Observatories: Cambridgeshire

Cambridge Colleges

Christ’s College Observatory (1760-80), established by Anthony Shepherd (1721-96) who used a 20-inch mural quadrant, a transit instrument (3-foot FL) and two clocks (Graham & Allam) to make observations from the college (Howse 1986).

Trinity College Observatory (1739-1797), established by Roger Cotes (1682-1716), the first Plumian  professor at Cambridge.  Following earlier efforts to create an observatory by the master, Richard Bentley (earlier in 1705 (?), see University/D.XII.22), it was housed over the Kings/great gate at the college ).  It is known to have been equipped with a sextant by Rowley and a clock by Street (Gunter 1937, 162-2Howse 1986).

Pembroke College Observatory  (fl.1752), solar observations were undertaken to ascertain meridian measurements utilising a sundial containing objective lens from a 14-foot telescope (Gunter 1937, 163-4).

Gonville and Caius College Observatory  (fl. 1764)

St. Johns College Observatory (1765-1859), first established by Richard Dunthorne (1711-1775) over the west gate (Shrewsbury Tower).  The role of director was then taken by William Ludlam (1717-88) later by Thomas Catton (bapt. 1758-1838). The observatory is known to have been equipped with both a clock and transit instrument by Sissons (Gunter 1937, 169-74, 193-9; Howse 1986; Mobberley 2006).

Madingley Road site

Madingley Road, Cambridge, CB3 0HA [Tel. 01223 37548)]

Institute of Astronomy [IoA] (1846-  ), established in 1823 as the University Observatory, Cambridge [UOC],  later merging with the Solar Physics Observatory in 1946 to form the Institute of Astronomy. (Gunter 1937, 172-8Howse 1986; Stratton 1949).

Solar Physics Observatory, Cambridge [SPOC] (1912-1946), established in the grounds of the University Observatory, at Madingley Road, Cambridge after the donation of the Newall Telescope under the leadership of H.F. Newall. In 1913 it merged with the Solar Physics Observatory, South Kensington, London with that institution moving to Cambridge – transfer of government funding. Later in 1946 it merged with the University Observatory to form the Institute of Astronomy (Stratton 1949).

Royal Greenwich Observatory [RGO] (1990-1998), the observatory had its administrative headquarters and workshops in Cambridge on the site of the Institute of Astronomy .

The Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory

The Ryle Telescope (RT).
The Cosmic Anisotropy Telescope (CAT).
The Cambridge Low-Frequency Synthesis Telescope (CLFST).
The Very Small Array (VSA).


Canon Selwyn’s Observatory (active 1863-74), ‘The College’ Ely, established for solar observation by Canon William Selwyn, – exact location unknown. Selwyn commissioned for a series of high quality photographs of the sun  to be taken (1863-73) using a 6-inch achromatic lens by the photographer John Titterton within the cathedral precinct (Obit., MNRAS36 (1875), 147).