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This building is in the Edinburgh Council and the Edinburgh Burgh. It is a category A building and was listed on 14/12/1970.

Group Items: N/A, Group Cat: N/A, Map Ref: NT 2586 7065.


W W Robertson of HM Office of Works, 1892 1894; 1967 additions.

2 storey and basement, T plan, Italianate observatory building with

3 stage octagonal telescope tower to E and 2 stage telescope tower to W. Cream sandstone brought from Northumberland, channelled to basement with copper drums to telescope towers.

OCTAGONAL TOWER: base course; cill course to ground floor windows; carved aprons, pilasters and pediments to ground floor architraves; cill course, flanking pilasters and floral panels to 1st floor windows; floral frieze, dentilled eaves and pierced parapet corbelled out above with floral copper insets; panelled copper telescope drum above with scallop shell motif, floral frieze and finials. Single windows to both floors and basement to each face; intricately carved bipartite oriel window to NW at ground.

SQUARE TOWER: base course; paired pilasters, dentilled eaves and pediments to ground floor windows; carved panels above; cornice corbelled out with scallop shell finials; panelled copper telescope drum above with floral frieze and finials. Single window to S, bipartite window to N; modern flat roofed extension adjoining to W.

LIBRARY WING: channelled basement; panelled attic frieze inscribed with names of famous astronomers; eaves course; dentilled eaves; cornice; lead blocking course with lion's head dies.

E elevation: 5 bay with single bay linking block to N; small single windows to basement bays; single architraved windows to ground floor above with floral carved aprons and cornices to penultimate and outer left.

S ELEVATION: advanced central bay; small basement window; tripartite window to ground floor above with Doric columns, floral carving, lettered frieze inscribed "AD Royal Observatory 1894", cornice and roundel with carved portrait of observatory patron, Lord Crawford, in relief; single small attic window above.

W (entrance) elevation: engaged circular plan tower to outer left; single window at ground; small single attic windows; south facing Doric porch adjoining to right with dentilled eaves, cornice and carved heraldic panel to parapet; steps to 2 leaf panelled door; floral carving to architrave; bipartite window to W.

LINKING BLOCK: flanking library wing and joining towers; channelled basement; lugged architraves to ground floor windows; cornice; balustraded parapet. 11 bay to N elevation between octagonal tower to E and square tower to W; regular fenestration. To S (entrance) elevation: 3 bay to E; regular fenestration. 5 bay to W; central basement doorway; panelled door; plate glass fanlight; single window to ground floor above and to both floors to penultimate and outer left. Square plan pedimented lift shaft tower to penultimate right with basement doorway. Engaged 4 stage circular plan stair tower to outer right with pedimented doorway to basement; cornices and floral aprons to architraved stair windows above; fluted frieze, dentilled cornice, stone cupola and finial.

Predominantly plate glass timber pivot windows. Flat roofs; corniced and coped wallhead stack to library wing.

INTERIOR: largely remodelled but with some original features remaining. Recently restored entrance hall with ceramic mosaic floor, balustraded stair, stylised Ionic columns, decorative cornice, panelled ceiling and replica of original brass lantern. Library with gallery level and cast iron spiral stair case. Original telescopes to octagonal towers.


B-group with Astronomer's House, Gate Lodge, Gate and Gatepiers. Now used by the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council and the University of Edinburgh: the Observatory also has a visitor centre incorporating the original telescope in situ. The telescopes were designed and built by Grubb Parsons of Newcastle: to the east tower is a 36 inch telescope (referring to the size of its main mirror) built in 1928, which, when installed in 1930, was the largest operating telescope in Britain; to the west is a Schmidt telescope built in 1930 but bought by the Observatory in 1951. The incentive for building the Observatory was the gift to the city of a collection of astronomical instruments and literature by the Earl of Crawford. The architect had to marry design and utility to produce a building capable of housing the telescopes and withstanding the climate (thus the drums were thought more suitable than more typical domes for housing telescopes). The result remains impressive despite unfortunate modern extensions. The Astronomer's House and Gate Lodge now serve as offices.


Gifford McWilliam and Walker EDINBURGH (1992), p486; J Brian Crossland VICTORIAN EDINBURGH (1966), p34.

© Crown copyright, Historic Scotland. All rights reserved. Mapping information derived from Ordnance Survey digital mapping products under Licence No. 100017509 2012 . Data extracted from Scottish Ministers' Statutory List on . Listing applies equally to the whole building or structure at the address set out in bold at the top of the list entry. This includes both the exterior and the interior, whether or not they are mentioned in the 'Information Supplementary to the Statutory List'. Listed building consent is required for all internal and external works affecting the character of the building. The local planning authority is responsible for determining where listed building consent will be required and can also advise on issues of extent or "curtilage" of the listing, which may cover items remote from the main subject of the listing such as boundary walls, gates, gatepiers, ancillary buildings etc. or interior fixtures. All category C(S) listings were revised to category C on 3rd September 2012. This was a non-statutory change. All enquiries relating to proposed works to a listed building or its setting should be addressed to the local planning authority in the first instance. All other enquiries should be addressed to: Listing & Designed Landscapes Team, Historic Scotland, Room G.51, Longmore House, Salisbury Place, EDINBURGH, EH9 1SH. Tel: +44 (0)131 668 8701 / 8705. Fax: +44 (0)131 668 8765. e-mail: hs.listing@scotland.gsi.gov.uk. Web: http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/historicandlistedbuildings.

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Buildings are assigned to one of three categories according to their relative importance. All listed buildings receive equal legal protection, and protection applies equally to the interior and exterior of all listed buildings regardless of category.

ACategory A

Buildings of national or international importance, either architectural or historic, or fine little-altered examples of some particular period, style or building type. (Approximately 8% of the total).

BCategory B

Buildings of regional or more than local importance, or major examples of some particular period, style or building type which may have been altered. (Approximately 51% of the total).

C(S)Category C(S)

Buildings of local importance, lesser examples of any period, style, or building type, as originally constructed or moderately altered; and simple traditional buildings which group well with others in categories A and B. (Approximately 41% of the total).