About BC&F

                                                                         Benjamin Martin

   The company started with Benjamin Martin (1704 – 1782), a teacher and scientific instrument maker. Martin moved from Surrey to fleet street in 1750 to be near the Royal Society. He loved to hear his hero, Newton lecture. He published “the philosophical Grammar” in 1735, then produced a work on non-mathmatical subjects “Bibliotheca technologica” which was funded by 564 subscribers – earlty crowdfunding! In 1749 he published ‘Lingua Britannica Reformata’ which contained a universal dictionary some 6 years before Samuel Johnson’s dictionary. Martin settled in fleet street London to be close to the Royal Society which was then based nearby, and began to trade as an optician and instrument maker. Initially he made instruments for his own use, but soon he made them for general sale.  A principle that would show up much later in the company’s story.


  Hailed as one of the pioneers of the modern microscope, Martin was also a spectacle maker and is famous for ‘Martin’s Margins’. He also  was the first to use coloured lenses to aid people with reading difficulties – a system which is now used to help treat various forms of dyslexia.

In 1757, Martin acquired the globe plates and tools from the late John Senex. Globe manufacture and sale became a large part of his activities. He advertised them through his own catalogue and published tracts which was quite an innovation.

In 1758 he produced “New Principles of Geography and Navigation”

Joined by his son Joshua Lover Martin in 1758’s, B. Martin & Son was formed both manufacturing and selling a range of scientific instruments including  Halley’s quadrants, spectacles, microscopes and telescopes.

Our sextant patent document from 1774 is here


The ‘Drawbench’ and first sale of the company

Benjamin retired in 1776 and left the firm in the charge of his son and a business manager. In 1781 The firm’s name was changed to Benjamin Martin and Son.  In 1782, aged 77, Martin was declared Bankrupt due to poor management of the firm. He died a month later. His Son Joshua that same year patented a machine to ‘draw’ brass tubes reliably and quickly . The ‘drawbench’ was born. Joshua is also mentioned in the patetnt for a method of plating, where a brass tube was over plated with nickel. Due to the bankruptcy however, the business was auctioned off. All aspects of the business were bought by Charles Tulley including the drawbench.


Charles Tulley


Tulley was a respected optician and instrument maker who worked closely with George Dollond (partly through the newly formed Royal Astronomical society), having moved into the fleet street premises. Whilst Dollond is best known for the achromatic lens, it was Tulley who finished the first 6.8”  clear aperture lens. This was one of the largest of it’ s time. Lenses larger that 5” were extremely rare as most large blanks were not of a sufficient quality to polish to an optical standard. Tulley died in 1830 but the firm continued under the charge of his two sons William and Thomas. Interestingly, Admiral W H Smyth used a 5.9” refractor made by Tulley in 1828 to survey the night sky. These observations were published as ‘ A Cycle of Celestial Objects’ in 1844 – The first guidebook of the night sky written for the amateur astronomer


Mills and Clarkson

Robert Mills acquired the business from the Tulley’s in 1844 and continued to build it up until he in turn sold it to telescope maker Alexander Clarkson in 1873.


Broadhurst and Clarkson

In 1892 Broadhurst joined Clarkson as partner. By this time the firm mainly concentrated on the production of telescopes – both nautical and astronomical, though did still produce microscopes. However, the two partners did not get on and the pair parted in 1908 and the partnership officially dissolved in 1909. Broadhurst moved from Fleet street to 63 Farringdon Road naming the building ‘Telescope House’. He decided to trade under the name Broadhurst Clarkson & Co – both to trade on Clarkson’s reputation and also to irritate him.   The original gold-leaf sign is still on the building today and is a listed London landmark.

  The company continued to prosper. Retailing their own instruments, and supplying other telescope manufacturer’s with drawn tube and castings. The firm also secured contracts with the war office.

  Between 1914 and 1918,  the company set up telescope factories in Watford, a lens-making facility, as well as further premises at 69 Fenchurch Street EC3. This was to fulfil their contract with the war office to make telescopes for the war effort.


Lens manufacturing at Telescope House

  By the 1970 business had started to struggle, due in part to the rise of Japanese imports. The other factories were closed and the entire operation returned to 63 Farringdon Road. Production continued none the less, with Martin’s original draw bench still in use.

By 1973 the firm was on the verge of collapse under the weight of competition from much cheaper Japanese imports. The company was purchased  by Dudley Fuller who brought with him his range of  ‘Fullerscopes’ telescopes and mountings re-naming the firm ‘Broadhurst, Clarkson & Fuller Ltd’. These products dovetailed nicely with the production already in place at Telescope House.