Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Kew Observatory

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On 26 May 1842 the Queen placed the former Royal Observatory at Kew at the disposal of the British Association

1843 Francis Ronalds was appointed first honorary director and superintendent of the Observatory, a post which he held for the next nine years.



The following is a small extract from the article in The Engineer 1866/02/23.

'KEW OBSERVATORY is so called because it is much nearer Richmond than it is to Kew, on the same principle that Primrose hill is so named because no primroses grow within two miles of it! The observatory is a handsome building, on a slight eminence in the centre of the old deer park, at Richmond. Originally it was the private observatory of George III, who spent much of his time w1thin its walls, but in later days it was granted by our present Queen to the British Association for the Advancement of science, who now use it for purposes connected with physical philosophy. Three obelisks at some little distance from the building are a wondrous source of speculation to the inhabitants of the neighbourhood as well all to visitors, being regarded by some as monuments over the remains of three favourite dogs of King George III, and by others as memorabilia of three hypothetical maidens, said to have committed suicide from disappointed love. These obelisks are meridian marks for astronomical instruments. There is no road or even footpath near the observatory, consequently there can be no vibration of the instruments from the passage of vehicles in its neighbourhood ; the level and somewhat marshy park surrounds the building in all directions, the view beyond being bounded by the spires and elms of Richmond, and the trees of the royal gardens at Kew.'

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