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Observatory Group

History of the Observatory Group, Madingley Road, Cambridge

The observatory, 1822-24 is the only major work by J C Mead. It has a Greek Doric tetrastyle centre with the observatory dome above.

Another building on the site is now the current home of the Institute of Astronomy.

The Observatory

Information on this location can be found on Wikipedia.


Prince Albert during his installation as chancellor in July invited himself at short notice to the observatory. Romilly’s editor notes (July 1847) that this is recorded in an unpublished letter by Mrs Challis. She and Challis left the celebration banquet and drove home, where, as the servants had gone off to see the fireworks, they had to make the place ready and light the rooms, and ‘just as the carriage drove up everything was ready and Professor with gown on and cap in hand was upon the steps to receive his Royal visitor and conduct him to the dome where he had the opportunity of seeing all the objects on interest that could be viewed through the large Telescope. The Prince appeared very much pleased, made some very sensible remarks and asked some very sensible questions.’

1848 (5th October): Josiah Chater and his brother William went to be shown round by Mr Todd. They viewed the recently discovered planet Neptune through the Northumberland telescope.


Robert Stawell

Sir Robert Stawell, professor of Astronomy and Director of Observatory

Arthur Robert Hinks

Arthur Robert Hinks, first assistant

HMS Vanguard

William Ernest Hartley, second assistant. He was killed in 1917 on HMS Vanguard. following a catastrophic internal explosion which killed 843 men.


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