Pay 1811–1835

The subject of pay at the Observatory becomes increasingly complex from the nineteenth century onwards. Although there is information in the various archives about the amounts individuals were paid on certain specific dates, information about the overarching pay structures, pay ranges and dates when they were introduced are less well documented – particularly in the twentieth century. When it has been possible to work out the date ranges over which the various pay scales apply, they have been given, when not, spot values are given instead. Restructuring of the pay scales took place in 1871, 1896, 1912, the mid 1930s and 1946.  References to relevant archive files are given in brackets: RGO (Royal Greenwich Observatory Archive at Cambridge); ADM, WORK and T (former Admiralty and Treasury files at the Public Record Office Kew), MS (Royal Society).

This page should be read in conjunction with the pages pages listed below:

Background information
Pay of the Astronomers Royal & Directors, 1675–1998
Pay 1675–1811
Pay 1836–1871
Pay 1871–1945
Pay 1946–1998



This section covers the period when John Pond was the Astronomer Royal.

Pond arrived at Greenwich in 1811 with his 15 year old ward John Henry Belville who at once began to help out, presumably being paid as a supernumerary. By 1816, he had been put on the establishment payroll. This brought the number of established assistants to two, the two post holders being referred to respectively as the First and the Second Assistants.

After the Admiralty took over responsibility for the Observatory from the Board of Ordnance in 1818, the extra work associated with a new requirement to test and rate chronometers, the introduction of a second mural circle (which was used simultaneously with the first), together with pressure for observing to take place during more hours of the day, lead to an increase in the number of assistants to six – two additional second assistants being appointed in 1822, and two supernumerary computers in 1825. The later were referred to as ‘extra assistants’ and became established in about 1830.

During this period, the Assistants were:

1807–1835        Thomas Taylor, father of Thomas Glanville Taylor & later First Assistant
1811–1856        John (Thomas) Henry Belville, also known as John Henry (Second Assistant)
1822–1830        Thomas Glanville Taylor, son of Thomas Taylor & appointed as a supernumerary in 1820                                    (Additional Second Assistant)
1822–1845        William Richardson (Additional Second Assistant)    
1825 (Feb-Jun)  Captain William Ronald* (RGO6/1f52v & RGO6/1/56). Dates approximate
1825 (Feb-Jun)  Mr Walker (RGO6/1/56)). Dates approximate
1825 (Jun-Aug)  WG Bradley (RGO6/1/56). Dates approximate
1825–1853        William Rogerson (appointed 10 Aug)  
1825–1852        Thomas Ellis (Father of William Ellis) (appointed 10 Aug)          
1830–1835        Frederick Walter Simms

*Went on to the Cape Observatory as Assistant Astronomer.

It was during the negotions to increase the number of assistants from four to six, that Pond suffered a blow to his reputation as a result of a difference in view between himself and the Admiralty as to what sort of person should be appointed. The Admiralty had proposed in 1823 that the new assistants should be of a superior class with a university education and paid accordingly. Pond however thought otherwise, making the now famous comment that damned him in the eyes of the Visitors:

‘I want indefatigable hard-working and above all obedient drudges (for so I must call them, though they are drudges of a superior order) men who will be contented to pass half their day in using their hands and eyes in the mechanical act of observing, and the remainder of it in the dull process of calculation.’ (RS MS371/46)


Pay rates of the different Grades

Astronomer Royal (John Pond)
1811–1835 £600 + house + coals & candles + £100 as Superintendent of Chronometers from 1823 + £15 per meeting Board of Longitude allowance (£100 per year fixed rate from 1818 until 1828 when the Board was dissolved)

First Assistant (Thomas Taylor)
1811–1816 £196 + allowances (see below) (£196 = £26 from the Ordnance and £170 from the civil list. After deductions of ‘property taxes’, the total salary was said to be worth £160.6s. (£23.8s. + £136.18s. (RGO6/1/38)).
1816–1835 £200–£300, with increments of £20 every 3 years, counted from when first appointed in 1807. ie salary in 1816 was £260 + allowances (see below)

Second Assistant (John Belville (also known as John Henry))

£100 + allowances (see below)
1816–1835 £100 + £10 for every three years from date of first appointment in 1811 + allowances (see below)

Additional Second Assistants (Glanville Taylor & Richardson)
1822–1835 £100 + £10 for every three years service + allowances (see below)
Extra Assistants (Rogerson, Ellis & Simms)
1825–1835 £100 + allowances (see below)


1816–1835 18 shillings a week (equivalent to about £47 a year)

Gate Porter

? 4 shillings a week (equivalent to about £10 a year)


Housing allowance

During this period, the First Assistant (Taylor) was provided with an apartment at the Observatory, where he lived from 1807 until he resigned in 1835. He was the last of the Assistants to live in. His four children were born between 1804 and 1812.

In 1811, the assistant’s apartment consisted of the top floor at the centre of Bradley’s Observatory (the west end of the present Meridian Building). A second apartment was built in 1813, at the same time as a dome for the Shuckburgh telescope was being built on the eastern end of the by then extended Bradley Observatory.  It consisted of an attached single story building. Now much altered, it presently houses the Observatory shop. 

The Second Assistant Belville (who was also the Astronomer Royal’s ward) resided at the Observatory from 1811 until 1822 when he moved to 16 Park Row at the time of the appointment of the two new assistants. He had married in 1819 and had his first child the following year.

Of the two new assistants, Richardson moved into 16 Park Row with Belville while Taylor junior was accommodated at the Observatory – presumably in the rooms previously occupied by Belville. He appears to have been the last assistant to move in to the Observatory.

In 1825, plans were formed to build further accommodation and in 1826 procedures were put in place to enclose an additional part of Greenwich Park to build three houses (Work16/126). By 1827, Admiralty approval had been given for the work to proceed (ADM359/47B/60). But while all this was going on, Belville had moved (in 1825) into a house in the newly built Park Terrace at the western end of what is now Park Vista, with arrangements being made to pay his rent, pay for coals and candles and pay some of the smaller expenses. The arrangement proved rather convenient and as a result, all plans for erecting new buildings to which there had in any case been some opposition, were abandoned. They were revived for a while in the 1830s after Pond’s long absence from the Observatory, but were again abandoned. (RGO6/44f25)

Documentation detailing the provision of accommodation after 1822 is sketchy, but it seems that it was provided for all four of the assistants in post in 1822, but not for any of the assistants apointed after that date. The earliest known invoice is dated 1829 (RS MS371/87). The allowances as paid in 1835 are listed below. From the locations of the properties involved, it would appear that the on-site accommodation of the First Assistant was somewhat inferior to that of the other assistants.


Allowance of coals and candles

Rather than an allowance as such, it would appear that it was the actual costs incurred that were paid. In 1835, these were nominally costed at £20 for each assistant. All the Assistants appear to have received it.


Source of Payment of salaries and allowances

Prior to Pond’s arrival as Astronomer Royal in 1811, the salaries of the AR and First Assistant were paid by the Ordnance, but supplemented by a pension granted from the Civil List. Pond was paid the same as his predecessor from these sources, but had his salary topped up by the Admiralty to bring it up to £600; the top up being £292.10s (£600 less the gross ordnance salary (£100) less the income from the pension after deductions £207.10s).

The Civil list payments suggest that the amount paid to the First Assistant from the Civil list had been increased by 1812 from the rate of £100 that had been agreed in 1810 to £170, bringing his gross salary up to £196 (£26 + £170). RGO6/1f38 implies that the £170 was equivalent to £136.18s after deductions. The First Assistant’s salary was raised to £260 in 1816, with an increment of £20 applied every three years until a salary of £300 was reached in 1821.

In the early days of Pond’s tenure, there was much confusion amongst those in authority as to how the salaries were being paid. It wasn’t until 1814 that Banks, (President of the Royal Society and chairman of the Board of Visitors) understood what was going on (and what he understood seems only an approximation to the truth) (RS MS372/157). An explanation of how Pond’s salary was made up (also incorrect) was later given to MPs in the House of Commons in April 1815.

On 27 June 1818, a letter was sent from Treasury the treasury to the Admiralty, saying that the whole of the expenses of the establishment with the exception of the sum of £420 paid from the civil list towards salaries were to be transferred from the Board of Ordinance to the Admiralty as soon as is practicable. Steps to put this in place were completed by that December (RGO6/1 f49&50). The Navy Estimates show that in 1831, the Admiralty became responsibe for paying the entire salaries of the AR and First Assistant.

The two Extra Assistants were originally paid as supernumeraries. Their posts became established in 1831.


Payment rates of in 1835

The rates and allowances listed below are those that prevailed in 1835 during Pond’s last year in office. They are based on the rates contained in a handover document left by Pond for Airy (RGO6/72/223).

Astronomer Royal (Pond)

£600 + house + coals & candles + £100 as Superintendent of Chronometers
First Assistant (Taylor
£300 + apartment at Observatory (valued nominally at £50 with taxes) +£20 coal and candles
Second Assistant (Belville)   
£180 + £52 rent and taxes of house + £20 coal and candles
Additional Second Assistant (Richardson) £140 + £51.10s.  rent and taxes of house + £20 coal and candles
Ellis £100+ £20 coal and candles
Rogerson £100+ £20 coal and candles
Simms £104.10s. + £20 coal and candles
Labourer (to keep the premises clean) 8 shillings a week (equivalent to about £47 a year)
Gate Porter (a Greenwich Pensioner) 4 shillings a week (equivalent to just over £10 a year)


It is not been possible to ascertain why the Simms was paid £4.10s. more than Ellis or Rogerson. Following Thomas Glanville Taylor’s resignation as an additional Second Assisitant in 1830, provision continued to be made until 1835/6 in the Navy Estimates for three Second Assistants. It has not been possible to reconcile this with the information given in the table above.


Pay 1675–1811 Pay 1836–1871