People: William Rogerson

Name Rogerson, William
Place of work Greenwich
Employment dates
10 Aug 1825 – 26 Apr 1853

Posts 1825, Aug 10

Computer / Extra Assistant (established 1 Jan 1831)


Post retitled as Fifth Assistant
1853, Apr 26 Died in office, haven risen to Fourth Assistant in 1845 and Third Assistant in 1852 (see below)

Born 1797, Jan 2

Died 1853, Apr 26

Family connections William Richardson married his sister, Ann, in 1821
Known addresses 1828–1853
19 (Great) George Street, Greenwich. Later amalgamated with Upper George Street and Little George Street and renamed as King George Street. The two sides of the road were independently and somewhat randomly numbered. Rogerson's house is believed to have been on south side. Still present in 1916, it had been demolished by the 1950s. It is thought to have been in the vicinity of the present 110A King George Street

Title page of the 1826 edition of Rogerson's Temporis Calendarium

William Rogerson, the son of the druggist William Rogerson and his first wife Ruth, was born and brought up in the town of Pocklington in Yorkshire. In 1819, he received an inheritance from his grandfather William Rogerson the Elder. This included a property in Hungate, Pocklingon, which he sold to William Bellaby in April 1825 (East Riding of Yorkshire Archives and Local Studies Service, DDPY/74/4 & DDPY74/5). A transcript of Rogerson the Elder’s will is provided at the bottom of the page.

Writing on his website Pocklington History, Andrew Sefton records that Rogerson was one of a number of local amateur scientists who used to meet in Pocklington and had an interest in astronomy. These included the future telescope maker Thomas Cooke who came from the village of Allerthorpe (less than two miles away), William Watson of Seaton Ross (mapmaker and sundial maker), John Smith of Bielby (sundial maker and amateur astronomer) and his future brother-in-law, William Richardson. In 1820, Rogerson published the first edition of an annual Almanack, Temporis Calendarium (for the year 1821), a volume that he continued to publish until 1850. On 16 July 1823, he married Susanna Wilkinson at St James Grimsby – the same church where she had been baptised.

When John Pond took on two extra staff at Greenwich in 1825, he acted on the advice of his Pocklington born assistant William Richardson and recruited Rogerson, who by then was Richardson’s brother-in-law and working as a teacher in Grimsby (RGO6/72/226), together with Thomas Ellis, also a teacher, who came from nearby York. Their arrival meant that for the next twenty years, half of the Astronomical Assistants working for the Astronomer Royal were Yorkshire men. Rogerson was paid a salary of £100 a year. Unlike Richardson and Thomas Glanville Taylor who were recruited by Pond in 1822, Rogerson and Ellis received no housing allowance. Nor were they eligible for the triennial pay rises that were awarded to the other assistants. They did however receive an allowance for coal and candles of £20 a year. When Airy took over as Astronomer Royal in 1835, the £20 coal and candles allowance became a £20 rent allowance. At that time, Rogerson had five living children whose ages ranged from five to eleven. In 1835, Pond described him as ‘very well behaved, honest and trustworthy; though less able than Mr. Ellis’, and listed his duties as observing with the Mural Circles and computing the observations (RGO6/72/226).

With Airy’s arrival, the six assistants were no longer referred to as First, Second and Extra Assistants, but as First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Assistant, the ranking (but not the pay) of all but his new First Assistant being determined by length of service.

19 George Street where Rogerson was living by 1828 (and probably earlier), is described as having a crowded yard surrounded by high walls. It had its own well and in 1837, cost £19.10s a year to rent with parochial taxes of £2. In a letter to Airy written on 17 May 1837, Rogerson wrote ‘May I be permitted to say, that with my large family, nothing, but necessity, would induce me to put up with so small a house as the one I at present occupy’ (RGO6/72/228). As a result of an intervention, largely by James Glaisher, the allowance paid to the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Assistants was increased to £30 in 1838. Unlike Richardson who went on to buy his own house, Rogerson remained in rented accommodation for the rest of his life.

For whatever reason, Airy didn’t particularly rate Rogerson and never awarded him a single pay rise (unlike Dunkin for example, who having been appointed as an assistant on the same £100 salary as Rogerson in 1845, received a rise of £20 a year in 1849). As well as continuing to publish Temporis Calendarium (which continued until 1850), Rogerson was able to supplement his income by contributing regular weather reports to the Nautical Magazine based on his own home observations. He was also a Methodist preacher, wrote for Youth’s Instructor (Click here to view his Brief astronomical notices in the 1833 volume) and shorlty before his death, became a corresponding member of the Natural History Society of Montreal.

Under Airy, Rogerson’s work, like those of a number of his colleagues was largely restricted to making observations with the Mural Circles, the Zenith Sector and the Equatorials and then reducing them. Following his death from bronchitis on 26 April 1853, William Ellis, a former Computer and son of Thomas Ellis was appointed to replace him. Despite his long years of service, Airy failed to mention the fact that he had died in his Annual Report to the Board of Visitors. This was in marked contrast to Thomas Ellis who died in 1852 and John Belville who died in 1856


Parents and siblings

William Rogerson’s father, was a druggist of the same name. On 7 April 1795, he married his first wife, Ruth Jones. She died of consumption on 27 Feb 1805. By Ruth he is known to have had at least three children:

  • William, born 2 January 1797, baptised 10 January, 1797 in Pocklington. Went on to work at the Royal Observatory
  • Ann, baptised 1798 in Scarborough. Married William Richardson in 1821
  • Thomas, baptised 1803, Holy Trinity, Hull. Died 23 March 1820 aged 17

Three Rogerson graves in the chuchyard of All Saints, Pocklington, photographed in 2014. That on the left is believed to be that of William's mother and his brother, Thomas. The full inscription, as recorded by William Watson (1784-1857) in his journal (East Riding of Yorkshire Archives and Local Studies Service, DDX1445/8/30), reads: In memory of Ruth Rogerson wife of William Rogerson Druggist of this town who died of a consumption February 27th 1805 aged 32 years She was an affectionate wife a tender mother and a sincere Christian Also Thomas Rogerson their second son, who departed this life in full assurance of a better March 23rd 1820 aged 17 years. He was a youth of promising abilities, and was greatly beloved by his Relations and friends. Ah! happy youth thy warfare soon was o'er, Soon wast thou wasted to the peaceful shore, Thy ashes mingled with thy parent's rest, Thy soul with hers in Paradise now blest.

The parents of Susannah, Rogerson’s wife, were Robert and Ann Wilkinson. They appear to have had at least three daughters, all of whom were baptised at St James, Grimsby. They were:

  • Hannah Wilkinson – 19 December 1801
  • Susannah Wilkinson – 29 December 1803. Married William Rogerson
  • Sarah Wilkinson – 31 January 1806. Appears to have been living with the Rogerson’s in Greenwich in 1841 and later, with Susannah (by then widowed), in Haven Street, Grimsby in 1861


Obituary (The Local Preachers’ Magazine and Christian Family Record, June 1853)

It is with painful emotions we have to record the death of Brother William Rogerson, of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. He had been ill for some time, but no danger was apprehended, and he continued his labours up to a short period before his death, which took place suddenly on the morning of Tuesday, 26th April. To few men have we been more indebted for exertions to sustain the interest of the Magazine than to our dear departed brother. He was always to be depended on, and his contributions were always in time. What he did was done cheerfully, and without fee or reward. This perhaps ought not to have been permitted, for since his decease we have discovered that the salary which he received was too little to meet the necessities of his family, some of whom have been and still are in a painfully afflicted state. We have been promised by a friend a brief memoir for the Magazine. It is well for us to know that though his course on earth is ended, mortality is swallowed up of life. We are glad to learn that some friends have kindly undertaken to open a subscription list for the benefit of his widow and family, who are left almost in a state of destitution. Mr. English, of 4, Kent Terrace, Deptford, will be glad to receive contributions on their behalf.

Click here to read as originally published.


Obituary (Yorkshire Gazette, 28 May, 1853)

The obituary below is at some variance with other sources in a number of details. The statement about the size of Rogerson’s inheritance is somewhat exagerated (see Will at the bottom of the page)


The demise of this talented and well-known character, whose death took place at his residence, No. 19, Great George-street, Greenwich, a few days ago, ought not to pass over without a few words being said of him, and which we know he so well deserved.

Mr Rogerson was born at Pocklington, in the East Riding of this country, on the 9th of May, 1796; he was the son of Mr. William Rogerson, of the same place, and grandson of another of the same name. The grandfather himself was one of the first in Yorkshire who joined the Wesleyan Society, and was the friend and contemporary of the venerable founder of that numerous and respectable class of professing Christians, and an intimate friend of the once celebrated character and local preacher, the late Richard Birdsall, of York, with whom he lived in harmonious connexion for a great many years. In the year 1818 the grandfather died, and his remains were interred in the burial ground attached to the Wesleyan Chapel, at Pocklington. In point of character “Old Billy” was of a singular temperament, and somewhat odd. For twelve years before his death, the old man had his coffin ready made and painted black, with breastplate and other furniture thereon. After the death of the grandfather, with whom William Rogerson and a younger brother had been brought up, our late valuable and esteemed friend found himself in the possession of a small but handsome fortune, which was to be equally divided between them; but in case of the death of the younger (Thomas) before he should attain his majority, the reversionary interest became invested in his elder brother. Strange to say, Thomas died the day before attaining his majority, and the fortune (£1200) became William’s sole inheritance.

Previous to this, however, William had been studying mathematics and the principles of physical astronomy, and was the intimate friend of the late Mr. Henry Andrews, of Royston, Herts., for upwards of 43 years the compiler of Old Moore’s and others of the Stationers’ Company’s Almanacks [and for over 45 years as one of Maskelyne’s computers for Nautical Almanac], and who died in 1820, in the 75th year of his age.

During the year 1819, the Wesleyan body had it in contemplation to publish an alman[a]ck, and through the recommendation of a mutual friend, Mr Rogerson was selected as the compiler, and immediately commenced the onerous portion of his labours. On completing his manuscript, Mr. Rogerson, who had not then travelled beyond the boundaries of the East Riding of Yorkshire, determined upon taking his maiden manuscript up to the metropolis, and accordingly in July, 1819, he set off from his native place, taking the coach for Hull, at the New Inn, near Pocklington, where he arrived the same evening, and the next day proceeded to Grimsby, where he met with a kindred spirit and a most excellent man, the late Mr. George Herring, whose company he courted until the period of that unfortunate person’s decease, some years subsequently, and whose poetical and other mental exertions continued to enrich the almanack for some time afterwards.

It was during this visit that Mr. Rogerson became acquainted with Miss Herring, sister of the above, and whom he subsequently married, in the year 1824, when he took up his residence at Grimsby, and whence his almanack was dated for two or three years. In 1826, he was appointed one of the calculators at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, by the then Astronomer Royal, the late John Pond, Esq., and where he continued until his demise on 26th April last, when bronchitis put a period to his somewhat long and valuable life.

Mr. Rogerson was for upwards of 35 years a useful local preacher amongst the Wesleyans, and withal an upright and honourable man; but he had his crotchets and his singularities. He was a great admirer of Burnett’s theory of the earth, and even carried that writer’s opinion to and extreme, which is well expressed in the “Temporis Calendarium,” for 1824, where he thus remarks :–

“If Burnett’s conjecture be true,
    The Antediluvian race
No changes of seasons – no tempests ere knew,
But Spring ever blooming, with flowers which grew,
And fruits without labour, and constantly new;
    “Twas Eden in every place.”

Mr. Rogerson’s almanack continued to be published by the Wesleyan body until 1850, when the author joined the reform movement, and since then it has passed into other hands. Deceased was of a mild and peaceable disposition – kind in all the social relations of life – and excellent and kind hearted man – a well disposed Christian – and one of the best practical mathematicians and astronomers which the present century has produced.

East Retford.                                                   J.S.P.


Rogerson Court

In 2017, McCarthy and Stone (a developer and manager of retirement communities) named its new development in Pocklington after Rogerson. Its address is: Rogerson Court, Scaife Garth, Pocklington, York YO42 2SJ.


Further reading

William Rogerson by Andrew Sefton (from the Pocklington History website)

Weather reports submitted to The Philosophical Magazine and Journal: Comprehending Various Branches of Science, the Liberal and Fine Arts, Agriculture, Manufactures, and Commerce, Volume 57, Richard Taylor and Company, 1821, p.467

Weather reports submitted to The Philosophical Magazine and Journal: Comprehending Various Branches of Science, the Liberal and Fine Arts, Agriculture, Manufactures, and Commerce, Volume 58, Richard Taylor and Company, 1821, p.76, 237 & 467

Temporis Calendarium for the years 1840, 1844, 1845, 1847, 1848, 1849, 1850 & 1851



Last Will and Testament of William Rogerson the Elder


Exon [Execution] of the Will of William Rogerson the elder late of Pocklington Yeoman deced [deceased] was granted to Wm Rogerson the younger his Grandson and sole Exor [Executor].


2nd March 1820  Und: £1000
Before Rev: Thos Brown Surr:


This is the last Will and Testament of me William Rogerson the Elder of Pocklington in the county of York yeoman made and published by me the eighth day of November in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and nineteen in the pursuance and exercise of the power and authority given and reserved to me in and by a certain Indenture bearing date on or about the twenty eighth day of June one thousand seven hundred and eighty six and made between me and my late Wife Ann Rogerson of the one part and Francis Hunt of the City of York Gentleman of the other part and also of a certain Fine therein covenanted to be levied and which hath been duly acknowledged and levied accordingly and by force and virtue of all and every the power and powers authority and authorities in me being or enabling me thereto and in full exercise thereof, Do hereby Give devise direct limit and appoint to my Grandson William Rogerson All that my messuage tenement or Dwellinghouse Barn Stables outbuildings Garden and yard with the appurtenances situate and being in a certain street in pocklington aforesaid called Hungate and now in my own occupation To hold the same and every part thereof unto my said Grandson William Rogerson his Heirs and assigns absolutely for ever  I Give and devise to my Grandson Thomas  All that my Close piece or parcel of Land now divided into three little Crofts or Closes one whereof is used as a Garden containing in the whole about three acres (more or less) situate and being near to the town of Pocklington aforesaid adjoining to a certain lane called Catton lane with the wells or parts or shares of Wells and all Buildings rights members and appurtnances thereunto belonging now also in my own occupation  To hold the same to my said Grandson Thomas Rogerson his Heirs and assigns for ever  I Give and devise unto my son William Rogerson for and during the term of his natural life All that my Dwellinghouse Shop and premises situate and being in the market place of Pocklington aforesaid wherein he now lives  And from and immediately after his decease I Give and devise the said Dwellinghouse shop and premises and every part thereof unto all and every the Children of my said son William Rogerson both male and female that shall be living at his decease by Anstiss his present Wife share and share alike and their respective Heirs and assigns for ever  To take and hold the same as tenants in common and not as joint tenants  I give and bequeath unto my said two Grandsons William Rogerson and Thomas Rogerson all and singular my plate Linen Books Beds Bedding and Household furniture in my now Dwellinghouse equally between them share and share alike to and for their own respective uses for ever  I Give and bequeath unto my said son William Rogerson the sum of fifty pounds To my said Grandson Thomas Rogerson the sum of one hundred pounds and to my Granddaughter Ann Rogerson the sum of fifty pounds to be paid to them respectively at the expiration of twelve calendar months next after my decease by my Executor hereinafter named  And as to all my ready money securities for money namely Mortgages Bonds Notes and simple Contract Debts and all and singular other my personal Estate and Effects whatsoever and wheresoever and of what nature and kind soever the same may be (not hereinbefore by me specifically disposed of) and subject to the payment of all my just Debts funeral Expenses the said several legacies and the proving and registering this my Will I Give and bequeath the same and every part and parcel thereof to my said Grandson William Rogerson his Executors Administrators and assigns absolutely for ever And do hereby appoint him my said Grandson William Rogerson sole executor of this my last Will and testament and also Tutor and Guardian for his Brother Thomas Rogerson during his minority and do hereby authorise my said Grandson William Rogerson to receive the rents and manage the fortune of my said Grandson Thomas Rogerson and apply the same for his use and benefit until he attains his age of twenty one years  And Lastly I do hereby revoke and make void all former and other wills by me heretofore made  In Witness whereof I have to this my last Will and Testament wrote on three sheets of paper to the first two sheets thereof set my hand and to this third and last sheet thereof my hand and seal the day and year first above written #

William Rogerson

Signed sealed published and declared by the said Willliam Rogerson the testator as and for his last will and testament in the presence of us who at his request in his presence and in the presence of each other have subscribed our names as Witnesses thereto.

Thomas Loftas of Pocklington yeoman
Jonathan Harrison Jud. [?] of Pocklington Gentleman
James Powell of Pocklington Atty at Law

I do hereby certify that on the twenty second Day of February on the year of our Lord 1820 William Rogerson the younger of Pocklington, yeoman, Grandson and sole Executor in this the last Will and Testament of William Rogerson the Elder, late of Pocklington aforesaid in the peculiar and Spiritual Jurisdiction of the Deanery of York, yeoman, deceased was sworn well and truly to execute and perform the same and that the whole of the Goods, Chattles and Credits of the said Deceased, within the Jurisdiction aforesaid, do not amount in value to the Sum of One Thousand Pounds

Witness my Hand
Thos Brown

Passed [?] Seal 2nd March 1820 Under £1000



Thanks to Andrew Wells who provided the transcription of Rogerson senior’s Will (below) and for other assistance.