Observatories: Aberdeenshire

Castle Hill Observatory [CHOA] (1781-96), Marischal College,  Aberdeen, founded by Prof. Patrick Copland who raised funds from  Aberdeen Town Council and the government. Built on a corner of the city ramparts, it consisted of three rooms, two with rotating conical roofs and slits.Instruments include;  2-foot quadrant (Kenneth McCulloch), 2¾-inch refractor of 46-inch FL (Dollond) and 4-foot transit of 3-inch aperture (Ramsden) – two  donated by Lord Bute. Later a 5-foot Newtonian (Hearne) was added. Used as a teaching observatory, the most active observer was Andrew Mackay (c.1785-92). The building was demolished in 1796 (Gavine 1981, 96-111; Reid 1982; Howse 1986, 64).

Cromwell Tower Observatory [CTOA] (1804- ), King’s College quadrangle, Aberdeen, a rudimentary observatory may have been on top of Cromwell Tower with weather and philosophical instruments from 1804. However no proper structure existed until 1830s when two cupolas were erected followed by  a 3.75-inch refracting telescope by Dallmeyer and used by David Gill.  This telescope has now now retired to the college museum and replaced with a modern 10-inch SCT catadioptric telescope (Gavine 1981, 112-5; Stroobant 1936).

Dunecht Observatory [DuO] (1872-88), Dunecht House nr. Dunechta, a private observatory established by Lord Lindsay, Earl of Crawford, 12 miles from Aberdeen. In 1884 it was described ‘one of the best equipped observatories existing’. It was furnished with a 15-inch Grubb refractor, a large chronograph and Grubb spectroscope and supplemented with a 12-inch Browning reflector, and two 6-inch refractors. It also had an 8½-inch Simms  reversible transit instrument fitted with 8 microscopes and a 4-inch Repsold heliometer on a Cooke mount. In charge of his astronomical arsenal Lindsay employed the very competent David Gill – later director of the Royal Cape Observatory.  After Gill’s departure, Dr Ralph Copeland – from Birr (1881),  Jacob G. Lohse (1877-850) – moved to Wrigglesworth’s Observatory and  Henry C. Carpenter (1874-82) were employed. In 1888 the observatory was disbanded with the instruments and equipment given to the government to re-locate the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh outside the city at Blackford Hill (Gavine 1981, 232-51).

Marischal College Observatory [MCOA] (c.1798-1837), Marischal College, Aberdeen, the instruments from the original observatory were re-established at the on top of the west wing of the College. The structure (demolished 1838) consisted of a room with balcony and three cupolas housing the transit, quadrant and equatorial (Gavine 1981, 96-111).

Murray’s Observatory [MOS] (1850- ?), Keith Lodge nr. Stonehaven, established by Sir William Keith Murray, Bart (1801-61) at his estate.  The square building similar in design to Herschel’s Cape observatory housed a 5 1/2-inch refractor by Troughton & Simms on a cross-axis English Mount (Sissons type) with an adjacent transit room with transit by the same maker (Gavine 1981, 258).

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