In the 2nd week of January 2017 the building contractors moved into the Fernley Observatory and thus opened a new chapter for this iconic building. Three years ago the Fernley Observatory Heritage Group was formed to help save this Grade II listed building, which was in a state of progressive decay. Our goals are to preserve the building for the long term enjoyment of the general public and provide an education resource in the field of Astronomy.
We began the task of building the interest of the public through regular summer Open Days between 2014 and 2016. This encouraged at least 2,000 people to visit the Observatory. These visitors included two Cub Scout packs of nearly 40 children and a number of other local groups, leaving us with a bulging Visitors’ Book full of complimentary remarks, confirming our belief that the saving the Observatory was a very worthwhile project.
A presentation to the Southport Lions in late 2015 provided the magnificent sum of £1,600 for a set of new doors to the ground floor, which doubtless provided the catalyst for the full restoration. £700 has also been raised for the restoration of the Biblical inscription around the inside of the dome; together with £2,500 for maintenance items the building will inevitably require in the future.
In 2016, money for the complete refurbishment of the Observatory was allocated by Sefton MBC through Section 106 funding. This is essentially a levy placed upon developers which must be spent on improvements to the environment of the Borough. It is quite separate from revenue raised from Council Tax payers and has no adverse impact on the statutory services provided by the Council.
The Southport Astronomical Society carried out some major refurbishment to the 1869 Cooke telescope which is the centre piece of the Observatory and eloquently informed the public about the history of the Observatory on our Open Days.
During 2016, Sefton MBC had had the building surveyed by an independent restoration company and by the autumn tenders were drawn up and circulated to companies deemed competent to carry out such a traditional building refurbishment. Maysand Ltd from Oldham were ultimately awarded the contract with Kirk Scaffolding constructing the protective enclosure within which work could proceed, independent of the weather.
Maysand came on site in January 2016 for the anticipated 16-week renovation project, to bring the whole building back to full specification and repair the damage done by man and weather. Skilled craftsmen from Maysand have been busy on all aspects of the work, including replacement of nine wooden panels to the upper floor, removal of the heavy copper cladding to the dome, full re-waterproofing of the roof and dome, repainting, and re-pointing of the lower floor brickwork.
We are now convinced that a new dawn will rise over the hill upon which stands a building of national significance, heralding the beginning of the educational phase of our project.
Watch this website to keep up to date on progress.
(More pictures are on the Media page!)
We are pleased to report that in the face of stiff competition, our associated Group, the Southport Astronomical Society, has been awarded a grant of £500 from the Skipton Building Society under their Grassroots Giving scheme to provide an illustrated notice board to be erected close to the Observatory. This will describe the history of the Observatory and note its founding fathers.
No longer will people gaze at the building having to wonder what its purpose was. All the information will be there for the reading!
Thanks to all who voted online to enable them to achieve this funding!