Calton Hill Observatory

Refurbished Calton Hill Observatory

The photograph which was taken on Sunday 9th September shows that work on the observatory compound is now in its final stages. The grass has been laid and it’s possible to book a table in the Lookout restaurant. Astronomers and historians interested in the development of science and technology during the nineteenth century will be flocking to the Calton Hill to take a look at the transit house, telescopes and instruments when the observatory opens later this month.

24 inch Telescope

24" Telescope

When the 24 inch equatorial telescope arrived in December 1872, Professor Piazzi Smyth found that the instrument did not meet his requirements as he had ordered a large instrument capable of being fitted into a small space. Although the company received payment, the professor continued to maintain that the telescope had not been made to his specifications and insisted that alterations should be made. The problem was never resolved as the contract which had been drawn up should have been more specific. Unsuitable for use in the Calton Hill observatory, the telescope was eventually moved to the new  building on the Blackford Hill. image credit ‘The Peripatetic Astronomer’.

Howard Grubb

Howard Grubb

Howard Grubb was born in 1844. His father was Thomas Grubb the founder of the Grubb Telescope Company based in Dublin. Interested in optics. Howard trained as civil engineer. Joining the family firm in 1864, he quickly became a first class telescope maker. When his father retired four years later, Howard took over the company. In October 1871 the company received an order for a 24 inch equatorial telescope, a fifteen foot revolving iron dome and an observing chair costing £2350 from the observatory on the Calton Hill. image credit Wikimedia Commons.

James Fergusson

Born at Ayr in 1808, James Fergusson was educated at the Royal High School, Edinburgh before attending a private school in Hounslow. Although he had no formal training as an architect, he was commissioned to design the iron dome built by Howard Grubb of Dublin for the observatory on the Calton Hill which was set up in October 1872. Although extra space was needed to accommodate the 22 inch refractor, he proposed that the new dome should not be raised more than fourteen inches in order to fit in with the dimensions of the building. While the shutter on the original wooden dome could only be opened to a width of several inches, the shutter on the iron dome could be opened to a width of several feet. image credit Wikimedia Commons.

Half Moon Battery

Half Moon Battery

The photograph of the Half Moon Battery was taken in the 1840s by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson.  In June 1861 the twenty four pounder standing to the left of the flagpole was used to fire the daily time signal. This time gun failed to fire due to a faulty friction tube. The twenty four pounder was replaced by a twelve pounder from the Argyle Battery.

The work on the observatory is taking longer than expected. The buildings and compound should be open to the public in eight weeks time. image credit National Galleries Scotland.

Calton Hill Restaurant

Calton Hill Restaurant

The photograph shows the new restaurant called the Lookout which has been built at the north west corner of the observatory compound on the Calton Hill. The Lookout run by the by the Gardener’s Cottage company is built on a cantilever system  overhangs the hillside. The company is now taking bookings for meals.

Nelson’s Column Montreal

Nelson's Column Montreal

Nelson’s Column was erected in Place Jacques-Cartier, Montreal, Canada in 1809. Designed by Coade & Sealy of London, the column was made of grey compact limestone. The admiral’s statue and the ornaments were made from Coade stone which was invented by the company. The column was shipped to Montreal in sections, arriving in April 1808. William Gilmore, a local stonemason who had contributed £7 towards the construction of the column was hired to assemble the seventeen sections. The foundation stone was laid on 17th August 1809. General Sir Gordon Drummond supplied eight cannon which supported the iron chain around the base. The final cost of the column amounted to just under £1,300. image credit Wikimedia Commons

150th Anniversary of the One o’Clock Gun


The photograph shows Major Foulis, Brian McKenzie, Sgt. Major Roxby and George Robinson during the ceremony held on the Half Moon Battery to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the firing of the One o’ Clock Gun in 2011. Colonel Huthwaite the commanding officer of 105 Regt RA (Vols) presented the One o’ Clock Gun Asscn with a model of the time gun. Major Foulis was present at the ceremony to commemorate the 100th anniversary.


The veterans and family members of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) Association held their annual service in the Covenanters’ Prison, Greyfriars Kirkyard last Saturday. The annual service starts at one o’ clock as the time gun fires from the Castle. In June 1861, supervised by Master Gunner Findlay a detachment from the regiment which was garrisoned at the Castle moved one of the twelve pounders from the Argyle Battery to the Half Moon Battery as the twenty four pounder standing next to the flagpole had failed to fire on the 7th and the 8th . The firing of the daily time signal which finally took place on 9th June proved successful and has continued to this day.

Lyttelton Time Ball

Lyttelton Time Ball

Restored to its original colours since it was destroyed by an earthquake seven years ago, the time ball has now been returned to the Lyttelton skyline. The site will be landscaped and the history of the time ball added as soon as the scaffolding is taken down and the heavy machinery removed. Lighting will feature in completed project which is funded by a $1m donation from Landmark Incorporated plus funding from the Lottery Grants Board, Holcim, Stout Trust and Parkinson Memorial Park Trust. image credit Heritage New Zealand. Further details on