Historic telescope donated to Sheringham museum from Australia
20:27 09 June 2013
A historic telescope crucial to early lifeboat rescues has been returned to its original home from thousands of miles away.
The nautical refractor, used on two fisherman’s lifeboats from 1838 to 1945 in Sheringham, has been donated to the Mo Sheringham Museum.
It was a family heirloom and was donated by Tom Cooper, 90, who emigrated from Sheringham to New South Wales, Australia, in 1991.
He was the descendant of Tom “Barnes” Cooper – coxswain of the Augusta and Henry Ramey Upcher lifeboats who used the telescope.
Philip Miles, museum manager, said: “The telescope was the primary aid for search and rescue. There would have been big rough seas and the coxswain would have used the telescope to look for people.
“It was state-of-the-art technology back then and would have been an expensive piece of kit.”
He added it was “priceless” for the museum because of its attachment to Sheringham.
It is not known how much the brass and leather object would have cost when it was built or its financial value today.
Mr Miles received an “out of the blue email” from Mr Cooper’s daughter Tessa, from Sydney, last year about the telescope and how it was her father’s wish for it to be returned to Sheringham.
It arrived at the museum late last year and is now on display.
Minor conservation work was carried out on the leather, which has marks from when it was held at sea.
Mr Miles said the Cooper family in Australia was “happy” about the return of the telescope.
The Augusta vessel was Sheringham’s first lifeboat and, along with the Henry Ramey Upcher, it was privately funded by the Upcher family from Sheringham Park. The Augusta lifeboat was built by Robert Sunman and the Henry Ramey Upcher was built by Lewis “Buffalo’’ Emery. They were both built like large crab fishing boats and pre-dated the RNLI rescue boats.
The RNLI lifeboat – J C Madge – was officially launched in 1904 and was used alongside the Henry Ramey Upcher.
During the Augusta’s service she saved an estimated 1,000 lives and the Henry Ramer Upcher, with its 28-strong crew, saved 202 lives over 41 years.
The volunteer-led Mo Museum on Lifeboat Plain, which opened in 1988, also has three ex-RNLI lifeboats on display.
For details, call 01263 824482, visit www.sheringhammuseum.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org