WHAT'S NEW - 10-February-2002
As it was in 1974
As it was in April 2000
A Brief History
Progress So Far (updated 10-Feb-2002)
Government House Photographs
WAS while we reorganise our website.
The Gifford Memorial Observatory had been a facility operated by pupils and staff (with some occasional outside assistance) at Wellington College since it was constructed through the efforts of Charles Gifford in 1912.The Gifford Observatory in 1974.
"Uncle Charlie" - Charles Gifford, with a soft "G" as in George - was an eminent and much loved Wellingtonian, who in the first three decades of the 20th century inspired thousands of the pupils he taught at Wellington College with his knowledge and love of astronomy. In addition, over several decades he regularly contributed astronomical articles to the "Evening Post" newspaper. He was also a notable mathematician, whose work was influential in establishing that the craters on the moon were due to meteoritic impact.
Gifford's enthusiasm and commitment ensured that an observatory was built mostly through voluntary labour and donated materials, and was shifted to its current site from its original site (now occupied by Wellington East Girls' College) in 1924. It is located between Wellington College (Dufferin St.), the Town Belt and Government House on land jointly occupied in trust by Wellington College and Wellington East Girls' College.
The Observatory housed an excellent 130mm diameter Zeiss refractor telescope with ancillary instrumentation including an astrograph (a specialised wide-field astronomical camera), photographic developing equipment, a protuberance spectroscope (an instrument used to observe solar flares) and equipment designed for observing sunspots.
It is remarkable that so much of the original instrumentation has remained largely intact given the thousands of pupils that have had access to the building and equipment over the years. This equipment will be reinstalled in the Observatory once all construction has been completed and the building is rendered secure.
Unfortunately it fell into disrepair in the late 1970's.The Gifford Observatory in April 2000.
By January 2001 however work was well under way to restore it with work mostly complete by early 2002 and the observatory ready for opening.The Gifford Observatory now
In 1998 Charitable Trust has been established to restore, maintain and operate the Gifford Memorial Observatory for the benefit of - and use by - all young people in the Wellington region.
The Gifford Observatory Trust has now been set up to widen the base of astronomically inclined individuals - beyond Wellington College staff, pupils and their parents - who wish to support its use and promote astronomy to all the youth of Wellington.
Considerable effort was required before the Observatory could be made usable again as the ravages of time and vandals left little but the building shell although the telescope and much of the ancillary equipment has been safely stored and is available.
During 1999, accessibility to the Gifford Memorial Observatory site was vastly improved, largely due to the efforts of Les Meek - an old boy of Wellington College and strong supporter of Trust's activities. Les voluntarily designed and constructed a new path up to the site. This new path features wooden steps and handrails, and greatly eases the climb up to the site from Wellington College's main grounds. Most of the material supplies for this work was purchased at significant discount from "friendly" suppliers due to Les' efforts.
August 2000By the end of August, the site had been cleared, the old damaged structure removed and the power poles installed ready for the installation of the power lines.
September - November 2000Once the structure had been cleared the existing walls were able to be fully investigated and unfortunately this has shown the need for considerable structural work before the building will be ready to accept the new dome. AC Consulting Group Ltd, Consulting Engineers was retained to survey and prepare suitable plans and these were submitted to the Wellington City Council for approval with work currently planned to start in late November/early December. The work covered included strengthening the original brickwork walls to improve their earthquake resistance, and the construction of a new concrete roof to support the new dome, and to hold it down in Wellington gales. Wiring to the Observatory enclosure was completed in November providing power to the site to allow the wall strengthening work to commence.
Associated with this activity has been the necessary fund raising to cover the additional costs. This is now well underway and with any luck the Trust should have enough money to complete the work.
January 2001The engineering firm retained to complete the wall strengthening work has Completed the work and the dome was lifted into place at 7am on Friday 9th February.
February 2002The internal work is now essentially complete, the telescope is in place and now fully operational and has already been used for solar observations. The official Opening is scheduled for 25th March 2002 by Dr William Pickering.
Gifford Memorial Observatory welcomes a new era of star gazers including Michael Gifford (Charlie's grandson) and partner Rosali Zigliani.
The following working sessions have been held on the Observatory site:
Last Reviewed: 13-January-2010 By firstname.lastname@example.org