JOHN JEPSON ATKINSON was born in Yorkshire in 1844 in Wentworth, South Yorkshire under the name of John Jepson Wilkinson.
Leeds Times 15 October 1859
On Sunday, aged 76, James Atkinson, Esq., of Hunslet
The Leeds Intelligencer August 11 1860
PURSUANT to an Order of the High Chancery, made a Cause of " JOHN JEPSON WILKINSON and others, against JOHN SMITH and another," the Creditors of JAMES ATKINSON, late of Hunslet, in the Parish of Leeds, the County of York, Gentleman, (who died on or about the 9th Day of October, 1859.) and also the Incumbrances upon his Real and Leasehold Estates, are by their Solicitors, on or before the 31st Day of October, 1860, to come in and prove their Claims at the Chambers of the Vice Chancellor, Sir John Stuart, at No. 12, Old Square, Lincoln’s Inn, Middlesex, or default thereof they will be peremptorily excluded from the benefit of the said Order.Tuesday, the 6th Day of November, 1860, at Twelve o'Clock Noon, at the said Chambers, appointed for bearing and adjudicating upon the Claims.Dated this Day 18th day of July, 1860. ROBT. W. PEAKE, Chief Clerk
Whitehall May 22 1861 [London Gazette]
The Queen has been pleased to grant unto John Jepson Wilkinson, a minor, the eldest son and heir of William Atkinson Wilkinson late of Skellow, in the parish of Owston, in the West Riding of the County of York, Clerk, late Vicar of Owston aforesaid, deceased, by Martha, his wife and grandson of William Wilkinson, late of Leeds, in the said West Riding of the County of York, Merchant, deceased, and of Mary Anne his wife, sister of James Atkinson, late of Hunslet, in the parish of Leeds aforesaid, Gentleman, also deceased, her Royal Licence and authority that he may in compliance with a proviso in the last will and testament of his great uncle the said James Atkinson, take and henceforth use the surname of Atkinson only, and that he may bear the arms of Atkinson quarterly with his own family arms; such arms being first duly exemplified according to the laws of arms and recorded in the Heralds Office, otherwise the said Royal Licence to be void and of none effect:
And to command that the said Royal concession and declaration be registered in Her Majesty’s College of Arms.
In 1863 renamed John Jepson Atkinson he went to Exeter College, Oxford aged 19. In early life he had been an adept in all forms of sportcricket, hunting, racing. He kept racehorses even when an undergraduate at Oxford; and raced under the name of Mr. Doncaster. The name of the dearly loved eldest son he lost in the War, St. Leger, was reputedly a reminder of his birth on the day of that famous race.
His prowess in cricket was apparently well known in Yorkshire. He was, moreover, as a young man a keen cricketer, a fast bowler for Yorkshire county. His name isn’t listed in any current Yorkshire cricket team archives but…..
At Wragby Road ground in Lincoln in July 1873, JJ Atkinson was listed as catching out a bowler whilst playing for the Gentlemen of Lincolnshire against Harrow Wanderers.
In 1870 John Jepson graduated and went to Middle Temple, aged 26 to train as a barrister.
Illustrated Police News Saturday 26 June 1880
A BARRISTER ASSAULTING A COUNTY COURT OFFICIAL.
At the Marlborough-street Police-court on the 18th inst. Mr. J. Jepson Atkinson, barrister, of Middle Temple-lane, and the University Chub, was summoned before Mr. Mansfield for assaulting Mr. James Charles Barnett, a ..shiernt the Westminster County-court. Mr. James Charles Barnett, one of the cashiers at the Westminster County-court, stated that on Saturday the 12th inst, the defendant came to pay money under a judgement order against him, and whistled loudly while he (complainant) was engaged in attending to a suitor, calculating fees. He put down a, paper and a handful of envelopes, and said, “When are you going to attend to me, you ruffian?” Witness told the defendant that if he left off whistling he would attend to him. After speaking about witness's super’or, the defendant took up his stick and struck him severely on the head, he (complainant) having put it up to protect his head.
|John Jepson married Isabella Foster of Apley Park in 1881 aged 37. Isabella’s father was William Orme Foster the Ironmaster of Stourbridge, and her family were fabulously wealthy, with 17 Live in servants.
Saturday 19 November 1881, Morning Post, London, England
On Thursday November 17th at St Paul’s Knightsbridge by the Reverend J H Wilkinson, vicar of K…….., brother of the bridegroom, assisted by the Reverend Thomas ……….. curate of St Paul’s, John Jepson Atkinson Esq, eldest son of the late Rev William Atkinson Wilkinson of Sk…. Grange to Isabella, second daughter of William Foster of Apley Park Shropshire.
There was no mention of anyone from Isabella’s family having been present at the ceremony.
In 1882 William Henry Jepson St Leger was born to the couple. Three out of the four children that JJ and Isabella had were named after racecourses St Leger, [Philip] York and [Gune] Aire.
In 1886 Alexander William Thorold Grant-Thorold sold Cosgrove Priory, with some land, to John Jepson Atkinson. At some point the Atkinson family renovated the Priory in the Tudor Style, taking out Georgian windows and replacing them with stone mullions.
Buckingham Express Saturday 02 February 1889
A REVOLUTION IN THE COPPER INDUSTRY A company has been formed to acquire and work the British patents for an extremely valuable discovery made by Messrs. F. E. and S. A. Elmore, two Yorkshiremen, for manufacturing copper articles direct from rough copper bars, which does away with the processes of melting, rolling, forging, drawing, and the present costly and laborious methods of manufacturing copper articles, such as tubes, vats, cylinders, wire for electric purposes, and hundreds of other articles. In fact, it is believed that this important invention is destined to take the same leading position in the copper industry, which Bessemer's process has done in that of iron and steel. The discoverers of this process were not able to bring it out through want of funds, but they found an able and willing friend, we understand, in Mr. J. Jepson Atkinson, of The Priory, Cosgrove, and who was recently returned unopposed to the Bucks County Council for the Passenham division. By his aid, a limited company has been formed, with a proposed capital of £200.000. in 100.000 shares of £2 each, and the first issue of 48,700 shares were offered for subscription on the 21st and 22nd ult. The Money Market Review says that the scheme was most successfully launched, the capital having been subscribed about four times over, also adding that it understands that important negotiations are pending for an extension of the system abroad. 23.300 shares have been allotted to the vendors as part payment of the purchase money.
|The three older Atkinson children are featured in the stained glass windows on the Priory staircase, dating the window to around the time of the 1891 census.
1891 Census Priory
|John Jepson Atkinson
|WHJ St Leger Atkinson
|E Mary J Atkinson
|Philip York (PY) Atkinson
|[Gune Aire Atkinson was born in 1892]
|5 female servants.
John Jepson became involved in the Glasdir experiment in Dolgellau - at this time he was describing himself as an Electro-Metallurgist. This resulted in Frank Elmore copper flotation patent 1896, the first flotation process in the world.
He dissolved this partnership in 1889 the Elmore Mystery. We don’t know whether this was connected with Isabella’s family metalworking business and whether JJ was involved with financial backing or as a legal adviser. He was certainly a company director whilst living at the Priory.
The Bucks Standard Saturday 09 September 1893
HOW COMPANIES ARE PROMOTED.
The following, taken from the Morning Post of Saturday, September 2, will be re id with interest, as one , of the defendants is a well known resident in the neighbourhood :
“At the Rochester County Police Court yesterday John Thompson Cooper, described as a merchant, of The Creigg, Nightingale-Lane, Wandsworth, and John Jepson Atkinson, described as a barrister, of Cosgrove Priory, Northamptonshire, were summoned for that they, being Directors of the Northfleet White Lead Company (Limited), did neglect to forward a list of members and summary, in accordance with the provisions of the Companies Act to the Registrar of the Joint-Stock Companies for the year 1892, and did unlawfully, knowingly, and wilfully permit that Company to be in default in that respect for the space of 180 days.The complainant, Mr. Bernard Boaler, of No. 17, Hanover - park, Peckham, conducted his own case. Mr. H. Courthorpe Munroe was counsel for the defendants and the liquidators of the Company, which is in process of winding up, Mr. Boaler, who holds 50 shares in the Company, stated that the defendant Atkinson was registered, the holder of 1,806 shares allotted on the 14th of July, 1891, and the claim register book (produced) purported to show that he had paid £3,612 in cash as the price of those shares. Cooper was also the registered owner of shares, and represented as having paid £3,610, whilst Mr. Alexander Cruickshank, another Director, was represented as having paid £4,250 in respect of shares and a Mr. Davie £3,890. He should prove that these alleged payments were bogus and absolutely false ; no such payments had been made. The names of Henry Hickman, engineer, of 51 and 53 Hanbury road, was entered in the claim list as the holder of 4,660 shares in this company, and as haying paid the separate sums of £582, £1,020, and £7,717. He should prove that the individual in question and the payments were alike fictitious and false Mr. Alexander Cruickshank, who appeared on Crown subpoena gave evidence that he wall entitled to shares as the nominee of the vendors, but the entry representing that he had paid £4,250 as cash for them was not correct. He was formerly manager to Mr. Elmore, the promoter of this Company, and knew there was no such person as Henry Hickman at the address given, which was the address of Mr. Elmore's experimental white lead works. Letters had come there for Mr. Henry Hickman, and witness sent one back to the Dead Letter Office. A reporter from a financial paper came from the office to interview Mr. Hickman, and they got to high words because witness insisted that there was no such person, and had to show the interviewer the door. (Laughter) When witness told Mr. Elmore that he had returned to the Post Office letters that had come to that office addressed to Mr. Hickman, Mr. Elmore directed him to hand all such letters to him henceforward, and to have a brass plate put on the door with the name of “Hickman” upon it. Mr. Frederick. Darlington, of West Norwood, said he was one of the four persons who had taken out a patent for the improved manufacture of white lead. This was afterwards sold under the agreement produced to the defendant Company for £150,000, paid part in cash and part in shares. The agreement purported to be executed on the 22nd of July, but, as a matter of fact, it was signed on June 25. Complainant pointed out that the contract agreement was void, as the Company did not exist on June 25. Subsequently witness signed another agreement, whereby the patent rights were assigned to the Company for £25,000, and not £150,000. Witness had Vendors' Shares and Deferred Shares in his own name, and others in the name of Mr. Doyle, to whom he had given 10 per cent, for applying for allotment, but no cash had been paid for them. The object was to get the Cornpany's shares quoted on the Stock Exchange.Mr. Munroe: A daily occurrenceColonel Hartley (one of the Magistrates)But a very colourable transaction -- Darlington : The transactions in connection with this Company have been so dishonest that I am left with £10,000 of shares which will fetch nothing, while Mr. Elmore has been dabbling in the shares at high premiums It transpired that questions in connection with the winding-up of the Company were still before the High Court, and the Magistrates therefore decided to adjourn the further hearing of this case for two months.Both defendant pleaded not guilty to the charges."
|John Jepson was also something of an inventor, and during an experiment on improving telescopic gun sights he met Andrew Ainslie Common, an English amateur astronomer best known for his pioneering work in astrophotography.
John Jepson joined the Royal Astronomical Society in 1896 and in the same year he accompanied the large party of astronomers who went on the Norse King to Vadso to witness an Eclipse. This craze for chasing eclipses of the sun was prevalent amongst both professional and amateur astronomers at the time, and John Jepson was an enthusiastic assistant on these expeditions whenever the chance arose. It is tempting to imagine that he must have had telescopic and photographic equipment at the Priory, but this is not proven.
JJ Atkinson invited Dr Common to speak at Wolverton -
The Bucks Standard Saturday 16 January 1897
SCIENTIFIC LECTURE. On Monday evening, January 11, under the auspices of the Science and Art Institute Committee, Dr. Common, F.R.S., gave a lecture on “The English Expedition to observe the recent solar eclipse,” with illustrations by limelight. Mr. J. J. Atkinson, C.C. of Cosgrove presided and amongst those present were Mr. S. R Rooke, C. A. and Mrs. Rooks, Mr. C A. and Mrs. Park, Mr. F. Littleboy, Mr. and Mrs. Fitzhugh Whitehouse, Dr. Symington , Dr. Maguire , Rev. F. R. and Mrs. Harnett, Rev. W. L. and Mrs. Harnett, Rev. W. K. Vaughan. Mrs. J. J. Atkinson, Messrs G. M. Fitzsimons, R King. J. Knight, E. T. Lewis, A. Walton. W. H. Beetle, A E; Abbott, W. H. Bickley, J. Watson, J. Plant, W. H. Tarry, G. Coker, J. Goiter. &c. Mr. H. J. Coker and the Rev. F. R. Harnett assisted at the lantern. The chairman had the honour to introduce Dr. Common, president of the Royal Astronomical Society, who was governor of the expedition, and would give them something like an hour's lecture describing the work. He (Akinson, the chairman) might say that about 2000 people went the long voyage round the North Cape to see the eclipse, and all the trouble taken and the expense laid out, some thousands of pounds, had been useless owing to the heavens being obscured by clouds. He [Atkinson] himself took part in the expedition as ‘chuckerout’ (laughter), and had charge of the camp at night, he had pleasure in introducing Dr. Common to them Dr. Common, who was received with applause, first explained what an eclipse was, and said that it was very important to use every minute of total obscurity to see the surroundings of the corona, and proceeding by rapid stages Dr. Common showed views of the transit of Venue across the sun, and an eclipse of Jupiter, and followed with several views of sun spots. He referred also to the work of Stone and Richardson, who were more fortunate in the place selected (Japan), and through their work the results and the expense of the expedition were not totally lost. With respect to future solar eclipses he said that the only ones which had and would be visible in the British Isles were those of 1715, 1724, 1921, 1999, 2035, 2151, and 2200. He followed with several views, showing how an eclipse could be photographed, and described an instrument, viz., a plane mirror, by which it was possible to have telescope of almost any focus and length, the rays of the sun being reflected from the mirror into the telescope and focussed. This would make a great difference in the work of the expeditions of the future. The learned doctor described at some length incidents in the work of the expedition, and regretted that all the trouble taken was rendered abortive by the cloudy heavens. At the close a cordial vote of thanks was accorded Dr. Common, at the instance, of Mr. Fitzhugh Whitehouse, seconded by Dr. Maguire, and was duly acknowledged. A similar compliment to the chairman brought the meeting to a close.
“Not till the Eclipse had been satisfactorily observed did he take a holiday. Then he went away for a few days on an expedition after a tiger, where he had no luck but found the experience very exciting he said. He returned by the time I had finished developing the photographs, and helped me pack up and dispatch the instruments to England. The time I spent with him in Sumatra was one of the most delightful experiences of my life.
|In 1900 he met Sir Frank Dyson, an English astronomer and Astronomer Royal who is remembered today largely for introducing time signals ("pips") from Greenwich, England, and for the role he played in proving Einstein's theory of general relativity.
Dyson said of John Jepson:
“We very readily accepted an offer by Atkinson to accompany us to Portugal as a volunteer observer. Our friendship began with this expedition. He shared in all the work of the unpacking, installation, and adjustment of the instruments, and on the day of the Eclipse gave the exposures for the spectra of chromospheres and corona, while I manipulated the changing of plates. Atkinson was the life of our party, keeping us all in good temper and good spirits in the small worries and difficulties incidental to Eclipse Expeditions.
“He evidently enjoyed the trip too, for the next year, when I asked him if he wouldn't come to the Eclipse in Sumatra, he delighted me by saying he should love to go if he could get leave from his duties in Northamptonshire as member of the county council. Happily he was able to make the necessary arrangements, and we set out in the middle of 190l March in company with Professor and Mrs. Newall and a number of Dutch and American astronomers. At this Eclipse we were assisted by a small gunboat, the Pigmy, and, though I cannot speak too highly of the help given by officers and men, Atkinson's company and co-operation were invaluable. No one over had a pleasanter companion on an Eclipse Expedition or one who turned his hand more readily to taking the clock to pieces and cleaning it or whatever wanted doing. He was more distressed than I was when we thought the day was going to be cloudy.
The following is an article written by John Jepson Atkinson himself.
A MONTHLY REVIEW OF ASTRONOMY.
Vol. XXIV. SEPTEMBER, 1901 No. 309.
An Eclipse Expedition, 1901 May.
The Observatory - Provided by the NASA Astrophysics Data System
EARLY in February I received a letter one morning from Greenwich suggesting that I should form one of a proposed party of four to go to the Dutch East Indies with the instruments used by the Astronomer Royal in observing the eclipse last year at Ovar in Portugal, and intimating that a Man of War would probably be placed at our disposal for the forthcoming eclipse on May 18th. In a postscript it was suggested that tigers were believed to exist in the Jungles of Sumatra in such numbers that there might be some difficulty in firing a rifle without hitting one.
Not mentioning the tigers, but putting special emphasis on the Man of War, in an airy manner I asked my family at breakfast what should be my course if the honour were really done me of asking me to accompany the Greenwich expedition in the capacity of an observer. To my great surprise the verdict was unanimous, that I must go if I could possibly arrange my affairs so that I could be away from home during the time necessary for such a long trip. Having thus secured my wife's leave, I promptly wrote off, if the Admiralty provided a vessel, I would go; and on the 21st of February I heard from Mr. Dyson that a ship would be given us, and that the party would consist of Mr. Turner from Oxford, Mr. Newell from Cambridge, Mr. Dyson from Greenwich, and myself. It was finally arranged that we were to proceed by the Nederlands Line boat ‘Kœningin Regentes’ from Genoa, straight to Padang in Sumatra, where Mr. Dyson and myself were to be picked up by H.M.S. 'Pomone’ and with the Greenwich instruments in our care were to be thus conveyed to the most likely spot on the line of totality.
On Friday the 8th of March, after a most pleasant meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society, and dinner afterwards, I took my final orders from the Astronomer Royal near Charing Cross railway station at 12 o'clock at night: these were that as we should travel on board the same liner that the Dutch astronomers were going out upon, and as very great preparations had been made for their accommodation and no expense spared, by the Dutch Colonial Government on their expedition, we should endeavour on our way out, and immediately after our arrival, to find from them where we had best establish our instruments, and form no fixed plan of where we should go until we had exhausted every source of information on the spot and from the best authorities.
I left Charing Cross on Sunday night the 10th of March, intending to spend the following day in Paris and proceed to Genoa to join Mr. Dyson and go on board the Dutch liner on the 14th. After a most comfortable journey through Italy, I arrived at my destination at 2 o'clock on Wednesday, and found that in consequence of a storm in the Bay of Biscay the `Kœnigin Regentes’ had not turned up. I was rowed about for couple of hours by an Italian boatman before I discovered this and as I could speak his language no better than he could speak mine, and Ciceronian Latin was of no avail in searching for my ship, I was obliged to attempt to return to land; this was attended by no small degree of difficulty, as the Douan officials insisted on examining my luggage and charging me for my rifles and cartridges, under the impression that I was landing from some vessel in the Port. I had a terrible fight, from which I finally emerged victorious without paying a penny to the Imperial Customs, or to the very officious porters who had insisted on carrying my things to the Custom House instead of to the vehicle I had engaged to take me to an hotel. After this excitement, a bath and a good dinner were necessary to bring me to a proper frame of mind to meet my friends, and I was enjoying a postprandial cigar on my way to the post office when I heard my name shouted, and there in the thick of an Italian crowd I found Mr. Dyson and Mr. and Mrs. Newall, who had also dined and come out to see the fun, and walk about this very interesting city. I had learned that four American astronomers were in Genoa, and we hunted them up, hoping to find someone we knew among them. They proved to be the party sent out by the Massachusetts’s Institute of Technology, and under the leadership of Professor Burton. They were going by the same ship as ourselves, and their subsequent friendship added greatly to the pleasure of our trip. We saw as much of the sights of Genoa as we could on the rainy morning of March the 14th, and then at 2 o'clock went on board the 'Kœnigin Regentes’ Each of the Dutch passengers came up in turn and made himself known to us with the politest possible bow; thus the whole ship's company, were at once placed on a most agreeable footing, which continued during the entire voyage. The stewards and cooks were all Malay, and very well they served us; in fact a restaurant in London run with Java boys as waiters would be the most paying thing I can think of, and a place where I should strongly advise the Royal Astronomical Club to dine. No matches were allowed on board, but when anyone wanted a light, if no cheery Malay had anticipated your wishes, you called out “Arpee" and someone sprung to your side with a burning stick of scented incense. I shall miss my Malay boys all the rest of my life. We found at dinnertime that at the Captain's table, besides two daughters of the Governor of the Dutch East Indies, were the four members of the Dutch astronomical expedition, the four American astronomers, Mr. and Mrs. Newell, and ourselves, making up with a General and a Judge a very happy and friendly party.
The first day of our voyage turned out to be wet and uncomfortable, but this was our only experience of the sort, and on Saturday with land in sight all the day and Stromboli throwing out rocks on the one hand and Etna smoke from its snow-capped peak on the other, I never remember a more beautiful view. Except for a block in the Suez canal, when a Kamseen was blowing and the thermometer stood at 99° in the shade, the whole trip was most enjoyable, and we were sorry to part with our excellent captain and ship's company at 6 o'clock on Saturday the 6th of April, when we arrived in the lovely harbour of Emma Haven in Sumatra. To our dismay we found that the American Government Expedition were in front of us, and the Stars and Stripes were flying on a small transport, the ‘General Alava' once a Spanish gunboat. We had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Professor Skinner and all the American astronomers afterwards, and very kind friends they proved to be, giving all of us every assistance in their power. I had boasted before I started of American hospitality to Britishers, Mr. Dyson sampled it, and would now “go one better" if he could. The Dutch, under Major Muller, received us magnificently and ran on up to Padang with a special train and saloon car, and we had our first experience of white duck suits, and a "rice table" at the Oranje Hotel. I am sorry to say I put my foot into it the first thing, by making a swimming-bath of a douche, and was told at dinner I might have got into hot water over it if it were known to the natives. On Monday, April 8th, we English astronomers called upon the Governor of Sumatra and were most kindly received. On seeing the mountains of this coast I had formed a very strong opinion as to the advantage of getting as far away from them as we could with our instruments, believing that they must attract more than their share of clouds, in this very rainy country. I therefore was anxious to take advantage of our having a Man of War, and steam away to an island about 70 miles west of Padang on the central line of totality. Governor Joekes warned us against the savage inhabitants, and seemed so anxious that we should not go there, that Mr. Dyson compromised matters by accepting a small coral island called Aoer Gadang, about 6 miles west of the Dutch camp, on the mainland. We arranged to go in the Governor’s yacht the next day with the Malay chief who owned the island, to visit it and select a site. On the evening of this day we heard that H.M.S. ‘Pigmy,' instead of the ‘Pomone’; had arrived in the harbour.
I was disappointed, as there was no ice-machine as the former, and as all our correspondence was addressed to the latter I only received about three letters and papers during five months, and as I refused the Captain's kind offer of his cabin I had to requisition the bridge of the Man of War to 'sling my cot". We had also to send the ‘Pigmy' about 30 miles each week for fresh provisions and ice for our developing-room. During the absence of our ship Mr. Dyson and myself were marooned upon our desert island from the Friday night to the Monday morning. However the anchorage off Aoer Gadang proved all that could be wished, and I look back to my 50 days on board the ‘Pigmy' as one of my most pleasant memories.
I have not space to describe the marvellously clever buildings erected for our instruments and ourselves by the Malays, solely out of bamboo and palm-leaf, but they effectually withstood the tropical sun and rain, and we neither of us were sick or sorry a single day in our most picturesque camp, our only regret being that we could not transfer all the buildings, as they stood, to England.
I found that the best assistance I could give to Mr. Dyson was to leave the whole plan of the erection and installation of the instrument, to him, only acting as his Clerk of the Works, using my chief endeavours to allay his anxiety, and prevent him from overworking himself. I had hoped to get a few days of sport before the all-important 18th May, but I found that one Sunday off, when we were both invited to shoot wild boar, before our real work began, was all that I dare manage, and I take some credit to myself that Mr. Dyson did not wear himself out till the eventful day was past. We had only one neighbour on our island, an outcast heathen of eighty years, who kept the most appalling ape that ever I did see. This monkey was used by his owner for the purpose of climbing the gigantic cocoanut palms and throwing down the fruit, which he did in the most artistic manner by screwing the nuts off with his powerful arms, while he hung by his legs 70 to 100 feet from the ground.
Mr. Dyson was especially warned not to go too near this animal, lest it should mistake his head for a cocoanut, when the first twist would be certain death after it had as made good its hold. I became most attached to this old Malay pirate, and with the help of a vocabulary, we held long conversations. He was the most perfect gentleman in his ideas, and never accepted even an empty soda-water bottle without making us some return, in the way of a present. He evinced the greatest interest in astronomy, and to see him, with hardly a rag on his body, explaining to casual strangers, who called, the merits of the different telescopes, and how they were "going to be used to wipe out the Sun," was most comical. A sparklet had a most exhilarating effect on him, and he considered it much too precious to be wasted on a follower of Mahomet, to whom he said spirits are forbidden, and who are consequently to be despised by a free-thinking cannibal. Our leave-taking was most touching, he giving me a present of rice, which I had to sprinkle on my bare head.
On the 18th of May I had been up each hour after 12 o’clock to see the most inky clouds over the whole surface of the sky, and no prospect of any improvementso much so that when Mr. Dyson came to my berth at 6 o'clock I refused to be comforted, and turned my face to the wall, intending never to go near the instruments, except to pack them up. However, at 8 o'clock the Captain said “We are going to have a fine day after all"; and now the fun began. We rushed ashore, and it was as good as the Liverpool Steeplechase to see the clouds race across the ground-glass of the big camera, as the moment of the eclipse arrived. Our whole complement were in their places, and the search-light displayed for the benefit of the Dutchmen on the mainlandwhen we “doused our glim " totality was complete, sixteen seconds before theirs began; this signal we gave them to a second, and they were grateful. I leave my colleague to tell what happened during the eclipse and the results we obtained. The anchor of the ‘Pigmy' was up within an hour of the last contact, and I went off tiger-shooting, leaving Mr. Dyson with about as hard a week’s work, in the developing-room, as he ever did, in a temperature never under 80o, quite expecting to find him dead on my return. He wasn't; he was never better in his life, but all those who helped him in my absence were in hospital.
J. J. ATKINSON.
Dyson's account continues:
“I recall the Eclipse of 1905 at Sfax in Tunis, a festival dinner with tables set in the open street, the company British, French, and Italian astronomers, and Atkinson pouring out a tremendous fire of chaff, and asking in vain for the French for 'Keep the ball rolling.' But while he entered into that game like the splendid old boy he was, and though he never became an astronomer in any technical sense, the science meant a real interest to him. He knew extraordinarily well what was what, in this world, and his curiosity in matters of ideas, in the people that propounded them, was the sign of his active, joyous mind searching for food where he know he would find it good.
"Add that he was one of the most constant of friends, and that it was impossible to be dull in his company.
“In the spring of 1912, I went at his invitation to see another Eclipse. He took his two-seater car from Southampton to Havre. We went leisurely up the Seine in time to see the short Eclipse at St. Germaine, and back again via Dieppe, and along the coast to Havre, taking a trip by boat to see the Bayeux tapestry.
JJ's car standing on the drive at the Priory sometime before 1909
[This car was a 30HP Gobron Brillie, registered number C52 to John Jepson in Cosgrove]
“In the autumn of the same year he accompanied Eddington and Davidson to Brazil, where the fortune of weather was against them.
Total Eclipse of the Sun, 1912, October 10. Report on an Expedition to Passa Quatro. Minas Geraes, Brazil. By A S Eddington and C Davidson
Ninth Astronomer Royal: The life of Frank Watson Dyson 1 Jan 1951
by Margaret Wilson
Extracts referencing John Jepson Atkinson
Now that Dyson was relieved of some of his home worries, he was free to enjoy his work and the many social contacts his work brought him. He had been elected a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society soon after his appointment at Greenwich and a few years later became the Secretary. At the monthly meetings of the society and at the dinners of the RAS club he met amateur as well as professional astronomers and soon formed many new friendships.
Of all his amateur friends there was none he liked better than J.J. Atkinson. Atkinson was a country squire from Cosgrove Priory in Northamptonshire. He was some twenty years older than Frank Dyson, a huge man standing well over 6 feet and weighing about 18 stone. He used to say that after he had turned the scales at 18 stone, he decided not to weigh himself any more, as that was a nice gentlemanly weight!
He had a big booming voice to match his size and told endless yarns of racing, hunting and other sports. Astronomy was his hobby, though he was only interested in the more spectacular side of it. He was no scientist and the details of routine astronomical work bored him. But his geniality, hospitality and wonderful fund of stories made him a great favourite at the RAS club and he was invited to join many astronomical expeditions.
The first time Dyson and Atkinson collaborated was at the Ovar eclipse in Portugal in May 1900. The Astronomer Royal himself [Christie] was in charge of the expedition, taking with him his chief assistant and CR Davidson, a first-rate observer. “The finest instrument in the Royal Observatory,” was how Dyson was to describe Davidson later. There was a spectroscope to man as well as the main telescope, say or more help was badly needed and Christie welcomed Atkinson’s offer to join the party. This would mean that Atkinson could help Dyson with the spectroscopic work, while the Astronomer Royal and Davidson managed the main telescope together.
By May 19 the instruments were already and the observers had a clear week to adjust them and to rehearse their procedure. The observer’s was stationed at the instruments, Christie at the coronograph, Dyson at his spectroscope and Davidson at a double camera. Atkinson stood by to help Dyson change his plates.
The thirteen days spent by the astronomical party at Ovar were not without light relief. Atkinson was an asset to any gathering. After a day’s work he would beguile the professional astronomers over a glass of the local port with selections from his famous repertoire of stories. When the eclipse was over, the instruments packed, and all preparations made to leave Portugal, Atkinson was in a difficulty. He discovered from his Portuguese friends that the local wine of which he had grown so fond was made for native consumption only and not for export. However, as a result of combined persuasion and bribery, they agreed to let him have the casket to take home, provided he could get it past the Customs. This cask of wine was packed with the observatory instruments. At the Customs barrier Christie declared the various crates containing telescopes, mirrors and photographic plates, and they were passed through unopened. Then came Atky’s barrel.
“What’s this" asked a Customs official.
“A special instrument for observing double stars,” replied the old sinner, with a wink at Dyson, and the barrel was allowed through.
A total eclipse of the sun was predicted for May 18th 1901, and the most favourable point of observation was pronounced to be the west coast of Sumatra. The Astronomer Royal obtained permission from the Admiralty to equip and send out an eclipse expedition there, and put Dyson in charge of it. Owing to the distance to be travelled and the length of time for which the party would be away, it was not possible to send out a second professional astronomer from the Observatory. However to Dyson’s delight, his old friend and colleague Atkinson volunteered to go with him.
Amongst letters Dyson wrote to his wife:
We left Turin and got here at 635. After dinner we strolled out and met Atkinson - I think this town is as big as Bradford, say - but Atkinson always turns up in the right place….
Dyson had the advantage of being mobile, as the Admiralty had put a small gunboat HMS Pigmy, at his disposal.
The Dutch authorities recommended the small island of Pulo Aoer Gadang as the ideal site. As it was almost uninhabited, Dyson decided that he and Atky, with the Captain’s permission, would live on board the Pigmy.
Dyson wrote to his wife:
“it is almost a Robinson Crusoe island. There are very few natives on it-and the view of the mainland from it is magnificent. Atkinson is delighted at the prospect of shooting a tiger which is said to be within 20 miles. It a man the other day. You need not fear. It can’t touch out tight little island.”
Dyson was now be glad to get to work. He transferred himself, Atkinson and the pressures instruments to HMS Pigmy, and on Saturday, April 13 they set off.
Atkinson was reluctant to forgo the chance of a tiger hunt, but his unfailing good humour made him fall in with Dyson’s plans cheerfully. He found the work of setting up astronomical instruments humdrum, but he always took his share of this routine work. He was interested to observe the actual eclipse, so accepted the necessity for the preliminary preparations although they bored him.
Atky became a great favourite with all the personnel of the Pigmy. He was less busy than Dyson and much less preoccupied. So he joined the young naval officers in their pursuits, hunting snakes with them, chased sharks and drank sloe gin. As he shared the officers cabin quarters he also shared their communal life and got to know them intimately.
The officer’ cabins surrounded a flat space which held two tin baths. As there was practically no ventilation, it was not a popular bathroom and most of the officers preferred a hose on the upper deck. But Atky was too old to change his habits and among much merriment he insisted on being hoisted in and out of the tin tub each day. It was a hard life that he had come to share after the amenities of his luxurious home at Cosgrove Priory. He took everything in good part, living on salt beef, salt pork, pea soup and ship’s biscuits, and seldom complaining except of the heat and flying bugs.
He loved to watch the sail drill and other activities on board ship. He would yarn equally happily to both officers and sailors and was equally beloved by both. He also joined in the officers’ amusements, especially their bathing excursions and picnics. He could not swim but would paddle about in the shallows, keeping a sharp lookout for sharks and warning the swimmers. An enormous pith sun helmet and a bottle of sloe gin accompanied him everywhere. His greatest joy was shark fishing, and he helped catch and kill a great number. What yarns he must have spun at Cosgrove Priory afterwards when he displayed his trophies!
Now Dyson had to install his astronomical apparatus. He and Atkinson did a large part of this work themselves, closely supervising the untrained assistants.
On Friday, April 19 Dyson wrote to his wife:
The Pigmy is not all beer and skittles. The officers are young and thought they were out for a picnic. They don’t like being at Gadang, as they thought they were going to get off the shooting every day and so on. However we managed to get along and Atkinson is a great help. I don’t know how I should have got on without him.
Back on the island Dyson continued his work. The natives built a Malay hut for him and Atkinson, where they could remain for short periods if the Pigmy had to go off in search of stores, mail and the indispensable ice.
Atkinson’s bottle of sloe gin was popular with everyone except Dyson. Atkinson pressed on his friend as a cure for his cares and anxieties, but Dyson waved it aside in favour of soft drinks. On one expedition he and Atky found an ostrich egg which they gave to one of the marines to cook. They expected a great delicacy so were disgusted to find the egg raw. “Well Sir,” said the aggrieved marine when Dyson complained, “I boiled it for 20 minutes.”
Dyson and Atkinson spend over six weeks in the company of the officers of the Pigmy and made many friendships. When they said goodbye there were warm invitations and cordial promises to visit Cosgrove Priory and Greenwich.
The first call on the journey home was at Singapore, where Dyson and Atkinson spent a few days in the Raffles Hotel. Two days later they wrote from Hong Kong where on one of their expeditions Atkinson found one of the sons of his next door neighbour sitting next to him.
Dyson’s next letter was written from the Japanese ship Nippon Maru halfway between Hong Kong and Shanghai. He and Atkinson had now parted company, as Atkinson wanted to visit Vladivostock.
In 1905 Dyson accompanied Sir William Christie on another eclipse expedition, this time to Sfax in Tunis. Atkinson volunteered his help as an amateur.
In 1912 another eclipse fell due. Dyson went with Atkinson and others to St Germain-en-Laye near Paris. There was no need to send out a highly equipped expedition. There were plenty of trained observers there, plenty of good instruments. The chief stories of the Paris eclipse which have come down a social rather than astronomical. They concern a very expensive lunch, hordes of sightseeing Parisians, and a birthday party for 12 year old Ruth Turner, at which Dyson and Atky presented her with a box of chocolate bells.
In 1912 Atkinson travelled to Brazil with Arthur Eddington to observe yet another eclipse.
John Jepson’s life was to change dramatically when the First World War began.
William Henry Jepson St Leger Atkinson, Son of J. J. and I. Atkinson, of Cosgrove Priory, Captain, 1st Royal Dragoon Guards, was killed in action at Ypres, 12th or 13th May 1915 at The Battle of Frezenberg Ridge, 8 - 13 May 1915.
At St Leger’s memorial service in Cosgrove, John Jepson said
“My son was killed in battle with a smile on his face, so his brother said. As a soldier he was respected; he was fearless, and he is a loss to the Army and the country, as his General says. His Colonel (Colonel Steele) was killed with him. There is not a real man here who will not wish for such an end as his, and who does not thank God with me for having given me such a son.”
Following St Leger’s death, John Jepson seems to have applied himself to more local events.
All his life John Jepson Atkinson loved horses - racing, hunting and country riding.
He and his children after him were avid followers of the Grafton Hunt.
Wolverton Express 24th March 1916
Mr J. Jepson Atkinson, County Councillor for Cosgrove, speaking at the Northants County Council meeting, expressive of the belief that women can do anything a man can in agriculture, supported his remarks by giving instances of excellent farm work being performed by women in the district.
He certainly supported his two daughters both in “war work” and in participating in village events, although we have the evidence of Dennis Tompkins in later years that both JJ and his son Philip York despaired of ever making a lady out of the bold Miss Gune.
John Jepson frequently offered the grounds of his home at Cosgrove Priory for fund raising events, particularly those in support of the Red Cross and similar charities. In this his wife Isabella was a driving force, and donated and presented prizes, as well as co-ordinating entertainment, where she played on her harp.
There were racehorses, fine riding horses and hunters at the Priory during the whole of
John Jepson’s ownership and his son Philip continued this tradition.
John Jepson also supported the local Church at Cosgrove and was Churchwarden for many years. Below is a page of the accounts from this time, in his own handwriting. This role did enable him to keep a close eye on the business of the village, including the period during which the Rector, Hewson, was suspended. There were incidents in which J J and Hewson crossed verbal swords in public.
On his death, John Jepson’s obituary and funeral reports speak for themselves. He was buried in a simple grave at Cosgrove Church on December 16th 1924 aged 80 and Isabella joined him on February 4th 1930.
Obituary Report by Royal Astronomical Society
Our Society owes an incalculable debt to some of its Fellows for whom astronomy has not been the business of their lives, nor even perhaps a primary interest, but who have been attracted by astronomy, and by whose friendship and companionship astronomers have gained, often in no small degree; Atkinson was such a genial friend to astronomy and astronomers. He was chiefly a keen sportsman. He kept racehorses even when an undergraduate at Oxford; and raced under the name of Mr. Doncaster. The name of the dearly loved eldest son he lost in the War, St. Leger, was a reminder of his birth on the day of that famous race. He was, moreover, as a young man a keen cricketer, a fast bowler for Yorkshire county. He was of an inventive turn, and some ideas he had for improving a gun brought him into association with the late Dr. A. A. Common. This led to his joining the Eclipse Expedition of 1896, of which Common took charge; to his joining our Society, and its dining-club, of which he was a devoted and much-valued member so long as his health permitted; and to his undertaking several other Eclipse Expeditions, to the delight of his companions. One of these was Sir Frank Dyson, who has given his personal reminiscences as follows: “Atkinson’s introduction to astronomical circles dates from 1896, when he accompanied the large party of astronomers who went on the Norse King to Vadso. He and I met first at the Royal Astronomical Society Club in 1900 January, a few months before the Eclipse of that year. An official expedition to Ovar near Oporto had been arranged, consisting of Christie, Davidson, and myself. We each had an instrument to take charge of, mine being two spectroscopes lent by Hills. So we very readily accepted an offer by Atkinson to accompany us as a volunteer observer. Our friendship began with this expedition. He shared in all the work of the unpacking, installation, and adjustment of the instruments, and on the day of the Eclipse gave the exposures for the spectra of chromospheres and corona, while I manipulated the changing of plates. Atkinson was the life of our party, keeping us all in good temper and good spirits in the small worries and difficulties incidental to Eclipse Expeditions. He evidently enjoyed the trip too, for the next year, when I asked him if he wouldn't come to the Eclipse in Sumatra, he delighted me by saying he should love to go if he could got leave from his duties in Northamptonshire as member of the county council. Happily he was able to make the necessary arrangements, and we set out in the middle of 190l March in company with Professor and Mrs. Newall and a number of Dutch and American astronomers. At this Eclipse we were assisted by a small gunboat, the Pigmy, and, though I cannot speak too highly of the help given by officers and men, Atkinson's company and co-operation were invaluable. Living in this little ship, anchored just outside a reef surrounding the small island where our instruments were erected, each morning he and I at 6 o'clock went ashore and supervised building of huts and erection of instruments, and came back to the ship in the evening. The ship usually went away on Saturday to get provisions, water, etc., and returned on the Monday, leaving us with two marines to cook for us and assist in any way we wanted. After dinner we got into our hammocks and talked till we felt sleepy, Atkinson telling stories of his Oxford days, hunting adventures in America, or of his experiences as a barrister on circuit. No one over had a pleasanter companion on an Eclipse Expedition or one who turned his hand more readily to taking the clock to pieces and cleaning it or whatever wanted doing. He was more distressed than I was when we thought the day was going to be cloudy. Not till the Eclipse had been satisfactorily observed did he take a holiday. Then he went away for a few days on an expedition after a tiger, where he had no luck but found the experience very exciting he said. He returned by the time I had finished developing the photographs, and helped me pack up and dispatch the instruments to England. The time I spent with him in Sumatra was one of the most delightful experiences of my life. He went and helped me at another Eclipse Expedition in Tunis in 1905, when we were guests for a time of Lord Beatty, then Captain Beatty of the Suffolk. In the spring of 1912, I went at his invitation to see another Eclipse. He took his two-seater oar from Southampton to Havre, and we went leisurely up the Seine in time to see the short Eclipse at St. Germaine, and back again via Dieppe, and along the coast to Havre, taking a trip by boat to see the Bayeux tapestry. In the autumn of the same year he accompanied Eddington and Davidson to Brazil, where the fortune of weather was against them.
“This was his sixth and last Eclipse Expedition. He frequently attended the meetings of the Society and sometimes those of the British Association. In later years, when he was hardly fit to travel, he would come to London to see his old friends. No one ever made less of his own illness. I shall always remember with gratitude the help he has given me, and think of him as the kindest and cheeriest comrade in expeditions which are not free from worry and anxiety, but which his companionship made the pleasantest of experiences."
The value of such a man is not conveyed by records of facts, but by the testimony of his friends. Another of those who knew him well was Father A. L. Cortie, of Stonyhurst, who has written this: "The chief trait in the character of J.J. Atkinson was his exceeding kindliness of disposition, which made him friends with everyone. For instance, on the Eclipse Expedition to Sumatra, the sailors of the man-of-war conveying the astronomers were so captivated by his open-hearted geniality, that they invited him to lie full length on the deck with his head over the hatch, to get the first whiff from the rum cask when it was broached for the crew. He appears, too, to have been a great favourite with an important local chief. In fact, in whatever society he might be found, his attractive personality gained for him the goodwill of everybody. He was greatly esteemed by the Fathers at Stonyhurst.
"The death of his older son, killed in the War, affected him very deeply, but he bore his loss with exemplary resignation and courage, and was sincerely grateful for any expressions of condolence and sympathy. Captain St. Leger Atkinson commanded the 6th Signalling Troop of the 3rd Cavalry Brigade of the 6th Division, and was killed in France early in 1915. At the memorial service, held in Cosgrove Church, he said: 'There is not a real man here, who will not wish for such an end as his, and who does not thank God with me for having given me such a son.' For those who knew him intimately he was a man of sincere faith, and of deep religious spirit.
"In early life he had been an adept in all forms of sportcricket, hunting, racing. His prowess in cricket was well known in Yorkshire, and he kept a racing stable, even when he was an undergraduate at Oxford. A valuable painting, which was given to him in lieu of a racing debt, now hangs in the main corridor at Stonyhurst.
"The people about Cosgrove Priory idolised him, and gentry and labourers gathered together at his funeral to express their esteem and regard for one who had endeared himself to all their hearts. He is buried in the cemetery attached to the parish church of SS. Peter and Paul at Cosgrove. He died on 1924 December 12, aged eighty years."
The testimony of Professor R. A. Sampson, Astronomer Royal for Scotland, loses nothing of its emphasis or effectiveness by its opening reference to the exceptional nature of the relationship: "I find myself very little inclined to express in ordinary terms what Atkinson represented to us. He met us on a side which has nothing to do with the usual scientific categories. A sportsman, a country gentleman, bred on the classics at Oxford, and retaining no little interest in them, with a very extensive knowledge of people of all stamps, he ended by adopting astronomers. Frankly, I accepted that as evidence of his shrewdness. It was no doubt the sporting side of the science that led him ineclipse hunting in queer parts of the world. To picture him in his element I recall the Eclipse of 1905 at Sfax in Tunis, a festival dinner with tables set in the open street, the company British, French, and Italian astronomers, with the officers of H.M.S. Suffolk, and Arab dignitaries from the native town, and Atkinson pouring out a tremendous fire of chaff, and asking in vain for the French for 'Keep the ball rolling.' But while he entered into that game like the splendid old boy he was, and though he never became an astronomer in any technical sense, the science meant a real interest to him. He knew extraordinarily well what was what, in this world, and his curiosity in matters of ideas, in the people that propounded them, was the sign of his active, joyous mind searching for food where he know he would find it good.
" Add that he was one of the most constant of friends, and that it was impossible to be dull in his company."
He was elected a Fellow of the Society on 1899 February 10. H.H.T.