Observatory, Horselethill Road


The Observatory on Horselethill Road was purchased by the University from the ‘Friends of Astronomical Science in Glasgow’ in 1841. By the 1830s the atmospheric pollution and construction of tall buildings around the The Old College grounds made astronomical observations from the Macfarlane Observatory impossible. At the instigation of John Pringle Nichol, fourth holder of the Chair of Practical Astronomy, the College eventually purchased the observatory at Horselethill.

The Observatory was altered by John Honeyman in 1862 and 1871-1872.

The University received an offer from the Trustees of Notre Dame Convent to buy the Observatory building in 1937. The Observatory was in a poor state of repair and the encroaching city had made serious observation impractical. Moreover, William Marshall Smart, the new Professor of Astronomy, recognised the need for new facilities and a new approach to astronomy at Glasgow. In a pragmatic and politically astute move, he re-focused the department on teaching and theoretical research and largely abandoned advanced practical research.

A new observatory was planned for University Gardens in 1938.

The Kelvin Building possesses a carved stone set in the wall at the top of the steps by the west side’s main entrance. The stone depicts a snake eating its own tail encircling a triangle with a six-pointed star in its centre. The stone may have been salvaged from the Horselethill Observatory.


Observatory, Horselethill Road
Horselethill Road
G12 9LX
Record last updated: 6th Nov 2015

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