Buckinghamshire: Observatories

Chiltern Observatory [COA] (1991- ), Woodrow High House, Amersham, established by the  Wycombe Astronomical Society – originally built in 1991, re-constructed and opened in 1997. Refurbished in 2001 with the installation of a new Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope (Arnitti 2008). 

Colin Hunt Observatory [CHOW] (1960s- ),  nr Upper Winchendon, established by Aylesbury Astronomical Society, by Doug Saw a founder member of the group.  The original building appears unused currently due to maintence issues, a run-off shed observatory nearby is now used for observation (Obit., JBAA, 100 (1990), 165&172).

Dawes’s Hopefield Observatory [DHO] (1857-1868), Hopefield House, Haddenham, established by Revd. William Rutter Dawes – Some sources cite Haddenham Cambridgeshire, but the actual location was Haddenham, Bucks. The observatory housed an 8¼-inch Clark (1859), and the Thorrowgood Telescope, an 8-inch Cooke (1865) –  now at the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge (Davenhall 2006; Sharp 2006).

Dell’s Observatory [DOA] (1851-?), Aylesbury, established by Thomas Dell on the premises of a relative in the town. The diminutive rectangular wooden structure with canvas roof houses a 2.7-inch transit instrument (fl 33.5-inch) and clock – providing local time. These are supplimented with a set of meteorological instruments and a 4.5-inch portable Tulley refractor for occasional observations (Smyth 1851, 252; Weale 1851. 69; Weale 1854, 693). 

Hall’s Cottage Observatory [HCO] (fl.1899-1915) Datchet Road, Slough, established by John James Hall, who was resident at Observatory Cottage, Datchet Road, Slough (Kelly 1899, 153; RAS 1898) – letter in the English Mechanic included ‘The Cottage Observatory’ appearson OS maps of the period and several editions of Kelly’s Directory include a statement that there was an astronomical observatory on the Datchet Road, Slough (Kelly 1899, 153; Kelly 1915, 179), though there was no mention of the observatory in 1883 (Kelly 1883). 

Hartwell House Observatory [HaHO] (1831-1860s), Stone, nr., established Dr John Lee at his residence in 1831. Instruments included a sidereal clock by Vulliamy of London, a 3-inch transit instrument by Jones of London and a 5.9-inch equatorial refractor by Dollond with objective by Tulley and a Sheepshank clock-drive. The latter is known as the ‘Smyth Equatorial’ and was previously in W H Smyth’s observatory in Bedford. The ‘Smyth Equatorial’ was at Hartwell House from 1836 to 1859 and was reported in 1986 to be in the Science Museum. Hartwell House is now one of the Historic House Hotels and is owned by the National Trust and leased to Hartwell House Hotel, Restaurant and Spa – Historic House Hotels Ltd (Weale 1854, 689-91Howse 1986, 73; McConnell 1992).

Herschel’s Datchet Observatory [WHOD] (1783-1785), Datchet, established by  William Herschel and his sister Caroline Herschel who lived in a house on Horton Road, Datchet. From 1783 to 1785 Hershel occupied ‘The Lawn’ on Horton Road, where he built a 20ft telescope in the garden.  Commander Anthony Fanning has shown that Herschel rented a wing (now demolished) of The Lawns, a large house with grounds on Horton Road. During his time at Datchet, Herschel built a 20ft telescope deploying a mirror 12 inches in diameter, and with this supplementing his favourite 6.2-inch reflector in 1782 he began systematic scrutiny of the whole sky. But the site was damp and foggy, and bad for his health. In 1786 he and Caroline moved to Slough (Howse 1986, 69).

Herschel’s Slough Observatory, Slough – see Observatory House.

Lowndes’s Observatory [LOHS] (fl.1851- ?), Hartwell Rectory, Stone, established by the Revd. Charles Lowndes at his home. The brick building housed a 4.2-inch transit instrument (fl 6-feet) by Slater, London and a regulator clock by Dent, London. This is supplemented with a portable equatorial (ladder) telescope from Capt Smyth (Smyth 1844, 273-4; Smyth 1851, 252; Weale 1851. 67; Weale 1854, 691-2).

Observatory Cottage, Datchet Road, Slough – see Hall’s Cottage Observatory


William Herschel’s 40-foot Telescope – Maunder, The Mightnight Sky (1872)

Observatory House [WHOS] (1786-1915), Windsor Road, Slough, established by William Herschel.  He and his sister  Caroline Herschel  lived there until William Herschel’s marriage in 1788. The house was the birthplace of John Frederick William Herschel and briefly the childhood home of Alexander Herschel. In 1899, Alexander Stuart Herschel was recorded as resident at Observatory House (Kelly 1899, 156). In 1907, Alexander Stuart Herschel and Col John Herschel were both recorded as resident at Observatory House (Kelly 1907, 170). In 1915, Col John Herschel was recorded as resident at Observatory House [Kelly, 1915]. Observatory House was demolished in 1962 and the site on the corner of Windsor Road and Herschel Street is now occupied by offices (Moore, 1991; Moore, 1992, Moore, 1993). Outside the offices is an abstract sculpture, which honours William Herschel’s telescope – See  St Laurence’s Church, Upton (Tanford & Reynolds 1995Howse 1986, 81).

George Abell Observatory [GAO] (1990s- ) Kents Hill (MK7 6AA) Open University Campus, Milton Keynes. Established and jointly run by the Physical Sciences Dept of the university along with the Open University Astronomy Club. It is equipped with a  Meade LX200 16-inch instrument known as the Alan Cooper Telescope.

Reade’s Observatory [ReO] (1851-?), Stone, nr Aylesbury, established in 1853, by the Revd. Joseph Bancroft Reade.  He described his small observatory and telescope in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society [Wood]. The observatory on the lawn of the vicarage in Oxford Road was described as being of Grecian design. It contained a transit room 11 ft long, 10 ft wide and 10 ft high. There was an equatorial roof almost 14 ft in diameter; the revolving roof was formerly at Vice-Admiral Smyth’s Observatory at Bedford (Smyth 1851, 252; Weale 1854, 692-3; Weale 1851, 68; Reade 1854).

Richard Lambert Observatory [RLO] (1979-1996), Bradwell Abbey, Milton Keynes, established by the Milton Keynes Astronomical Society at the City Discovery Centre -originally Bradwell Abbey Field Centre. It housed an 8 inch reflecting telescope and the observatory was officially dedicated by Colin A Ronan on 10th June 1978 to the memory of Richard Lambert  who was the founder of MKAS and  died in 1976, aged 20. After removal of the telescope in June 1996 by MKAS, the observatory site was redeveloped.