Tag Archives: William Crabtree

The Transit of Venus

On Thursday 7th November, UCLan is proud to be hosting a performance of Eric Northey’s acclaimed play The Transit of Venus. Premiered at Manchester’s 24:7 Theatre Festival in 2012, the play looks at the work of two humble north west astronomers, Jeremiah Horrocks of Much Hoole and William Crabtree from Lower Broughton in Salford.

Horrocks and Crabtree came from lowly beginnings to complete ground-breaking work in Astronomy, hypothesising, testing and finally concluding that the Transit of Venus (when Venus crosses the sun and is thus visible from Earth) happened in pairs, 8 years apart, a fact previously missed by the great Astronomer Johannes Kepler. With dogged persistence Horrocks and Crabtree stuck to their telescopes and were rewarded by glimpses of the planet as it crossed the face of the sun on the 24th of November 1639. From that, they could calculate the size of the sun, the size of Venus and, most importantly, the distance of Earth from the Sun, the basis of all astronomical measurement.

Along with their amazing science, The Transit of Venus also looks at the work of Horrocks and Crabtree as it was set against the tumultuous political and social upheaval of the time, which finally culminated in the English Civil War. Tragedy struck when Horrocks died shortly after his discovery on January 3rd 1641. In the ensuing years of civil unrest, Crabtree also died in 1644, and the work of the two astronomers was forgotten and their papers all but destroyed.

“I found this play highly moving in its depiction of the relationship between the three main characters – in particular given the contrast between blind devotion to God and belief in the triumph of reason, as well as idealism versus expediency.”

There will be free tickets available for on the night for UCLan staff and students, others can pay on the door on the night.