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Written in the Stars – Grant Award for Astronomical Observatory

29 September 2022

The Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) is excited to have awarded The Penllergare Trust with a Project Development Grant to help save the historically important Equatorial Observatory and bring it back to life. This grant was among 18 awards given out in the latest Grants Panel, where projects ranging geographically from Somerset to Glasgow were offered funding totalling £575,222.

The Equatorial Observatory was constructed in 1846 by John Dillwyn Llewelyn, a pioneering photographer with interests in science and astronomy. Situated in Penllergare Valley Woods, Swansea, the Grade II* listed building consists of two rooms – the observatory and laboratory. In 1855, one of the earliest photographs of the moon was taken at the Equatorial Observatory by Llewelyn’s daughter, Thereza.


Images: Interior of the observatory (left) and laboratory (right) at the Equatorial Observatory in Swansea. Photos courtesy of The Penllergare Trust. 

Built on the three pillars of conservation, community and education, The Penllergare Trust was formed more than 20 years ago. It exists to conserve, restore and maintain the historic and significant Penllergare Valley Woods, which consists of over 250 acres of woods, lakes and parkland, as well as a Victorian Walled Garden.

For this project, the Trust will work in partnership with Dark Sky Wales to fully restore the Equatorial Observatory and create a planetarium. Alongside interactive displays highlighting the history of the building and its role in early photography, a programme of activities will be curated for the growing astro-tourism sector. School visits to the restored Observatory will link to the new national curriculum in Wales, with a focus on local history and STEM subjects.

The AHF grant will provide support towards staff costs to coordinate the development phase and commission a team of professionals to complete surveys and a business plan.  

This grant is made possible with funding from Cadw, Pilgrim Trust, and the Garfield Weston Foundation.

Lee Turner, General Manager of The Penllergare Trust, said:

"The support from the Architectural Heritage Fund has been vital to planning and helping secure an exciting future for our unique Observatory, where once again people can gaze starward and consider the significance of heritage in their community."

The Penllergare Trust

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