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Our Story

Clifton Observatory

When we took on the project to restore the Observatory, to bring this iconic building back into public use, little did we know of its historical significance.

Throughout the last couple of years, we have opened the space for events and allowed many individuals to become part of the of the rich history. With couples sharing their wedding days, to family and friends celebrating a loved one 50th Birthday. The Observatory offers and breathtaking view and allows you, to become a part of its history.

History Of the Clifton Observatory

1766

James Walters awarded £200 by the society of Merchants to build a windmill on Clifton Down

1768

A Violent Storm causes the windmill to catch fire

1828

Society of Merchant Ventures grant a 7-year lease on the ruined windmill a 5 shillings per annum to William West who converts the tower into an Observatory

1829

First Competition announced for Clifton Observatory Suspension Bridge – Brunel’s Giant’s hole design is one of his four record-breaking schemes

1835

Whilst excavating the foundations west discovers natural caves. He excavates a 91m tunnel connecting his Observatory to the ‘Giant’s Cave’

1837

Giants Cave opened to the public

1860

William West Dies, aged 60

1897

A proposal to demolish the Observatory and replace it with a column, tower to commemorate the 500th anniversary of John Cabot’s discovery of Newfoundland was opposed and a tower was instead built on Brandon Hill

1940

The Observatory requisitioned by Home Guard as a communications and patrol base.

1977

The Observatory listed grade II* and sold by the society of merchant ventures with a restrictive covenant requiring the owners to maintain public access to the Camera Obscura and Giants Cave

2003

Concorde flies over the Observatory in the final minutes of its last flight

2015

Observatory sold into private ownership to Bristol-born resident

2017

Museum established at the Observatory