Dating back to 1766 the Clifton Observatory began life as a windmill for corn and later converted to the grinding of snuff (tobacco). In 1828 William West an artist based in Bristol rented the Observatory as his studio. West transformed the old mill into the building we recognise today by installing a large telescope into the tower and creating the Observatory. In 1892 West replaced the telescope with a camera obscura, a 13cm convex lens and sloping mirror were installed on top of the tower which projected panoramic views of the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge and surrounding area. The camera obscura, which is still working today, projects onto a white surface inside a darkened room providing a true image of the outside views. The area at the top of the building contains a convex lens and sloping mirror. West described the obscura as ‘embracing the whole of the surrounding scene from the gallery of the horizon’. Read more here.
The Camera Obscura is the only one open to the public in England, with spectacular panoramic views of Bristol. The building is open to the public 10am-5pm 7 days a week, and has a small entry fee. Tickets can be bought online and there’s a 5% online discount (code: ONLINE5). Groups of over 10 can claim 10% off (code: GROUPS10).