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Purpose

Richmond Park observatory: unexecuted designs for an observatory and weather station for King George III, 1767 (6)

Signed and dated

  • 1767

Notes

King George III (1738-1820) was an amateur astronomer and observer of the weather. He wanted to observe the transit of Venus in 1769, and commissioned an observatory for the Old Deer Park in Richmond. Robert Adam's unexecuted designs of 1767 for an observatory tower and related pavilion are thought to have been made for this purpose, although - as described by Rowan - Adam's design 'was evidently too lavish to encounter royal approval'. The designs were presumably made under Adam's remit as joint Architect to the King, a role which to which he had been appointed alongside Sir William Chambers (1722-96) in 1761, and which he gave up in 1768 when he was elected to serve as MP for Kinross.

An observatory was built in time for the King to watch the transit of Venus in Richmond Old Deer Park in 1768 by Chambers. It was constructed of Portland Stone and contained a movable telescope, and it became the Royal family's astronomical class room. The official time in London was set from the calculations made there. Although still the property of the Crown Estate, it ceased to be used by the royal family in 1840, and was used by the Meteorological Office from 1910 until 1979. There is a current planning application to convert Chambers' building into a domestic residence.

See also: Buckingham House

Literature:
A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 26, 77; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume II, pp. 197, 223; A. Rowan, 'Bob the Roman', Heroic antiquity & the architecture of Robert Adam, 2003, pp. 48-49

Frances Sands, 2013

Level

Scheme

Digitisation of the Drawings Collection has been made possible through the generosity of the Leon Levy Foundation

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Contents of Richmond Park observatory: unexecuted designs for an observatory and weather station for King George III, 1767 (6)