Dome Repairs at the Royal Observatory

The Science and Technology Facilities Council is about to start work on a major programme of repairs to the two historic copper domes that top the 1894 Observatory building at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh.

The Grade A listed Observatory building is 115 years old and, although repairs have been made when necessary over the years, a major programme of work is required to ensure that the domes continue to be a landmark on the Edinburgh skyline and stand up to the rigours of the Scottish weather for the next 100 years.

Extent of the work

Repairs will be made to both the copper cladding and the stonework. The two domes will be completely covered to provide weather protection during the work. The copper on the domes will be replaced like-for-like, retaining as much as possible of the original material; however, a significant proportion of the copper is expected to have to be replaced. As the work is on a like-for-like basis, the City of Edinburgh Council has confirmed that it does not require listed building consent.

The new material will be unweathered copper so, for the first few years, the refurbishment will be very much in evidence. We will use this opportunity to take a full photographic record of the repairs once they are completed. The unweathered copper will take several years to acquire the green verdigris that we are familiar with.

Impact on traffic

Traffic flow on Blackford Hill will increase marginally as the contractors and materials arrive on site.


It is expected that the scaffolding will be erected in January and the refurbishment work will run until August 2010.

The Visitor Centre

The ROE Visitor Centre, which occupies part of the 1894 building, will be closed to the public for the duration of the works, except for the Winter Talks which will continue to be held in the ROE lecture theatre. An additional programme of public and school events will be held around the city instead. The first public events were held during the October half-term week to tie in with Autumn Moonwatch. The 1894 building also houses research offices, a library and historical collections. These will be unaffected by the work.

The Contractors

The Architects running the project are Gray Marshall and Associates of Stafford Street, Edinburgh. The main contractor is D. Blake & Co Ltd of Sealcarr Street, Edinburgh. The work is being funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council from its estates budget.

The Royal Observatory Edinburgh site is part of the UK's Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). It is occupied and managed by the STFC's UK Astronomy Technology Centre, which shares the site with the University of Edinburgh's Institute for Astronomy.


Artist's impression of the completed work

An artist's impression of the domes after the repair work is complete. It will take several years for the unweathered copper to acquire the familiar green verdigris.



Gary Rae, Head of Programme Delivery and Engineering
UK Astronomy Technology Centre
0131 668 8275