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The Astronomer of Rousdon - Charles Grover

Charles Grover, born 1842, left his employment with a London Instrument Company to accompany Cuthbert Peek (son of Sir Henry, later Sir Cuthbert) on the 1882 Expedition to Australia to observe the Transit of Venus. On return he was appointed Rousdon Astronomer, and died there in 1921. Jerry Grover, his great-great-grandson who lives in Cheshire, has done extensive research into Charles’ life and work, and made information available for display at the three Local History Exhibitions we have staged in the Peek Hall in recent years. Also, there is a book entitled ‘The Astronomer of Rousdon’ about Charles - written by Barbara Slater, another relative.


There was an Observatory, which fell into ruin about 1970, at the east end of the Archery Lawn, and Charles Grover made extensive records, published his observations and wrote many letters – the originals of some are in the Museum at the Lockyer Observatory near Sidmouth. He wrote that the meteorological department was founded here in 1883, and was gradually extended; also that the Observatory was often open to visitors ‘and the genial baronet (Sir Cuthbert) was never happier than when showing to delighted friends the wonders of the heavens, or explaining to interested enquirers the construction and working of the complicated meteorological apparatus in use for weather records’. We should note that, amongst several distinctions, Sir Cuthbert was on the Councils of the Royal Meteorological and Royal Geographical Societies.


The Grover Family lived at East Lodge North; Henry Yool, on the Allhallows Staff (physics), who lived in that house from 1950-72, wrote that the shed at the top of the garden ‘has doors in its roof so that a transit instrument could check the time of passing of a star before the days of time signals!’. The initials ‘GCG’ scratched on a N window are those of Charles son, George.


Charles was on the St Pancras Church Council and was the ‘Overseer’, looking after the interests of the local poor. We have a copy of his Obituary, and newspaper cuttings show that he was an active member of the community – giving magic lantern shows to children, and giving talks locally.


If anyone wishes to know more about this remarkable man, please get in touch and we will pass your request on to Jerry Grover if it cannot be answered here.


Mary & Graham Jones, Combpyne.