Heritage Category:
Listed Building
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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Wirral (Metropolitan Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SJ 28674 89845



SJ28NE BIDSTON 789-1/3/162 Bidston Observatory 08/12/89


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


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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Date: 28 Mar 2002
Reference: IOE01/06038/26
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr Gary Lilliott. Source Historic England Archive
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