Bidston Observatory is a recognised weather observation station on Wirral. The observatory was
mined to create the 36 foot of cellars, the deepest of which maintains a constant cool temperature.
Over the years the work that Bidston lighthouse has carried out has changed frequently, but it has
never lost its purpose of very important and ground breaking research. In 1929 the work of Bidston
lighthouse was deemed of national importance . The ground breaking research carried on into the
Second World War, at which time Bidston observatory researched and carried out the predictions for
the D Day Landings. The light house eventually became obsolete and in 196 the telescope was
donated to the Museum of Liverpool; then on the 18th July 1969, the 1 o clock gun was fired for the
The observatory is in the enviable position of having an unbroken series of met records dating back to
1867. They even have records from the original Liverpool Observatory built at Waterloo Dock in 1845,
hand written in copper plate probably by the original director himself John Hartnup, former secretary
of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Bidston has a long history of providing weather records to solicitors, shipping companies etc, on
Merseyside, and a weather report typed on our headed paper is usually acceptable in legal cases and
1834 The Royal Navy recommended the establishment of an astronomical observatory in the Port of
Liverpool. The exact longitude of Liverpool was then unknown, so all the ships' chronometers rated in
the port would have carried an error with them, resulting in the loss of life and property. Mariners also
did not know the weather conditions when they left port and consequently sometimes ran into storms.
1845 Liverpool Observatory was built on Waterloo Dock
1866 Land was purchased from a local landowner, Mr Vyner, and Bidston Observatory was built,
faced with sandstone excavated from the site. There was an equatorial telescope in the west dome,
which was used mainly for the observation of comets, and a transit telescope in the east dome, which
was regularly used for the determination of time from the stars. These telescopes are now in
Liverpool Museum. There was a large instrument room - the through room on the ground floor - which
contained two warm air chambers. Each of these could hold up to one hundred chronometers. These
chronometers were tested over several months at varying temperatures and had to be very accurate
before they were considered safe to take to sea. Sextants, barometers and thermometers were
tested in the basement. One o'clock was still indicated to the citizens of Liverpool, but now by the
One O'clock Gun. This was situated at Morpeth Dock, Birkenhead and was connected by telegraphic
line to Bidston Observatory. It was fired from here by the staff each working day, except for a six-year
break during the Second World War. It was also fired at midnight to mark the beginning of the 20th
century. The original cannon was a relic of the Crimean wars, and after it was replaced by a naval
Hotchkiss gun, was on display in the Observatory grounds for many years.
1924 The Liverpool Tidal Institute, under the directorship of Professor Proudman at Liverpool
University, relocated to Bidston Observatory. Tidal predictions, which were calculated by hand, were
produced on a commercial basis.
1939-1945 Much valuable work was done during the Second World War. The staff worked seven
days a week, from early morning to late at night, analysing and predicting tides towards the war
effort. Tidal predictions were swiftly predicted for the seas around Burma, France and Holland. During
these years one of the tide predicting machines was placed in an underground room in the
Observatory grounds for security reasons. Photographic facilities were obtained, so that further
copies of the predictions could be quickly provided in the event of their loss at sea.
1975 The Joseph Proudman building in the Observatory grounds was completed, to accommodate
the increase in staff and also the latest computer.
1987 The Institute at Bidston was renamed the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory.
1992 An automatic weather station was installed, replacing the manual station which had been
operating since 1867.
1994 The Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory, together with the Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory
near Oban, and Plymouth Marine Laboratory became the Centre for Coastal and Marine Sciences.
2000 The Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory once again became an independent institute under
the Natural Environment Research Council.
Above: Aerial View of Bidston
Lighthouse and Observatory.
Above: External View of Bidston
Above: The fire at Bidston hill in
1905 that nearly engulfed the