People: William Carpenter Nash

Name Nash, William Carpenter
Place of work Greenwich

Employment dates
13 February 1856 – 31 December 1903 (RGO7/5)

Posts 1856, Feb 13

Supernumerary Computer (Mag & Met)

1864, Jan 1

Magnetic Assistant. (Regraded as Second Class Assistant, 1884)

1894, Jan 1

Superintendent of Magnetic & Meteorological Department & First Class Assistant. (Regraded as Assistant on same salary scale in 1896)

1904, Jan 1


Born 1841, Oct 12 Baptised St Alphage, Greenwich, 1841, Nov 3
Died 1926, Mar 5

Marriage 1880, Feb 1 Jenny Munyard (1853–1938), St Alphage, Greenwich. At least 6 children

Known addresses 1841–1861 London Street (now Greenwich High Road). The 1841 & 1851 censuses give no house number. That for 1861 gives the address as 10 & 11 London Street. Now demolished the building stood roughly on the site of the present weekend market next to the Greenwich Picturehouse


63 Ashburnham Grove (Ref: British Meterological Soc)


6 Morden Terrace, Lewisham Road. Later renumbered as 92 Lewisham Road. Now demolished (living with parents & his elder brother)
1881 25 Tressillian Road, Brockley (census)
1885–1926 Heathfield, 4 Mycenae Villas, Mycenae Road (the present 31 Mycenae Road). This was Nash's last house

William Nash at work testing a possible new site for the Magnetic Observatory in Greenwich Park. From The Leisure Hour (1898)

Born in Greenwich in 1841, William Nash was the son of Edward C Nash, a pawnbroker, and his wife Millicent. He was one of at least 10 siblings and until the age of twenty or so, lived above the family shop at 10 & 11 London Street (now Greenwich High Road). In 1856, at the age of 14, he was taken on at the Observatory as a Boy Computer in the Magnetical and Meteorological Department under James Glaisher. At that time, the department consisted of Glaisher as Superintendent, an Assistant, Downs and three computers. Although assigned to the Magnetic Department, Nash gained an observer’s certificate, and is recorded as having made astronomical observations in 1862 and 1863. He was promoted to the post of Magnetic Assistant following the resignation of Downs at the end of 1863. Following Glaisher’s departure at the end of 1874, Nash worked under his replacement, William Ellis. He was elevated to Superintendent on Ellis’s retirement at the end of 1893. Nash himself retired at the end of 1903 after nearly 48 years of service. He was replaced by Walter Bryant.



Throughout much of his career, Nash was underpaid. Unlike the Astronomical Assistant posts, that of Magnetic Assistant was not originally established. When the post of Magnetic Assistant was first created in 1840, the pay of £120 a year was similar to that of the lowest paid Astronomical Assistants. Until the financial year 1868/9, the salary was paid via the Imprest Account rather than via the Navy Estimates.

By 1870, although the salary of the Magnetic Assistant was still just £120 a year, that of the lowest paid Astronomical Assistant had risen to £200 a year. The pay scales were eventually reformed in 1871. At that point, the new salary scale for the Magnetic Assistant was £180–£250 a year with an annual increment of  £10. As a result, Nash’s salary was immediately raised to £180 a year. Meanwhile, in the Astronomical Department, the more junior assistants were regraded as ‘Second Class Assistants’ on a salary scale of £200–£300 a year, with the lowest paid put onto a salary of £250 a year. Nash reached the top of his new pay scale in 1878/9.

In 1884, Nash was finally put on an equal footing with his colleagues when he was regraded as a Second Class Assistant. This allowed him to receive additional annual increments until his salary reached £300 a year. Following his promotion to Superintendent in 1894, he was paid on a salary scale that was the same as that of the First Class Assistants (£320–£450 a year with annual increments of £15).

The one good piece of news for Nash on the salary front was that in November 1885, special Treasury sanction to Superannuation was given (RGO7/5). As a result, he was able to retire on a full pension of £300 a year.


Ballooning with Glaisher

According to his obituary, Nash assisted Glaisher in some of his balloon ascents. He is also said to have been attacked by a complaint of a rheumatic nature in around 1888 which ‘crippled him rather severely’.



On 1 February 1880, Nash married Jenny Munyard who was 12 years younger and whom he had known since the time of her birth in 1853. She was one of several daughters born to Arthur Munyard a baker who lived next door to his childhood home in London Street.

The unknown sender of this postcard has marked Nash's house in Mycenae Road with a cross. Probably published in 1904, the photographer was facing north and standing more or less outside the house previously occupied by George Criswick. Postcard by Perkins, Son, and Venimore, Lewisham



The Observatory, Vol. 49, p.232 (1926)