fonds VI/TC - T. Cooke and Sons Archive

Identity area

Reference code



T. Cooke and Sons Archive


  • 1783-1929 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

1.28 cubic metres

59 boxes and 1 oversize folder

Context area

Name of creator


Administrative history

The scientific instrument manufacturing business of T. Cooke and Sons was founded by Thomas Cooke in York in 1837. He was a self-taught optical engineer who from 1855 built his own factory on Bishophill, York, producing a great range of goods from spectacles, telescopes and surveying equipment to sundials, clocks and lathes.

On his death in 1868 his sons took over the firm which continued to expand and export goods worldwide, particularly astronomical and surveying equipment. By the turn of the century defence products for the home market had also become an important field and in 1914 a new factory was built on Bishophill, York, to cope with war work.

In 1915 the control of Cooke's was acquired by Vickers Ltd who had long had an interest in the military side of Cooke products such as rangefinders and gunsights. Cooke's continued to expand in York and in 1922 they took over the instrument-making business of Troughton & Simms of London.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The archive was deposited at the Borthwick Institute in 1989. A further addition was made to the archive in 2010.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Corporate records of the company 1882-1924; Cooke family papers 1860-20th century; accounting records 1879-1929; manufacturing records 1882-1921; sales records 1856-1923; publications 1871-1923


Further accruals are not expected.

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Records are open to the public, subject to the overriding provisions of relevant legislation, including data protection laws.

Conditions governing reproduction

A reprographics service is available to researchers. Copying will not be undertaken if there is any risk of damage to the document. Copies are supplied in accordance with the Borthwick Institute, University of York, terms and conditions for the supply of copies, and under provisions of any relevant copyright legislation. Permission to reproduce images of documents in the custody of the Borthwick Institute must be sought.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

A typescript catalogue, to file level, is available for consultation in the Borthwick Institute's searchrooms and at the National Register of Archives, London.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Selected images from the archive have been digitised and can be viewed through the University of York's Digital Library:

Related units of description

The archives of Troughton & Simms; Cooke, Troughton & Simms; and Vickers Instruments are also deposited at the Borthwick Institute.

Books from the Vickers Instruments library, including 17th, 18th and 19th century works on surveying, astronomy and microscopy, form part of the University of York's Special Collections. A catalogue can be viewed online:

Instruments manufactured by Troughton & Simms; T. Cooke & Sons; Cooke, Troughton & Simms; and Vickers Instruments are on display at the Department of Physics at the University of York.

The archive of T. Cooke & Son's parent company Vickers Ltd, 1850-1970, is deposited at Cambridge University Library (Reference: GBR/0012/MS Vickers).

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

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Place access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier


Rules and/or conventions used

ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description, International Council on Archives (2nd edition, 2000); Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names, National Council on Archives (1997).

Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

Created 28.02.17.




Archivist's note

Description compiled by Alison Brech in 2003.

Accession area