People: Henry Charles Criswick

Name Criswick, Henry Charles
Place of work Greenwich
Employment dates
1 Mar 1854 – 1862 (July?) (RGO6/75/186)

Observatory posts 1854, Mar 1


Subsequent posts
Mining Engineer: West & Central Africa
  (from Sherborne
1887–1888 Mining Engineer: USA and Canada
  Register 1550–1950) 1889 Mining Engineer: Transvall
1895 Died

Born 1838, Q1

Sherborne. Baptised: 1838, Sep 14
Died 1895, Oct 6

Axion, Gold Coast, West Africa

Family Links Older brother George Stickland Criswick employed as a Computer and later as an Assistant
  Brother in law of Albert Escott, Headmaster Royal Hospital School (c.1870–1891)

Marriage 1860s?
 Helen Elizabeth Ihler (1847–1907), At least 5 children

Known Addresses From 1855
Circus Street (with his mother and siblings)
16 Upper George Street: lodger (census)
?  31 Ashburnham Road (now Ashburnham Place) (census). Criswick was probably abroad at the time

Probate £842 7s 4d
London: 1896, Mar 21

Henry 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), George Stickland (1836–19116) 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 Sherbourne, with George’s mother listed in the census as an annuitant. According to Arthur Bowden (see further reading 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’. 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!

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, Henry started work on 1 March 1854 (RGO6/75/186), suggesting that either his records or those of Sherborne School are in error. Criswick was assigned to the Magnetical and Meteorological department under James Glaisher. During 1859, he was also assigned observing duties on the telescopes. His salary in 1860 was £66 a year, some £24 a year more than the most recently employed computer (RGO6/75/186) and only about half of that of his brother (who by then was an assistant). He remained in post until at least 1862 (his last identified observation was in July that year). By 1864 he had left the country and was working in Africa as a mining engineer.

It was probably in the late 1860s that Henry got married to Helen Elizabeth Ihler. The 1871 census records that she was living with their daughter Frances (aged one) and her father just three doors away from 28 Ashburnham Road where Criswick’s mother, brother George and sister Louisa were residing. It seems likely therefore that it was as neighbours that they first met. Although Criswick’s wife appears in all the later census returns, Criswick himself does not seem to feature in any of them, suggesting that his family remained behind in England while he was working abroad. Following his death in 1895 in West Africa, his body was returned to England. He and his wife are buried together at Radnor Street Cemetery in Swindon. Click here for a photograph.

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 Boden, 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.


Further Reading

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