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Edinburgh, Calton Hill, City Observatory, City Dome

Observatory (19-20th Century)

Site Name Edinburgh, Calton Hill, City Observatory, City Dome

Classification Observatory (19-20th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Old Royal Observatory; Old Observatory

Canmore ID 254122

Site Number NT27SE 202.03

NGR NT 26222 74203

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2020.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Edinburgh, City Of
  • Parish Edinburgh (Edinburgh, City Of)
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District City Of Edinburgh
  • Former County Midlothian

Archaeology Notes


Standing Building Recording (8 November 2016 - 11 July 2018)

As part of a project to renovate the City Observatory AOC Archaeology Group undertook an initial programme of historic building recording

followed by a structural watching brief on all ground-breaking works and renovations to the Observatory and Transit House.

Information from Diana Sproat (AOC Archaeology Group) 20 July 2018. OASIS ID: aocarcha1-274312

Project (8 November 2016 - 20 July 2018)

AOC Archaeology Group was commissioned by the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) to undertake a programme of archaeological works as a condition on the planning application to renovate the City Observatory and its associated Transit House together with the demolition of three former observatory domes and a toilet block in advance of new development.

The City Observatory was constructed in 1818 to a design by William Playfair and replaced an earlier observatory constructed in 1776 by Thomas Short, which was built at the same time as Observatory House. The 2017 – 2018 renovations to the Observatory removed an internal partition to the ground floor which opened out the two original transit rooms to the east and west which was its original arrangement. It also exposed the original character of the west transit room which had been converted to a lecture room in the 1930s. The Transit House was built a few years after the City Observatory (but before 1821) and consists of a small building which originally housed a transit telescope with the meridional windows to the north and south elevations. The building was later converted to accommodation, with a small toilet added to the northwest corner, though suffered fire damage at some point in its history and the walls now blackened with soot. A toilet extension was added to the north side in the late 20th century. A further dome to the east – called the East Dome – was also exposed with dressed stone foundations with brick construction above. This has now been removed. The Tweedie Dome, now largely collapsed, was built in the late 19th century, and was joined by the Cox and Crawford domes to either side of it in the late 1890s. Another two additional domes were added, one to the immediate north-west of the Tweedie Dome, and one separate dome to the east of the City Observatory, although exact dates for these are a little unclear, but they appear to date to the later 20th century. With the exception of the further exposure of a stone and brick dome to the east of the site and the iron post to the west of the Observatory, no archaeological finds or features were identified. It appears that much of the site has been landscaped with the dumping of topsoil to create a mound upon which the Royal Observatory was constructed. Indeed, a major programme of landscaping was undertaken in the late 1890s. In all other areas, bedrock was encountered between 0.30m – 0.80m below the topsoil.

Information from Diana Sproat (AOC Archaeology Group) 20 July 2018. OASIS ID: aocarcha1-274312


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