British photographic history

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Grubb and Parsons Optical and Engineering Giants

My article on Grubb and Parsons and their optical and engineering achievements is here; A variation of this article has appeared in the Photographica magazine of the Photographic Collectors Club of Great Britain (PCCGB). 

I have a collection of early Grubb lenses which were made in Dublin in the 1850s and 1860s and I will be publishing further material about the lenses and their impact from time to time. In the meantime I would be happy to hear from any members who have similar items or information relating to Grubb lenses.

I am also interested in hearing from other members who have an interest in or knowledge of Irish Photography from the 19th Century.

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Comment by William Fagan on August 27, 2020 at 20:04

Very definitely interested. I have a list of 100+ Grubb lenses that are known to exist today (including those in my own collection, about 6) and can send that to see if he has corresponding details. Most, but not all, of the items on the list can be seen on the large format photography forum website here

I'd appreciate anything that could be done to put together all of the available information on the lenses made by Grubb. This is important historical information that should be shared to make sense of events which happened here in Dublin around 160 years ago.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks for getting in touch.


Comment by Paul Cordes on August 27, 2020 at 19:37

Hello William,

I live in the North East of England near where the Grubb Parsons factory was. I bought a small, hand written ledger which came from the works. It contained the serial numbers and lens type for lenses made in the 1860s.

A local Grubb enthusiast bought it, maybe I can ask if he would be willing to share the information in the book with you.


Paul Cordes

Comment by Geoff Barker on August 4, 2020 at 13:46

Hi William, nice article thanks for sharing. I wrote a small post on the Sydney Observatory 13-inch Melbourne astrographic telescope made by Howard Grubb 1888-1890 back in 2008. I'm no longer at the museum but you can read the article here. Cheers Geoff.

Comment by William Fagan on August 3, 2020 at 12:37

Thanks Marcel. I know that the work of Irish photographers is scattered all over the world and I would be interested in hearing about any such photographs, wherever they may be. As for Grubb, there is a long running thread on Grubb 19th Century lenses on the Large Format Photography site and Paul Kay (also a member here) and myself have made many contributions there. What would be particularly interesting would be photographs from the19th Century that may have been taken with Grubb lenses made here in Dublin. The most famous examples were Carleton Watkins and Samuel Bourne who took photographs of Yosemite and the Himalayas respectively in the 1860s with Grubb lenses. Neither of them was Irish, but the lens they used was and their photographs in those locations were certainly groundbreaking in their time.

Comment by Marcel Safier on August 3, 2020 at 11:38

Hi William. Thanks for sharing this info. as someone who collects brass lenses, I have been interested in the various makers and I also happen to be a research collaborator on the Photographers of GB & Eire database and I have an interest in photography in Ireland. I can't add anything much to your info on Grubb but may be able to help with photographers. Cheers! Marcel (Brisbane, Australia)

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