We have new neighbours. Edward Clive and his wife Fiona James are the new owners of Bidston Observatory.
On Saturday, 17th September, we hosted a tea party at the Lighthouse to commemorate the Observatory being 150 years old. When we started planning, we didn’t know whether the event would turn out to be a celebration or the launch of yet another campaign to save the Observatory from unsympathetic developers. It could have gone either way. But we couldn’t let 2016 pass without doing something to commemorate the Observatory’s sesquicentenary.
The day turned out to be a celebration. Former Observatory staff, outgoing guardians, representatives of local organisations (including the Friends of Bidston Hill, the Bidston Preservation Trust, Tam O’Shanter Urban Farm, the Wirral History and Heritage Association, and the Wirral Society), local councillors, artists, and many others, all had a chance to meet the new owners and hear about their plans.
Ed, Fi and friend Kym Ward plan to operate the Observatory as a not-for-profit artistic research centre. They also intend to incorporate an exhibition about the Observatory’s heritage, which will be accessible to the public on open days. But first they need to stabilise the building, which has suffered from neglect in recent years.
We are delighted with the outcome. The spectre of a housing development on Bidston Hill recedes (at least for the moment), and the prospect of a public-facing, sustainable and creative use of the Observatory, entirely compatible with our own ambitions for the world’s most inland lighthouse, comes into view.
Although we’ll miss some of the guardians (who have kept the building secure for nearly 12 years), Ed, Fi and Kym are already inspiring us with their energy and enthusiasm. They will need every ounce of it.
We pledge our whole-hearted support to their project.
- Simon Moffat interviews the new owners on BBC Radio Merseyside, 28 Sep 2016. 1 hr, 24 minutes, 14 seconds in.
- Article in Living Wirral about the 150th Anniversary of Bidston Observatory
- Bidston Observatory’s new owners look to the future, article in the Wirral Globe, 28 Sep 2016.
- Statement of intent from new owners
- Liverpool’s astronomer, John Hartnup, takes up residence at Bidston Observatory, contemporary article in the Liverpool Mercury, 1866.
- A new website dedicated to the history of Bidston Observatory and its scientific legacy (contributions welcome).