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Orwell Park Observatory

Described as one of the finest Victorian observatories still in regular use, the Orwell Park Observatory stands elegantly on the banks of the River Owell, in Nacton, near Ipswich.

Orwell Park School and Observatory

Built by Colonel George Tomline in the late 19th century the observatory is now part of a school and is also used by the Orwell Astronomical Society (Ipswich) (OASI), which has a membership of over 170.

The observatory is open to the public, with regular guided tours taking place for the non-members. Tours include talks about the history of the observatory, how the instruments were used and how they are used today and if the weather is right, a bit of stargazing will take place too.

The observatory has an interesting history and on its completion in 1874, it was thought to be the finest observatory in private ownership at that time. It also had one of the largest telescopes in the world, which is now known as the Tomline Refractor.  After Colonel Tomlin died in 1889, his heirs sadly had little interest in astronomy and over the years, the observatory fell into a desperate state of disrepair.

It wasn’t until the OASI formed in the 1970s that initial renovations on the building started, with further improvements being made by the school after that. However some serious investment still needs to be made to save the building from further deterioration and to fully restore it.

Observatories open to the public are few and far between and we are lucky to have such an historically interesting one here in Suffolk, near our county town. To learn more about the building and astronomy, why not take part in an evening tour?

Do check out the observatory website before you visit as there are some things to be aware of, such as a spiral staircase and limited toilet facilities.

Images courtesy of the Orwell Astronomical Society (Ipswich)

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Written by Mark

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