Buckinghamshire: Observatories


Chiltern Observatory, Wycombe Astronomical Society (1991-current), originally built in 1991, a rebuilt observatory was opened in 1997. In 2001 the observatory was refurbished through the installation of a new Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. Further information can be obtained from the Wycombe Astronomical Society.

Colin Hunt Observatory, Aylesbury Astronomical Society (?), located near to Upper Winchendon.

The Open University Observatory, Milton Keynes (?), situated at the Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes.


The Cottage Observatory, Datchet Road, Slough (?), 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). This was possibly the observatory of John James Hall, who was resident at Observatory Cottage, Datchet Road, Slough (Kelly 1899, 153; RAS 1898,). Although his address was Observatory Cottage, a letter in the English Mechanic included ‘The Cottage Observatory’ as part of the address.

Hartwell House Observatory, near Aylesbury (1831-1860s), former observatory of Dr John Lee, the observatory was established in 1831 (McConnell 1992). 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 (Howse 1986).

Herschel’s Observatory, Datchet (1783-1785), in 1782 William Herschel and his sister Caroline Herschel 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).

Herschel’s Observatory, Slough (1786-1830s) – see Observatory House.

Hopefield Observatory, Haddenham (1857-68), established by Revd. William Rutter Dawes (Note: Some sources state Haddenham Cambridgeshire, but the actual location was Haddenham, Bucks). The observatory housed an 8¼-inch Clark (1859), and an 8-inch Cooke (1865) – Thorrowgood Telescope which is now at the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge – see Dawes (Davenhall 2006; Sharp 2006).

Richard Lambert Observatory, Bradwell Abbey, Milton Keynes (?), Milton Keynes Astronomical Society formerly had an observatory at the City Discovery Centre (originally called the Bradwell Abbey Field Centre). The observatory 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 [Bradwell Abbey; Astronomy Now, 1988]. Richard Lambert was the founder of MKAS and had died in 1976, aged 20. After removal of the telescope in June 1996 by MKAS, the observatory site was redeveloped.

Observatory Cottage, Datchet Road, Slough – see The Cottage Observatory


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

Observatory House (William Herschel’s Observatory), Windsor Road, Slough (1786-1915), from 1786, it was the home of William Herschel (see astronomers below). 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).

 Reade’s Observatory, Stone (1853-?), established in 1853, by the rev. Joseph Bancroft.  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 (Reade 1854).