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Royal Observatory Greenwich Drawings and Paintings : View of the Magnetic Observatory, Greenwich

Royal Observatory Greenwich Drawings and Paintings

<p style='text-align: justify;'>Pencil drawing made and presented by Miss Elizabeth Smith, of Brampton near Chesterfield, Derbyshire. The drawing is initialled 'E.S.' and shows a view of the Magnetic Observatory and the oak tree from the north-east, taken near the entrance upon the Magnetic Ground. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'> In 1816, the Admiralty ordered the Astronomer Royal, John Pond, to make regular observations of magnetic variation (declination). Pond's 'Magnetic House', built in the Lower Garden, proved to have unstable foundations and was demolished in 1824, at which point observations ceased. Pond's successor, George Airy, recognised the importance of magnetic work and persuaded the Admiralty to fund the establishment and staffing of a new Magnetic Observatory. Further grounds in the park were secured and an extension to the south fenced off in 1837. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'> Airy's Magnetic Observatory was completed in May 1838, just one month before this sketch was made. The building, which stood where the Peter Harrison Planetarium now stands, was cruciform in shape. It was built of wood on a concrete foundation, materials such as iron and brick being excluded to avoid their risk of residual magnetism. In this drawing, the hut for the magnetic dipping needle, which features in later sketches such as <a href='/view/'> (RGO 116/5/2)</a>, is not shown. The oak tree, often referred to as 'Queen Elizabeth's oak', is visible on the right.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'> For views of the Magnetic Observatory, see <a href='/view/'> (RGO 116/3/9)</a>, <a href='/view/'> (RGO 116/3/11)</a>, <a href='/view/'> (RGO 116/5/2)</a>, <a href='/view/'> (RGO 116/5/6)</a> and <a href='/view/'> (RGO 116/5/9)</a>.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>For a brief history of the Magnetic Observatory see, <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''></a></p>

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