Building and site plans

The plans listed below fall into three main categories:

  • Site plans, showing the extent of the Observatory’s estate. These vary from the crude to the highly detailed.
  • Architect’s plans drawn up when new buildings were erected or alterations made to existing ones (the earliest located dates from the 1870s).
  • Plans drawn up specifically for publication (which can be accessed via the links below)

Whilst some plans were designed to be published and widely circulated, others were largely intended for internal use only. Multiple copies of many are known to have been produced. Of these, it is often only those that were used as working copies that have survived.

The two main repositories for the plans are the National Archives at Kew and the Royal Greenwich Observatory Archives at the University Library in Cambridge. Those at the National Archives can be accessed on production of a reader’s card which is easily obtained. Click here for more information on this. Access to those at Cambridge is confined to academics.

The list is not exhaustive and others will be added in due course.

 


Plans which are available to view online are marked * against the date.

 

Date
About

1676* Plan of whole site, showing layout of ground floor rooms & Octagon Room. This plan exists in three original forms:
1. Sketch plan drawn by Flamsteed. Sent to Richard Towneley 22 January 1676 while Flamsteed House was still under construction. This is the earliest of the three. The Summerhouses are not shown, nor is the Potting Shed or Well Telescope. Location of original: Royal Society MS/243/12. Reproduced by Howse in Francis Place and the Early History of the Greenwich Observatory (1975) and in his Greenwich Observatory (1975). The reproductions in both volumes have had the surrounding text blanked out. In modern terms, one might say it has been heavily photoshopped.
2. Plan drawn by Flamsteed, but this time including the Summerhouses and Potting Shed and Well Telescope are included. Location of original: Royal Greenwich Observatory Archives (RGO/1/18). Redrawn and published by Baily in his An Account of the Revd. John Flamsteed which was published in 1835. Click here to view the 1835 copy.
3. Printed Plan, etching by Francis Place c.1676. The Summerhouses and Potting Shed and Well Telescope are all included, the Well Telescope however is in the wrong position. Originally intended for inclusion is Flamsteed’s Historia Coelestis, it was not generally included when the volumes were bound. A very fine copy is preserved in the 1712 edition held by Greenwich Heritage Centre. The Royal Society has a heavily cropped and folded copy bound into Ichnographia Speculae Regiae Grenovici exquisite facta curante Jona MOORE. Click here to view. The plan was also reproduced in part by Laurie in his book The Old Royal Observatory (Click here to view) and as a complete version by Howse in his Francis Place and the Early History of the Greenwich Observatory. It was also redrawn and published by Airy with other plans of the Buildings and Grounds in the 1862 volume of Greenwich Observations. Click here to view the 1862 copy. Airy’s copy is not however an exact one. It does not show the west window of Flamsteed’s study. The layout on the page also differs, as does the orientation of the lettering used to annotate it.

1760s* Printed plans by John Evelegh. Two plans and one cross section drawn between 1750 and 1773. The plans show: site boundary, Flamsteed House (all three floors – basement/cellars, ground floor and Octagon Room), Summer houses, Flamsteed’s Sextant and Quadrant Houses (in their adapted state), Meridian Building (main floor only) and Stables. Importantly, it also shows the site of Halley’s transit Room to the west of Flamsteed House (the only known plan to do so). A north-south sectional drawing shows Flamsteed House, including Bradley’s extension, the lawn, a subterranean water tank (cistern) and the Stables. Location of original: RGO archives (class mark unknown). Section reproduced by Howse in Greenwich Observatory (1975). Click here to view ground floor plan as reproduced in QJRAS.

1777* Sketch plan of Observatory site drawn by Danish Astronomer Thomas Bugge during his visit in 1777. Location of original: Det Kongelige Bibliotek (The Royal Library) Copenhagen. Click here to view.

1788* Plan published by William Roy in An account of the Trigonometrical Operation, Whereby the Distance between the Meridians of the Royal Observatories of Greenwich and Paris has been determined. Click here to download the complete account from Royal Society Publishing (large pdf). The plan shows the whole site and ground floor of all buildings except for Flamsteed House which shows the equivalent of an aerial view. Click here to view a copy that has been scanned in two parts. Redrawn and published by Airy with other plans of the Buildings and Grounds in the 1862 volume of Greenwich Observations. Click here to view Airy’s reproduction.

1813

Crude plan drawn when permission was being sought to enclose what became known as the drying ground (the site of the current main entrance into the Observatory). Shows boundary as it existed in 1813 together with the additional land it was hoped to enclose. Location of Original: National Archives (WORK16/126).

1831 Detailed plan of the northern half of the Observatory site during Pond’s period in office (excludes Lower Garden enclosed in 1814). Shows ground floor rooms and their use at that time. Although dated 1831, and showing the 1813–15 extension to the Meridian Building, it does not show the pier for the Jones Mural Circle put up in 1824. Also shows water supply and drainage including the two underground cisterns. The plan shows the full extent of Maskelyne’s extension to Flamsteed House before Airy's additonal extension of 1835. The plan, has split into several parts along fold lines. Location of original: Royal Greenwich Observatory Archives (RGO6/45).

1835* Crude plan of whole site (excluding the Lower Garden), published in The Weekly Visitor (The Royal Observatory, Greenwich No.3: Issue No. CXXVIII, 17 Feb 1835, p.64). Crude as it is, this is the only plan known to show the location of Rammage’s Telescope in the Courtyard. Click here to view.

1836 Various plans hand drawn by Airy which show positions of walls, use of ground floor rooms and the original site proposed by Airy for magnetic observatory (above Flamsteed’s Well). Location of original: Royal Greenwich Observatory Archives (RGO6/45).

1846 A highly important set of very large manuscript plans showing details of all the floor levels of all the buildings together with several sectional plans comprising:
Plan 1, basement level
Plan 2, ground floor level
Plan 3, Octagon room level
Plan 4, Roof level
Section 5, East West Section, Flamsteed House
Section 6, East West Section,  Flamsteed House
Section 7, East West Section, Flamsteed House
Section 8, North South Section, Flamsteed House
Section 9,  Section through Flamsteed House and Meridian Building
Section 10, East West Section of Meridian Building
Plan 11, water supply
Plan 12, drainage
Plan 13, Magnetic Observatory, Sturve’s Observatory and Dip House, Also shows sectional plans
Scale: 10 feet = 1 inch. Location of originals: National Archives (ADM140/426). A poor quality copy of Plan 2 reproduced by Howse in Greenwich Observatory (1975). Two plans appear to have been added to the series at a later date: Plan14, (contents, date and location unknown) and Plan 15 (gas pipes and galvanic wires), which appears to date from 1861 (see below).

1847* Printed plan of Buildings and Grounds. Published as an appendix in the 1845 volume of Greenwich Observations. Based on the 1846 plan (above), this highly detailed and folded plan shows detail at ground floor level only. Click here to view plan (scanned in two parts). Click here to view accompanying key and explanation.

1853 Hand drawn plan by Airy dated 20 June 1853. Shows existing Meridian Building east of the Transit Circle Room and proposed further extension to the east. Both ground and upper floors are shown. A modified version was built. Location of original: National Archives (MFQ1/218/11–12).

1861 Continuation of the 1846 series. This is Plan 15 (gas pipes and galvanic wires), which appears to date from 1861 (see below) Location of original: unknown. A photographic copy is held by the National Maritime Museum.

1863* Printed plan of Buildings and Grounds, updated from 1847. Published as an appendix in the 1862 volume of Greenwich Observations, this highly detailed plan shows detail at ground floor level only. Complete with detailed explanation and commentary. Copies of the 1676 and 1788 plans are also included. Click here to view.

1869* Plans and sectional drawings of the Great Equatorial Building. Originally completed in 1858, the building had been significantly altered by 1869 in order to house the Admiralty's chronometers. The plans and drawings are contained in Airy's Description of the Great Equatorial, which was published as appendix 3 in the 1868 volume of Greenwich Observations. A key to the plates is contained in the description which preceeds them. Click here for a high resolution copy of figs. 2–7 from plate 1.

1871 Directly derived from two of the 1846 plans, this plan shows the basement of Flamsteed House and the ground floor of the Meridian Building. On the plan it states: ‘Rough survey made 71’ and ‘corrections added’. The corrections need to be treated with a degree of caution as although some changes such as the extension constructed in 1939/40 for a new Time Desk are shown, others such as the 1933 staircase giving access to the Clock Cellars in Flamsteed House are not. Scale: 10 feet = 1 inch. Copy location: National Archives (WORK17/374).

1879 Architect's plan of proposed New Library. Consists of three parts: Ground floor and gallery level plans and sectional drawing. Scale: 4 feet = 1 inch. Location of Original: RGO archives? A photographic copy is held by the National Maritime Museum

1885 Admiralty Plan. Plan shows extent of site and location of all buildings which are identified via a key. Ground floor room divisions are shown in Flamsteed House and the Meridian Building. Shows Magnetic offices and their linkage to the photoheliograph hut and Lassell Dome. Less detailed than Airy’s 1863 plan. RGO7? has copy with the proposed Physical Building overdrawn by hand. In this version, the proposed building has three wings. Scale: 66 feet = 1 inch.

1888* Plan of French Observers Hut errected in Courtyard for use in longitude determinations. Consists of Floor plan and longitudinal sections. Published in Telegraphic determinations of longitude made in the years 1888 to 1902 (plate I). Click here to view plate I.

1891 The 1885 Admiralty Plan updated to 1891. Scale: 66 feet = 1 inch. Annotated copy at National Archives (Work16/139)

1891 Architects plan for brick built Transit Building (Pavilion) in Courtyard (to replace an earlier wooden hut originally constructed for longitude determinations. The building was centred on the Bradley Meridian. Scale: 2 feet = 1 inch. Location of Original: RGO archives? A photographic copy is held by the National Maritime Museum.

1891 Crude plan of Great Shed and the combined Telescope & Chronometer Basket Shed believed to have been located on the eastern boundary immediately to the south of the New Library. Plan has dimensions marked.

1892* Plan and sectional view of Transit Pavilion (Building) in courtyard. Published in Telegraphic determinations of longitude made in the years 1888 to 1902 (plate IV). Click here to view plate IV (scanned in two parts).

1893 Architects plan of Physical Building (South Building). Labelled as Drawing No.2, it shows the various floors of the north and south wings and central octagon only. The plan consists of six separate drawings: Basement Plan, Ground [floor] plan, First Floor Plan, Plan of Look our Roofs to NW and NE Lobbies, Wing roofs and Plan of Look our Roofs to SW and SE Lobbies. Scale: 8 feet = 1 inch. Location of Original: RGO archives? A photographic copy is held by the National Maritime Museum.

1896* The 1885/1891 Admiralty plan updated to 1896. Scale: 66 feet = 1 inch. Annotated copies in National Archives (WORK16/139 & WORK16/1823). Reproduced with modified key by Maunder in his book Greenwich Observatory (1900) pp.134–135. Click here to view plan as reproduced by Maunder.

1901* Transit Pavilion, transverse section looking north and plan on observing platform. Published in Telegraphic determinations of longitude made in the years 1888 to 1902 (plate IV). Click here to view the section and plan.

1902* Plan of the Front Court (Courtyard), showing locations of Zylinski’s Transit, Zelisnksi’s Circle (both 1864), and the two longitude stations used by the English and French observers when determining the difference in longitude between Greenwich and Paris, and the pier of the Personal Equation Machine for the Airy Transit Circle. Published in Telegraphic determinations of longitude made in the years 1888 to 1902 (plate VI). Click here to view the plan.

1905 The 1885/1891/1896 Admiralty plan updated to 1905. Unlike the earlier versions, the 1906 version shows the Christie Enclosure. Scale: 66 feet = 1 inch.

1911 The 1885/1891/1896/1905 Admiralty plan updated to 1911. Scale: 66 feet = 1 inch. Copy at National Archives in WORK16/637.

1911 Detailed plan of Flamsteed House, showing all three floors and roof level, with alterations to be made for Dyson. Shows location of the stoves that were removed from the Octagon Room. Updated and Overdrawn in 1945 to show proposed division of house into flats. Copies at National Archives in both WORK17/369 & WORK17/374.

1945 An updating and overdrawing of the 1911 plans of Flamsteed House, showing proposed division into flats for the Admiralty. Shows location of external steps to clock cellars created for Spencer Jones. Copies at National Archives in both WORK17/369 & WORK17/374.

1945 Rough survey of Meridian Building, first and second floors only. Room usage shown. Copy at National Archives (WORK17/369).

1958 10 architectectural sections through the Meridian and Great Equatorial Buildings. Overdrawn in red with proposed changes for museum use.  Scale: 8 feet = 1 inch. Complements the 1959 floor plans. Copy location: National Archives (WORK17/374).

1959 Annotated architect's plans of Meridian and Great Equatorial Buildings, showing ground, first and second floor room plans and usage. Overdrawn in red with proposed changes for museum use. The plan is detailed, but frustratingly difficult or impossible to read in places. Scale: 8 feet = 1 inch. Complements the 1958 Sectional plans. Copy location: National Archives (WORK17/374).
 
1960 Plans of the Altazimuth Pavilion as it existed in 1960 together with those for its proposed conversion into a shelter.  Copy location: National Archives National Archives (WORK16/1824)