refine (number 2 of 3 records.)

But, looking at Cookie’s history as related by the family: that he was transported in 1824 for stealing a pound of lead, I came across this record at: http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.j ... #highlight

It’s the trial of a William Cook, aged 17, convicted with others for stealing 320 lbs of lead, and sentenced to transportation. He was found:
Quote:
‘secreted in a corner of the garret; I took him, and called to Powell to look up the chimney, and he pulled Wilson down. I took Cook, and two small pieces of lead to the watch-house.’

Perhaps the two small pieces of lead weighed about a pound?

The details of this particular trial also appears at: http://www.ancestry.com, and if the family were looking to trace Cookie these are probably the two most popular (and easy to find) sources.

This William Cook is also the only possible contender (from a number of convicted felons bearing the same name) to be found on these two websites.

I do wonder if this trial of the 17 year old Cookie on 23 June 1824, might somehow have become conflated with the William Cook transported to Australia on 6 July of the same year. And that this is where the lead stealing Cookie got his family background from. It would be good if Cookie’s modern day family could proffer some really solid evidence of his history – especially with the price tag for that telescope. The press story is a frustrating mixture of small intimate details and big important gaps.

It’s possible there were two William Cooks transported to Australia for stealing lead in 1824, I’m sure more detailed records will be available if you decide to progress his history further, Trimmer.

The 17 year old Cook could conceivably have been alive in the 1880s – though not at Trafalgar. It’s possible he could have been a son of one of the two marines bearing that name on board Victory at Trafalgar.

But the date of his crime/trial doesn’t match the record of the William Cook sentenced in December 1823 and transported on board the Mangles. Neither was he sentenced and/or tried in Sussex.

Good luck, Trimmer – it’s a fascinating trail! And doubtless some of my own assumptions from a quick online trawl wouldn’t pass detailed scrutiny. Perhaps TNA might shed some additional light?

ps: I note that the latest links you found refer to Nelson's 'cabin boy' being called Thomas Cook! Oh no!

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 Post subject: Re: Nelson's telescope?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2013 12:22 pm 
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Have I got it right that they are expecting to sell these artefacts for over £100K?

i.e. 220,000 $AUS @ .55 exchange rate.

Never in a million years - surely!

You would have thought somebody would have done some research - to at least determine how old William Cook was when he died.

I think that Mr Johnson has got a bit over-excited and carried away with this.

But if anyone can prove me wrong - go for it! :)


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 Post subject: Re: Nelson's telescope?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2013 2:25 pm 
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Oops - posted twice - ignore this one.

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Jacqui


Last edited by Mira on Tue Dec 17, 2013 2:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Nelson's telescope?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2013 2:25 pm 
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Apologies for the p.s. in my last – I read William Thomas Cook as simply Thomas.

But when you key in ‘William Thomas Cook’ a whole raft of relevant references appear, including another story of William Cook the cabin boy-cum-powder monkey of Trafalgar. This one with different details: http://www.smh.com.au/news/business/a-b ... e=fullpage

It says Cook was transported to Australia on board the Mangles in 1820. Indeed the Mangles made the trip on 29 March 1820 with a William Cook on board – sentenced at Gloucester Quarter Sessions: http://www.convictrecords.com.au/ships/mangles/1820

It seems too, there have been attempts to sell these items before.

There is also a collaborative genealogy file - including a photograph - of the known details of William Thomas Cook last updated circa 2011: http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Cook-2331#Birth where his father was indeed another, older, William Cook – but a weaver, not a marine.

Another Family Tree file on him here. It looks like some of the descendants have already searched hard (and fruitlessly) for any kind of Trafalgar/Victory/Nelson connection: http://www.fairhall.id.au/families/myli ... .htm#i2654

According to TNA there were two William Cooks at Trafalgar rated as boys:
HMS Defence, Rank/Rating: Boy, Marine (no age or birthplace.)
HMS Defiance, Boy, 15 (wrong age), born Bishops Waltham, Hampshire (wrong place.)

Sadly, the bottom line must be the records pertaining to Victory – or at a push any other Trafalgar ship. And without corroboration there, I'd be surprised if William [Thomas] Cook’s bucket and telescope fetched anywhere near £1,000 - let alone £100,000.

What would the guide price be for an old bucket and telescope?

Mark, I think you’re spot on.

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Jacqui


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 Post subject: Re: Nelson's telescope?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2013 3:05 pm 
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We need to remind ourselves sometimes of the knowledge level of some people outside of this Group.

I worked with a lady once who thought that HMS Victory was the only British ship at the Battle of Trafalgar. ( I did put her right! :) )

The point is that if someone had said to her that so-and-so was at Trafalgar she would have automatically repeated the story that he was on Victory. Whereas he might have been on one of the other ships.

Over 200 years all sorts of little misunderstandings could have crept in - bearing in mind that it is human nature for many people to always repeat the BEST story not necessarily the MOST ACCURATE one. ( Members of this forum excepted :) )


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 Post subject: Re: Nelson's telescope?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2013 10:45 pm 
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Thanks both for all the fresh information.

The more I read on the subject, the more absurd it all sounds. Surely, as Mark pointed out, some proper research has been done on these objects. I can't imagine any auction house showing any interest on unsubstantiated family legend. Let alone placing a valuation on the items.

Only a thought, but did telescopes display a makers mark? Did Nelson use one supplier for such items?

I read something I thought interesting last night. John Munday wrote an interesting article called 'The Nelson Relics' which appeared in 'The Nelson Companion' (Royal Naval Museum 1995). In his article Munday refers to a Royal Naval Exhibition 1891, staged in the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea. Nelson's telescopes are listed in the catalogue for the event, and are described in the article thus:
'Nelson's telescopes in formidable array were there, some traceable back to Captain Hardy to whom the Admiral had bequeathed his 'telescopes and sea glasses'. There were others, perhaps not quite so likely: 'No. 3114... the property of one of the Lieuts of Victory and was lent to him by Lord Nelson as being handy by a one-armed man'

Hard to imagine a ten year old powder monkey waltzing past Hardy with Nelson's telescope under one arm, and a bucket in hand!

I managed to find an online copy of the catalogue, interesting read!:
https://archive.org/stream/officialcatalogu00royarich#page/330/mode/2up

I agree with you Mark, the story of William Cooks connection with the telescope has been distorted so much over the years that the truth has been either lost or brushed under the carpet.


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 Post subject: Re: Nelson's telescope?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 18, 2013 12:05 am 
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Trimmer wrote:
Did Nelson use one supplier for such items?


T

Didn't Nelson buy his telescopes from the firm of Dollond?

The reason I remember this is that the firm effectively still exists under the name of Dollond & Aitchison.

I haven't got the best memory in the world but I used to know someone who worked for D&A so it sort of stuck in my brain.

Don't take this as a definitive answer - but I think I'm at least half right here. :)

MB


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 Post subject: Re: Nelson's telescope?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 18, 2013 12:24 am 
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Further to my previous post I see that D&A is now owned by Boots and is being rebranded under the Boots name. So there is another famous name about to bite the dust. :(

BUT I also found the following page on the NMM website. According to the NMM this telescope was GIFTED by Nelson to his godson.

http://www.rmg.co.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/nelson-navy-nation/nelson-collections/?item=69146

So my original post does hold water. I am sure I found 3 examples of Nelson giving telescopes to young sailors. (but I woudn't bet my life on it!!)

I don't think this changes the likely provanance of the William Cook telescope - but it's worth throwing it into the overall equation. :)


Last edited by Mark Barrett on Wed Dec 18, 2013 12:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Nelson's telescope?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 18, 2013 12:27 am 
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Montreal gazette 1932. Reports the sale of 'Nelsons Trafalgar telescope':

http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1 ... 511,704143

Sold at Christies, London, so presumably they were happy with the provenance of this particular one?

Within the report, is an interesting comment on the conditions during the 'great depression' forcing many heirlooms to be offered for sale and not fetching much.

Also, from another source, the same telescope was apparently donated to the National Maritime museum at Greenwich. http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/22165247

...and a bit more grist - Dolland appears to be the best manufacturer of the time and according to this Wikipedia entry, Nelson owned one, (not surprisingly since one would have thought he would have had only the best!):

"Dollond telescopes, for sidereal or terrestrial use, were amongst the most popular in both Great Britain and abroad for a period of over one and half centuries. Admiral Lord Nelson himself owned one. Another had sailed with Captain Cook in 1769 to observe the Transit of Venus."

Regards, Terry


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 Post subject: Re: Nelson's telescope?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 18, 2013 6:52 pm 
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Here is the rather wonderful 1881 newspaper article about William Thomas Cook: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/82110528 - well worth a read!

But going back to Mark's point about whether they have got the right ship, I wonder whether they have actually got the right battle! The opening sentence curiously talks about 'a hero of "Nile's proud fight'' - that battle of Trafalgar where England's greatest warrior fell'! The telescope is inscribed with '1798' and 'ship Vanguard', and yet there was no mention of the inscription in the 2006 and 2007 publicity. I wonder whether it was decided then that the inscription did not help the Trafalgar story. Of course if Cookie was born in 1795, then the idea that he was a powder monkey at the Battle of the Nile is even less plausible!

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 Post subject: Re: Nelson's telescope?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 19, 2013 2:11 pm 
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A fool and his money are soon parted. Seems relevant though i wonder the implications of me having no money at the same time.


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