Woodford Academy – a historic place with an astronomical connection

Woodford Academy_Nick Lomb

Woodford Academy, picture by Nick Lomb

As mentioned in a post last week Nick went observing at Linden Observatory recently. On the way he called in a Woodford Academy as, fortuitiously, it was the one day in the month that it is open to the public. Located in the small Blue Mountains town of Woodford and now run by the National Trust, the building has a long history. With the oldest section dating back to the 1830s, over the years it has been an inn, a gentleman’s residence and a school.

The connection with astronomy and Sydney Observatory is from the transit of Venus in 1874. The house was then owned by Mr Alfred Fairfax, a wealthy amateur astronomer. He invited Sydney Observatory to set up one of its observing stations for this important event in the grounds of his house.

Waiting for the transit 1874_Powerhouse Museum

Waiting for the transit at Woodford, photo courtesy Powerhouse Museum

The above photograph shows the observing station at Woodford while the observers were waiting for Venus to cross in front of the Sun. The observers at Woodford included the Surveyor-General of the time, PF Adams, and two of his staff. Nick recently heard the sad history of one of them, Leonard Abington Vessey, from a descendant of one of his siblings, but that is for another post….

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