Cardiff’s lost star gazer

This is a relatively recent – and sadly closed – chapter in local history. Between 1906 and 1979, the public city telescope stood atop Penylan Hill in the park known as Cyncoed Gardens. However,  the only evidence of this today is the word ‘Observatory’ which can still be found on many maps of Cyncoed.

cardiffcitytelescope

The George Calver-built telescope was donated t o the city by medical doctor and amateur astronomer Franklen George Evans in response to calls by the newly-founded Astronomical Society of Wales for a public telescope.

“I should be disposed to present my 12-inch reflector, observatory and astronomical clock, all complete, for the benefit of Cardiff,” wrote Evans to Arthur Mee, president of the Society and a respected author and Western Mail journalist.

After lengthy deliberation (there had been plans to site the telescope on Central Library), Penylan Hill became its new home. The hill stands 200 feet above sea level, at a latitude 51* 30’ N, longitude 3* 10’ W, and has a local time of 12 minutes and 24 seconds behind that of Greenwich.

Writing in the book, The Cardiff City Telescope, Mee described the revolving, shuttered dome that comprised its housing as “unpretentious but well built”, while “the telescope itself is of massive proportions – as befits the largest instrument of the kind in the Principality”.

Sadly, by the 1970s the Observatory had fallen into disrepair and later the authorities committed an atrocity by melting down Cardiff’s public telescope.

When you happen to drive past this section of Cyncoed Road these days, you’ll notice a new residential development called Seren Court (‘seren’ means star in Welsh), which is but a few metres from the site of the Observatory and is so-named to commemorate this brief but starry chapter in Cardiff’s history.

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