People: George Stickland Criswick

Name Criswick, George Stickland
Place of work Greenwich
Employment dates
18 Aug 1852 – 30 Apr 1854  &  21 Mar 1855 – 30 Jan 1896 (RGO6/75/185)

Posts 1852, Aug 18


1854, May 1

To Cambridge Observatory as Junior Assistant

1855, Mar 21

Returned to Greenwich as Assistant

1871, Apr 1

Second Class Assistant (following regrading exercise)
1880, Feb 1
First Class Assistant
1896, Jan 30 Retired
F.R.A.S 1868, Feb 14

Born 1836, Jan 31

Sherborne. Baptised: 1836, Jun 24
Died 1916, Jan 26


Family Links Younger brother Henry Charles Criswick employed as a Computer (Mag & Met) by 1854 until at least 1862
  Brother in law of Albert Escott, Headmaster Royal Hospital School (c.1870–1891)
Marriage 1877, Aug 20 Elise Tudor Hassall (1846–1919), no children
Known Addresses 1854 Church Street (RGO6/3/123)
  From 1855 Circus Street (with his mother and siblings)
1861 16 Upper George Street: lodger (census)
  1871 28 Ashburnham Road (now Ashburnham Place) (census)
22 Circus Street (renumbered in the 1890s as No 2)*
  1878–1881 12 Glen Mohr Terrace (now 59 Hyde Vale)**
  1885–1888 7 Glen Mohr Terrace (now 49 Hyde Vale)
Rothley, Mycenae Road (The present number 32)
3a (The Wedge) Eliot Place, Blackheath
  1911–1916 19 The Circus: lodger (now 39 Gloucester Circus)

* He probably moved there in 1871 after it was vacated by Edwin Dunkin
** Glen Mohr Terrace consisted or a single row of 14 houses on the east side of Hyde vale (the present numbers 37 to 63)
Probate £5050 11s 4d London, 16 Mar 1916


Criswick joined the Observatory as a Computer in 1852. When in 1854 Airy was approached by Challis for a young man to fill the post of Junior Assistant at the Cambridge Observatory, the post went to Criswick, who was then ‘borrowed back’ by Airy for his Horton Colliery pendulum experiments. Less than a year later, when Charles Todd resigned his post as Assistant at Greenwich, to take up one on a much higher salary as Astronomical and Meteorological Observer and Head of Electric Telegraph Department in South Australia, his post was offered to Criswick who returned to Greenwich on 21 March 1855.

Like the other Greenwich Assistants, Criswick observed on the Transit Circle and the other principal instruments. The next Greenwich Assistants to be appointed were Lynn and Carpenter who took up post in 1856 and 1859. Until 1862, all three continued to be paid at their same starting rate of £100 a year. In 1862 however, Lynn and Carpenter were given a 20% pay rise, while Criswick was given nothing. Criswick eventually received a rise in 1866. Click here for details of their respective pay over the years. In 1871 when the payscales were restructured, Criswick together with Lynn and Carpenter was regraded as a Second Class Assistants. At this point, all three began receiving the same salary once again. In 1874 Criswick went to observe the Transit of Venus in Egypt with Downing and Maunder.

When Glaisher resigned at the end of 1874, Lynn was promoted by Airy over Criswick to the grade of First Class Assistant. William Ellis took over from Glaisher as Superintendent of the Magnetical and Meteorological Department and Criswick took over Ellis’s previous duties as Head of the Time Department. Criswick was eventually promoted to the grade of First Class Assistant the next time a post became vacant which wasn’t until 1880 following the retirement of Lynn on the grounds of ill health. If Carpenter hadn’t resigned in 1872, he no doubt would have been promoted instead. Following Criswick’s promotion the post he vacated was left empty for a year until the appointment of Lewis on 24 January 1881. In 1881, Criswick ceased observing and took charge of the computers and the production of the volumes of Greenwich Observations. In 1890, he was put in charge of the Astrographic Telescope, remaining in charge of it until he retired at the age of 60 in 1896. Following his retirement, Hollis was promoted to the grade of First Class Assistant to replace him.


Family, money and connections in Greenwich

George Criswick was born and brought up in Sherborne, Dorset. He was one of at least five children born to James Criswick a printer and his wife Eleanor Jane (née Stickland). The others were: Caroline (1827–8), Eleanor Frances (1827–1918), Henry Charles (1838–95) and Louisa Maria (1840–1915). The 1841 census records that in that year, the family was living in Westbury Street. His father died in June the following year, leaving his mother to raise the four surviving children on her own. In 1851, the family was still living in Sherborne, with George’s mother listed in the census as an annuitant.

George and Henry both attended Sherborne School. According to the Sherborne Register 1550–1950, George started in 1845 and left in 1852 whilst Henry supposedly started in 1848 and left in 1855. Both left school to start work as poorly paid computers in far away Greenwich. According to Airy however, Henry started work on 1 March 1854 (RGO6/75/186).

According to Arthur Bowden (see below), Criswick’s father died not in 1842, but in 1852 and his executor and widow’s trustee fled to America, leaving the family ‘in very poor circumstances’. According to Bowden, if it hadn’t been for this, George would have gone to Cambridge and trained to be a lawyer. Either he was in error, or the family’s fortunes were partially of wholly restored, as when she died on 22 October 1885, Criswick’s mother left an estate valued at £10,0085 1s 6d!

In July 1870, Criswick’s sister Eleanor married Albert Escott a mathematical master at the Royal Hospital School and fellow of the Royal Astronomical society. That year, or soon after, he was promoted to the position of Headmaster (his obituary states this was in 1870, but the 1871 census suggests otherwise). Escott’s mother was, according to Bowden, an old family friend of Criswick’s mother. The family’s connection with the Royal Hospital School is significant, as the school became one of the main recruiting grounds for the Observatory’s computers under Airy and his successor Christie.

When Criswick himself married, it was to Elise Tudor Hassall in 1877. She is described by Bowden as being a musician and vocalist. Around the same time, Criswick moved into the first of two large terraced houses that he and his wife were to occupy in Hyde Vale. In around 1890, they moved to what appears to be an equally large if not larger semi-detached house in Mycaene Road, Blackheath, close to Westcombe Park Station and almost opposite that of William Nash. In the early 1900s and by then retired, they downsized slightly, moving to the other side of Blackheath into a house in Eliot Place that looked out directly onto the heath. In 1911, at the age of about 75, he and his wife moved back to Greenwich, where they lodged until the end of their lives in a very fine house in the road now known as Gloucester Circus.



By Arthur Bowden. The Observatory, Vol. 39, p. 168–173 (1916)

By Henry Hollis. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vol. 77, p.293 (1917)

From the Masons Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, Vol. 29, p.234 (1916)