23rd April 2012

Dear Madam,

I am writing to you in my capacity as Secretary of the Crayford Manor House Astronomical Society.
It is with much regret that I have to tell you that from the end of this term the Society will be unable to continue to support the Thursday evening classes in Advanced Astronomy that ran at the Manor House and that have recently been transferred to the Brampton Road site.
This obviously has implications for the AEC.
Before I set out the reasons behind this change, I would like to say, for the avoidance of all doubt that none of this has any bearing on the more elementary Astronomy classes that were run on Monday nights at the Manor House and have since been moved to Alma Road. These are tutored by one of our members who is, I understand, keen to continue with them and we all hope that they continue to be a great success.

The Past
Since 1954, at least, there have been Astronomy classes at the Manor House and for over fifty years these have been run by the Crayford Manor House Astronomical Society under the umbrella of the AEC and its predecessors.
For many years there have been three components to the Society’s activities:
Firstly, the Thursday evening classes held in the Manor House and more recently its outbuildings.
These have taken the form of 26 weeks of meetings during the term times. During these, for three weeks out of each four we have had visiting lecturers who have come to describe their current astronomical research and the contexts in which they are working. In the fourth week of each four we have held an in-house meeting in which we draw on the expertise of members of the class to describe their own astronomical pursuits.
All these lecturers are recruited and arranged by a member or members of the class and we have been fortunate enough to have needed relatively little direct input from the College. We have had talks of the highest calibre from, for example, Nobel prize-winners. Some of the class are themselves involved in National and International projects.
Secondly, for most Thursdays out of term time we have, in recent years, been able to make use of the Coach House situated in the Manor House car park. This has been home to a research facility known as the Hewitt Camera Archive. We have provided a service to the wider astronomical community from its resources and it has been a focus of activity and an out of term meeting place.
Thirdly, we have an observatory to the west of the Manor House built on land behind the bowling green in part by the council and in part by the members of our Society. It houses one of the largest astronomical telescopes in amateur hands. It has been a focus for our activities particularly on clear Thursday nights out of term time and also sometimes at weekends.

The Present
The Manor House has closed.
From the perspective of the AEC all that has happened to us may be that the class has relocated. Certainly our new home at Brampton Road is in a building very similar to our old one and serves the purpose of the first component of our Society’s activities.
However, it became clear that we would have to vacate the Coach House so that the Manor House could be made available with vacant possession of the outbuildings for some as yet undecided future use. It also became clear that there was no equivalent space available at Brampton Road and that we would have to pursue our out of term activities elsewhere.
The Council has been a great help in allowing us some time to arrange for the relocation of the items currently in the Coach House and we appreciate their patience.

The Future
With lectures and other meetings off the Crayford site the position of the observatory has become a matter for review. We are minded to run all three components on one site if possible – just as has been the case in the past. The observatory, while being a potent symbol of our presence and while housing a big telescope, has limited use. The telescope is unsuited to modern astronomical imaging techniques and light pollution in the Crayford area has reduced its usefulness still further.
We have therefore sought out a site to continue all our activities and have found one outside the Borough of Bexley. It will enable us to meet and run our lectures, meet out of term time and observe on clear nights – initially using our member’s portable equipment but if judged a success later to build a new observatory. It is a dark site. We believe that with our own expertise and the benefit of advice from the Federation of Astronomical Societies we can make a success of it.
I know over the years there have been ups and downs, you have taken us to task over our timekeeping and we have berated you about arrangements for paying some lecturers, but it is with reluctance that we leave the AEC. I am sure that it was with reluctance that you closed the Manor House. That was of course the event that put all these matters in train.
Yours sincerely,

Dr M J Rushton
Secretary, Crayford Manor House Astronomical Society

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