Monday, June 28, 2021

Royal Observatory


London The Unfinished City
The Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

Saturday, June 26, 2021.

There is a line in the 1982 film 'Who Dares Wins' where a character states that 

"Only tourists go to Greenwich."

This line has stuck with me through the years, but, although completely accurate at the time, it is no longer the case.

We decided to take a trip to London, as a family, and visit Greenwich Market, the Park and the Royal Observatory. We would then stay a t a hotel, near The Monument, so we could spend Sunday in The Unfinished City, too.

Our first stop was the Market, where we perused the stalls before deciding what each of us wanted for lunch. Street food was the order of the day. Emma opted for sushi, while Keilyn went for a hot dog and chips. Erin had some noodles, while I chose noodles with spiced beef.

London The Unfinished City
Noodle van.

Suitably fed we made our way up towards Greenwich Park, passing the Maritime Museum and headed up the sloping hill to the Royal Observatory.

Now, I have visited the Old Royal Naval College and Greenwich Market before, but I had never ventured into the Park, much less to the top of the park.

Wandering ahead with Keilyn beneath the tree-lined avenue, which offered welcome protection from the sun, Emma and Erin took a more leisurely pace. Reaching some benches, Keilyn and I waited patiently for them to catch up, before we headed up the slope to the Observatory and the viewing area. And what a view. I had seen photographs taken by others, but I had no idea how grand the vista that now greeted us would be. I was spellbound.

London The Unfinished City
The view from the top of Greenwich Park.

We stopped for a well-deserved rest, before making our way to the entrance of the Observatory, with tickets ready.

Walking through the entrance hall and out into a small garden, the first object we discovered was William Herschel's Telescope.

London The Unfinished City
William Herschel's Telescope.

This is all that remains of the telescope which was originally a forty foot long reflecting telescope. It was, at the time, the largest telescope in the world, appearing on Ordnance Survey Maps. It was paid for King George III, at a cost of £4000, and was completed in 1789. William Herschel had discovered Uranus in 1781.

Our next stop was Flamsteed House (see top photo), which had been home to ten families of Royal Astronomers. It was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and cost £520 to build, which was £20 over budget. 

London The Unfinished City
An orrery.

London The Unfinished City
A Clockwork Universe.

London The Unfinished City
Three Tompion Clocks flank the doorway.

After wandering through the various rooms and looking at all of the artefacts, we made our outside to where the Prime Meridian splits the courtyard. We each then took a turn standing on the line.

London The Unfinished City
Me on the Prime Meridian.

London The Unfinished City
Morrissey Girls on the Prime Meridian.

We then headed in to the Observatory proper, where we delighted in seeing the various telescopes and paraphernalia that had been used to make shipping and world travel easier and safer. 

London The Unfinished City
Prime Meridian of the world.

London The Unfinished City
Telescope and chair.

London The Unfinished City
Herschel's Telescope and view from the Royal Observatory.

London The Unfinished City
The roof of the Royal Observatory.

London The Unfinished City
Telescope at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

We then made our way out, via the gift shop, and off for a drink and sit down, before heading off for a wander through Greenwich Park.

Brief History

The observatory was commissioned King Charles II in 1675. Sir Christopher Wren chose the site as Greenwich Park was a royal estate, so no new land needed to be bought. At that time the king also created the position of Astronomer Royal, who was to 

"apply himself with the most exact care and diligence to the rectifying of the tables of the motions of the heavens, and the places of the fixed stars, so as to find out the so much desired longitude of places for the perfecting of the art of navigation."

John Flamsteed was the first Astronomer Royal and with he building being completed, in the summer of 1676, it was often called "Flamsteed House".


1675 Royal Observatory founded by King Charles II.
1714 Longitude Act established the Board of Longitude and Longitude rewards. 
1767 The fifth Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne began publication of The Nautical Almanac, based on observations made at the Observatory.
1818 Oversight of the Royal Observatory was transferred from the Board of Ordnance to the Board of Admiralty.
1833 Daily time signals began, marked by dropping a time ball.
1838 Sheepshanks equatorial, a 6.7 inch aperture refracting telescope installed.
1893 28-inch Great refractor installed.
1899 The New Physical Observatory was completed.
1924 Hourly time signals from the Royal Observatory were first broadcast.
1931 Yapp telescope ordered.
1948 Office of the Astronomer Royal was moved to Herstmonceux in East Sussex.
1957 Royal Observatory completed its move to Herstmonceux, becoming the Royal Greenwich Observatory (RGO). The Greenwich site was renamed the Old Royal Observatory.
1990 RGO moved to Cambridge.
1998 RGO closed. Greenwich site was returned to its original name, the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, and was made part of the National Maritime Museum.
2011 The Greenwich museums, including the ROG, became collectively the Royal Museums Greenwich.
2018 the AMAT telescope becomes operational for astronomical research in 2018.



  1. Nice Blog. Like the photos and history. On the list of places to (re)visit.

  2. It definitely is. I had never visited it before, so it was good to go. But, then again, any chance to go to Greenwich I will take.