People: Edward Hanson (Snr)

Name Hanson, Edward
Place of work Greenwich
Employment dates
1 Aug 1841 – 31 Mar 1848 & June 1854 – 1861(+?) or perhaps 1871+

Observatory posts 1841, Aug 1

Computer (Planetary & Lunar Reductions)
  1854, June Computer (general astronomical work)

Born 1797

Died 1883, Oct 5


Family Links Son, Edward Beresford Hanson employed on the Planetary & Lunar Reductions in the 1840s and again in the 1850s

Marriage 1 1819, Aug 7 Eliza Ringhorn Pinnock at St Mary, Lewisham. (d.1820 age 17)
Marriage 2
1825, Jul 31

Louisa Slaney (1806–1874) at Saint Alphage, Greenwich. At least 9 children

Known Addresses 1841–1849
Royal Circus Street, Greenwich (census & grandson’s baptism record)
1851 census

1 Monmouth Place, Deptford (New Cross). Thought to be the present 157 New Cross Road
  1861 census

Kender Street, Deptford (New Cross)
1871 census
3 Brand Street, Greenwich
  1881–1883 37 Besson Street, New Cross (census & probate)
Probate £1 19s 9d 1883, Oct 29

Edward Hanson appears to have spent most of his working life in Greenwich and nearby New Cross. At least 13 years and perhaps more than twenty were spent working for Airy at the Royal Observatory where he was employed on two separate occasions as a computer. His eldest son, Edward Beresford Hanson, was also twice employed by Airy as a computer (but on both occasions, for a shorter length of time).

The first time that Hanson (Snr) was taken on was in 1841 to work on the historic Planetary and Lunar Reductions. By then, he was about 44 years old. This work came to an end in 1848. His second period of employment seems to have been as a general computer in the astronomical department where he commenced work in 1854. In 1842, he was paid £66 a year. By 1860, the salaries Airy paid the computers were generally lower. Hanson’s rate at that time was just £54 a year (RGO6/535 & RGO6/75/176). Although there are some very detailed records relating to some of the computers in terms of their monthly pay, there is relatively little other information about them in either the archives or in the published volumes of observations. It is not known when Hanson left the Observatory for the second time. The 1861 census, however, indicates that he was still working there in April that year. The 1871 census is less clear, indicating only that he was working as an astronomical computer. By then he was 75 years old and soon to be widowed.

What Hanson did before joining the Observatory in 1841 is not known. Nor is it know what he did between 1848 and 1854. Unfortunately, although the 1851 census does record his occupation, the publically available digitised version (which comes from a poor quality microfilm) is unreadable.

On the domestic front, the 1841 and 1851 censuses indicate that Hanson and his family was living in the house of his mother-in-law, who is listed as head of household. By 1881, his wife had died and he was living with his married daughter Hannah and her family in New Cross. The first of his children to be born after he began working at the Observatory was given the unusual name of Henry Belville Hanson (1842–76), perhaps in honour of the Second Assistant at the Observatory, John Henry Belville who was a similar age to Hanson and lived nearby in Prior Street.