People: William Grasett Thackeray

Name Thackeray, William Grassett
Place of work Greenwich
Employment dates
25 Feb 1875 – 3 September 1919

Posts 1875, Feb 25

Second Class Assistant

1892, Jan 1

First Class Assistant


Assistant (following a regrading exercise and the abolition of the post of First Class Assistant)

Born 1853, Sep 4


Died 1935, Mar 31

Known Addresses 1885
Possibly  with the Rev James Thackeray at Montague House (14) Vanburgh Park Road West
Montague House (14) Vanburgh Park Road West
Portland House (32) Kidbrooke Park Road
15 Shooters Hill Road*
Probate £10,330 8s 5d London, 20 May 1935

* 7–33 Shooters Hill Road were, until 1886 known as 14-1 Blackheath Terrace


Thackeray was the third of what turned out to be an elite group of individuals to be appointed as a Second Class Assistant, a grade that was created in 1871 and abolished in 1896. Following changes to the appointment process in 1872 all the posts at this level were filled by competitive examinations organised by the Civil Service. In total, just eight individuals were appointed under this system. All were well educated, and generally in their early 20s when they arrived at the Observatory. They were:

1873      Arthur Matthew Weld Downing
1873      Edward Walter Maunder
1875      William Grasett Thackeray
1881      Thomas Lewis
1881      Henry Park Hollis
1891      Andrew Claude de la Cherois

1892      Walter William Bryant
1892      Thomas Charlton Hudson

Of the eight, six including Thackeray remained at the Observatory for their entire working life. Thackeray was appointed following the resignation of James Glaisher. Although Lewis was seemingly promoted over his head to the grade of First Class Assistant on 3 November 1891 (following the creation of an extra post at that level), Thackeray gained promotion just a few weeks later following Downing’s move to the Nautical Almanac Office. For his first 16 years at Greenwich, he spent most of his time observing with the Transit Circle and reducing the observations. In 1891, he was relieved from this work and instead, superintended the miscellaneous astronomical computations, including the preparation of the volumes of Greenwich Observations for the press.

Although Thackeray remained at Greenwich for the whole of his working life, he did apply, unsuccessfully, for the post of Radcliffe Observer when it became vacant on the death of Edward Stone in 1897.

Shooters Hill Road in about 1905. In 1901, Thackeray moved with his wife and two children into one of the semis in the row that runs from the centre to the right of the picture. His house was the fifth one in the row from the left. In this view, it is largely obscured by trees. His wife died in 1902 and his son in 1904. The 1911 census shows him living in the house with his daughter, a cook and a house parlour maid. From a postcard (527) by Perkins, Son, and Venimore (PS&V)



Written by H.P. Hollis. The Observatory, Vol. 58, p. 216-219 (1935)

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 96, p.297 (1936)