Fernley Observatory is a Grade II listed structure in Hesketh Park, Southport. It was originally built in the garden of the meteorologist and astronomer Joseph Baxendell’s home in Birkdale, in 1877. Its 6-inch (15 cm) refracting telescope, dated 1869, was manufactured by T. Cooke and Sons, and donated by Baxendell’s friend the cotton manufacturer and politician Thomas S. Bazley. Following Baxendell’s death in 1887 his family donated the observatory to Southport Corporation, and it was subsequently installed on top of a specially built brick structure in Hesketh Park in 1901.
The observatory is named after the philanthropist John Fernley (1796–1873), who had funded the construction of the nearby Fernley Meteorological Observatory, also in Hesketh Park but no longer extant.
The off-centre dome has two opening panels and is mounted on castors, allowing it to rotate. Baxendell was a devout Methodist, and had the first line from Psalms, chapter 19 (XIX-I, K.J.V) painted around the dome’s base:
THE HEAVENS DECLARE THE GLORY OF GOD, AND THE FIRMAMENT SHEWETH HIS HANDIWORK”
Fernley Observatory has been in the care of the Fernley Observatory Heritage Group since 2014, with the responsibility of restoring the structure and opening it to the public.
Sutton, C. W., and Katharine Anderson. “Baxendell, Joseph (1815–1887).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Online, Oxford University Press, 2004, https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/1727.
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