Godlee Observatory – Manchester, England - Atlas Obscura

Godlee Observatory

Despite having a dome made of papier-mâché this tiny observatory has survived for over a century. 


Donated to the University of Manchester in 1902, the Godlee Observatory has lived through war, weather, and neglect despite being made of little more than wood and papier-mâché.

The tiny, historic observatory perched atop one of the gothic buildings on the campus of the University of Manchester, is something of a quaint legacy from the early days of astronomy. Given to the university by cotton baron Francis Godlee in the early 20th century, the little star-gazing station is a simple affair consisting of simply a main octagonal room leading to an ornate spiral staircase that reaches up into the cramped observation dome. The dome itself is made of papier-mâché and contains a reflective telescope much like the one used by Sir Isaac Newton.

Despite being relatively small,


the observatory was able to assist in the American moon landing. During the historic mission, the observatory was able to send the astronauts a message warning them about a potentially dangerous crater. The astronauts even sent them back a message saying that they were aware of the formation.

Even with its simple construction,  the viewing station survived the German Blitz that damaged or destroyed many nearby buildings. It still stands today, still in operation, although few are aware of its presence. It is maintained by the Manchester Astronomical Society who also offer tours of the odd little piece of astronomical history.

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