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Bidston Observatory

A Grade II Listed Building in Birkenhead, Wirral

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Latitude: 53.4006 / 53°24'2"N

Longitude: -3.0742 / 3°4'27"W

OS Eastings: 328674

OS Northings: 389845

OS Grid: SJ286898

Mapcode National: GBR 6YZ3.7P

Mapcode Global: WH761.RS8D

Entry Name: Bidston Observatory

Listing Date: 8 December 1989

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1201618

English Heritage Legacy ID: 389086

Location: Wirral, CH43

County: Wirral

Electoral Ward/Division: Bidston and St James

Built-Up Area: Birkenhead

Traditional County: Cheshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Merseyside

Church of England Parish: Bidston St Oswald

Church of England Diocese: Chester

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Listing Text


789-1/3/162 Bidston Observatory


Observatory and former director's house, now part of the
Natural Environment Research Council's Proudman Oceanographic
Laboratory. 1866. Designed and built under the superintendence
of the first director, John Hartupp. Rusticated ashlar, slate
roofs. 2 storeys throughout. Plan accommodates both the
Director's family house (to the north) and the observatory and
associated rooms (including library and chart room) to the
south. Two observation towers built for the transit telescope
(SE) and the comet telescope (SW). The former measured the
movement of the stars against which Mariners' chronometers
could be checked or rated. This was the principal function of
the observatory at first. The other telescope appears to have
been provided for the Director's private research projects.
Exterior: south front with polygonal towers to SW and SE
angles, each surmounted by domes that formerly housed the
astronomical equipment, with alternating blank and fenestrated
bays (the latter with round-headed sash window to ground, and
shouldered arched sash window to first floors), under parapet
and deeply overhanging stone eaves cornice with consoles that
continues around entire building. 2-bay elevation between with
shouldered arched sash windows to first floor; doorway flanked
by 3 round-headed windows all set under a frieze formed by
triangular motifs and a central medallion bearing the date,
1866. West elevation with entrance to Director's house: 4
window range, asymmetrical, with porch and canted bays, and a
further bay to the right with Venetian window to ground floor;
otherwise windows have horned sashes and shouldered or round
headed arches. North elevation: regular 5-window range with
sash windows under segmental and shouldered arches to first
and ground floor respectively. Services to east with small
walled yard. Interior: house contains several original
features such as panelled doors and plaster cornices, together
with a good open well stairs with rail and balusters that
continue along the landing which connects house with
observatory. Entrance hall and prinicpal ground floor
corridors with segmental arches and foliate capitals to
clustered pier shafts. Heating grilles on floor and ceiling
level. Basement on two levels designed to maintain constant
temperatures for calibrating chronometers. Warm room contained
heated apparatus to simulate tropical climates. The
observatory is important architecturally as a specialised
construction 'over-constructed' to minimise vibrations: the
basement area is surrounded by a 'moat' (now largely infilled
or covered in concrete) to reduce vibration, and the SE tower
was originally almost entirely filled by a great central pier
to stabilise the transit telescope (now removed).
Historically, the observatory is important both for its
original function (to rate mariners' chronometers), and later
for the pioneer work carried out by Proudman and Doodson on
the analysis of tidal flows leading to reliable tidal
predictions worldwide. The mechanical calculator devised by
Doodson was an important precursor of the digital computer.

Listing NGR: SJ2867489845

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

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