Patrick let me hold a 5" piece of the famous Barwell meteorite (weighing around 46 klograms) which fell over Leicestershire in 1966. A local farmer allowed Patrick to search for fragments and he eventually found this very large piece. The black par
I will always remember November 19th 2008, as it was the day I went to stay overnight at Farthings, the charming thatched house in Selsey, and home of Sir Patrick Moore the astronomer who presents the BBC's The Sky at Night. He made my dad and I feel most welcome, and was more than happy for us to look round, and take some photos as a memento of the occasion. Patrick is wonderful company, and we chatted about all sorts of things. My grandad (a flight sergeant) was a Lancaster Bomber pilot during WW2 and Patrick (a flight lieutenant) was a navigator, flying in Wellington bombers. They both did their flight training in Canada at the same time, but never met.
Outside the front door at Farthings
In the garden of Sir Patrick Moore's charming thatched house in Selsey
In 1967, Patrick bought Farthings, his large, but then rather tumbledown, thatched house in Selsey, Sussex. Parts of the house date back as far as the 17th Century. The garden contains Patrick's observatories, has a croquet lawn, is a local weather station for the Met. Office and the house has bats in the roof. I loved the weather vane on the tall chimney!!
Please click on any of the images below to enlarge them
Sir Patrick Moore has two observatories in his garden and I got really excited at the chance to look at them. I was shown round them by John Fletcher, a friend of Patrick's, who has his own observatory in Gloucester. It is called the Mount Tuffley Observatory. [Click here to visit John's website] John told me that the M13 on his personalised car number plate stood for 'Messier 13' which is a huge cluster of stars several hundred light years away!
This observatory houses Patrick's 5" Cooke
Sir Patrick Moore's two observatories at Farthings
'special' number plate!
John Fletcher with his
Patrick's 5" Cooke
Opening the roof of
Patrick's wooden observatory (constructed by local carpenters to his design) houses an old, but refurbished refractor telescope made by the great telescope maker Thomas Cooke. A 'refractor' telescope is a simple tube with a lens at either end. Patrick says of his telescope, "it is very good indeed - you won't get a better one!" Refractor telescopes (which Patrick prefers) give slightly crisper images than reflector telescopes. This superb telescope is still frequently used by astronomers, especially for lunar observations. The roof of the observatory slides open when you turn a handle, linked by a chain to a simple gear mechanism.
Patrick's 5" Cooke
has no idea idea how old it is! The mirror was refigured in the 1950s by the great British mirror-maker George Hole. The telescope and observatory were completely refurbished in 2005 (click here for images). Patrick can now no longer use the telescope, but it is still used often by other astronomers, mainly for lunar and planetry work.
The other observatory alongside it is a large, green metal construction, made to Patrick's design by the local blacksmith. It is in two halves - the lower part is fixed to the ground but the upper half revolves by turning a handle which engages the cogs so the upper part can revolve 360 degrees. Two hinged panels in the roof open to allow observations through the telescope. The telescope
Patrick's 15" reflector
Jupiter & Saturn as seen through
Patrick's 15" reflector telescope
Sir Patrick Moore's large observatory
Patrick's 15" reflector telescope
Modern telescope in
Patrick's first telescope
Old telescope in the hallway, surrounded
by some of Patrick's many photographs
There are more telescopes to be seen inside Farthings. The most interesting one was standing next to the TV in the music room. It is a 3" brass refractor telescope, standing on a wooden tripod. This was Patrick's first telescope, which he bought for £7-10s when he was eleven years old. It was chosen for him by Dr W H Stevenson ("No one knew more about telescopes" acknowledges Patrick). He says that still uses it sometimes.
It was a great experience having dinner with Patrick, John and Patrick's carer Teresa, in his lovely dining room which has even been used by the BBC as a studio for The Sky at Night. Patrick has a number of globes in the room, but they are of the Moon and Mars! In the corner is the drinks table, and the rules about alcohol at Farthings are known as the 'Iremonger Rules'. Colonel Edmund Iremonger was a local politician who stood as the Independent candidate for Ch
...you help yourself!!
Patrick's study is a remarkable place! The walls are lined with shelves and crammed full of books about
Patrick has written every one of his many books on his 100 year old Woodstock typewriter! This machine has become almost as famous as him and of course I had
Patrick's many certificates are framed and hung and there is a wall cabinet containing his Knighthood, his various medals and his CBE. On one wall is the cuckoo clock that he was given as a seventh birthday present, and on his mantlepiece stands the BAFTA award that was presented to him by astronaut Buzz Aldrin. I had my photo taken with the BAFTA award and was really surprised at how heavy it was!!
In front of the enormous bay window, with its diamond-shaped leaded lights, is Patrick's large, old desk on which he once did all his writing. The old Woodstock has now made way to a computer on which Patrick now does all of his work. He is still busy updating books like his 'Yearbook' , with a new edition published each year.
Holding Patrick's BAFTA award
Holding the meteorite
Fragment from the Barwell meteorite
Patrick signing the letter
this machine to type all of his many books!
(left) the letter that Patrick typed for me on the Woodstock. Please click the image to enlarge it!
Patrick typing my letter on his Woodstock. He used
itself is a 15" Newtonian reflector (15" being the diameter of the mirror at the base of the tube),
The large observatory
he "loves it dearly" and
Patrick is a gifted, self-taught musician. Sadly, he is no longer able to play his piano or xylophone, but Dad and I were really happy to listen as Patrick played us CDs of some of his compositions, like the march Halley's Comet, which was used, on one occasion, for The Sky at Night.
I try out Patrick's piano.....
.....and his xylophone!
Patrick's Knighthood & CBE
With Patrick's Woodstock
Weather vane at Farthings
Notice in the porch
John took me to Selsey beach before I left Farthings
Before lunch, John took me to the nearby beach at Selsey, with the Isle of Wight not far away across the water. He took a photo of me on the beach before we headed back to Farthings.
The time then came to say "goodbye", and I gave Patrick a big hug of thanks, for such a super
Patrick and I
super visit. It is often said that Patrick is a 'National Treasure' - he most certainly is!! The two days that I stayed with him at Farthings was something that I will never forget. He has invited Dad and I to visit him again - I'd love for that to be possible in the near future.
The Iremonger rule is...
Chichester in 1959, and of whom Patrick thought very highly. The Iremonger Rules are quite simple - you help yourself!
everything to do with astronomy and space. Of course most of them were written by Patrick! He generously gave me copies of his two most famous books, Patrick Moore on the Moon and Patrick Moore on Mars - both of which he signed for me.
part is where the rock burned when it entered the Earth's atmosphere. It was then that the meteorite, one the biggest to land in Britain, broke into thousands of pieces. It became known as the 'Christmas meteorite', as it was on Christmas Eve that it landed.
had to have my photo taken with it. I was amazed when Patrick put a sheet of paper in it and typed me a short letter. He then signed it and embossed his crest at the top - unique!!
With John and Patrick in the study
Sitting at Patrick's desk in his study
The two occupants of Farthings that take pride of place are Patrick's lovely, adorable cats, Jeannie and Ptolomy. Indeed, the notice by the front door say
says it all - "this house is maintained entirely for the convenience of our cat!" In typical forthright fashion, Patrick says, "They are far superior to human beings. They never scratch or bite. All last night Ptolemy lay on top of me and purred." When I was at Farthings
Farthings, I found Jeannie to be a little shy, but Ptolomy was wonderfully friendly - and never seemed to stop purring!! With Patrick's love for cats, it is hardly surprising that Jeannie is in his arms, on the cover of his autobiography!