One of the greatest contributors to Old Moores Almanac was Henry Andrews who lived in Royston in the eighteenth century.
It was once assumed that Old Moores Almanac (2017 edition available from Amazon) originated with Andrews but this was not so.
It was then under the general editorship of a Dr. Hutton and Andrews, although nominally his assistant, was a much greater influence on its rapid increase in popularity and sales.
Old Moore’ or Dr. Francis Moore was a physician at the court of Charles II. His original black and white broadsheet combined herbal recipes and remedies with the most favourable astrological times for taking them. He died in 1715; the title was bought by London Liveried Stationers Company, who sold it to its present publisher Foulshams in the nineteenth century.
Henry Andrews was born in 1744; on February 4th in the village of Frieston, near Grantham, Lincolnshire. Although his parents could only afford a limited education, by the age of six he was often to be seen on the village green as a fledgeling astronomer, with his telescope set up on a table, observing the stars.In 1766 he moved to Royston and set up a boarding school in Fish Hill with added lessons in trigonometry, navigation and the means of maintaining an accurate Nautical Almanac.
In a shop in Melbourne Street he began a second business as a bookseller, selling books and stationery, barometers, thermometers as well as philosophical and mathematical instruments. On 31st December 1769 he married Ann Phitheon at Royston Church.
He had already established a reputation as an accomplished mathematician and astronomer. In 1776 he compiled the ‘Royal Almanac’ which in 1778 carried the byline: ‘By Henry Andrews, teacher of the Mathematics, at Royston, Herts.’ It was probably this recognition that led to his engagement on Old Moore’s Almanac.
During his time as compiler of the tables detailing the movement of the planets, sales rose from I00,000 to 500,000 per year. He received the same remuneration throughout his 43 years association with Old Moore’s – the sum of £25 per annum. Despite encouragement from family and friends he never complained nor sought an increase, perceiving the work as a labour of love.
Although Henry Andrews achieved popular fame through his association with Old Moore’s, a more solid achievement came with his appointment as compiler of the Nautical Ephemeris, as Calculator to the Board of Longitude. The Board of Longitude was set up to encourage the development of marine chronometers. Fixing latitude is a comparatively easy task, but a ship’s navigator fixing longitude needs to know the exact time: and the stars are one of the most accurate time-pieces known to mariners. See Raphael’s Astronomical Ephemeris of the Planets 2017 (available from Amazon).
He was a well respected professional and valued advisor to Dr. Maskelyne, the Astronomer Royal. Unfortunately there is a lack of material written by Andrews in existence. One of the few examples is a letter dated 31st January 1791 to the Gentlemans Magazine predicting a solar eclipse in 1792, which shows him as a meticulous professional with an uncommon command of English;
‘To the north of Scotland it will be a very great eclipse; but nowhere total on account of the apparent diameter of the sun. The spectators will be entertained with a beautiful annulus, or ring of light encompassing the opaque body of the Moon on every side. This begins with the rising son in the back settlements of Carolina and Virginia, from whence it traverses Hudson’s Bay, North Easterly towards the coast of Greenland, Iceland and Lapland, and the Northern Coast of Great Tartary where this phenomenon will end and quit the earth with the setting sun’.
By 1787 he had relinquished the school in Fish Hill and had built a house for himself on the corner of the High Street and George Lane. He became an Overseer to the Poor and filled the office of churchwarden from 1805-8. After a life of exceptional good health he died after a short illness on 26th January 1820. aged 76.
Old Moore’s Almanac became a more esoteric publication in the years following Henry Andrews’ death.
It still sells by the million and at one time could be purchased from street hawkers who charged what they could get. It became an assortment of advertisements for the sale of mystic objects, household hints and astrological forecasts concerned with national celebrities and the rise and fall of nations.
All Andrews notes, books and papers and personal memoirs have gone out of the possession of his family, including his wig which a certain Rogerson, a Yorkshire astronomer promised to wear when studying.
He was buried in Royston Churchyard on the north side of the Chancel, fittingly close to his favoured Royston Heath where he was remembered by those who met him there for the accuracy of his weather forecasts, and his knowledge of the heavens.
© John Barber – originally published in Hertfordshire Countryside July 1999
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