Acts Online
GT Shield

National Heritage Resources Act, 1999 (Act No. 25 of 1999)


Declaration of the South African Astronomical Observatory (Royal Observatory) as a National Heritage Site


Notice No. 1404

21 December 2018

GG 42127


Department of Arts and Culture

South African, Heritage Resources Agency


By virtue of the powers vested in the South African Heritage Resources Agency, in terms of section 27 (5) of the National Heritage Resources Act (No. 25 of 1999) SAHRA hereby declares the South African Astronomical Observatory, Erf 26423 Cape Town, Western Cape, as a National Heritage Site.


Statement of Significance


The South African Astronomical Observatory in Cape Town has played a highly significantscientific role over time as the oldest permanent observatory in the Southern Hemisphere. The site offers an overview of the history of astronomy both locally and internationally. It is a “living site” with more than 150 years history while still retaining its prominence in the international astronomical community.


Contributions to astronomy from site range from accurate measurements of the distance to a star (Alpha Centuri), first catalogues of the principle southern stars, first photographic survey of the sky, accurate measurement of the distance to the sun (a value that became the benchmark to measure all other cosmic distances and represented a paradigm shift in astronomy), development of spectroscopy, remeasurement and extension of Lacaille’s Arc of Meridian, establishment of the true shape of the Earth in the southern hemisphere and first accurate geodetic surveys of southern Africa


Architecturally, there are several buildings of historical value and not only reflect the changing the architectural styles over the nineteenth century, bit also have considerable scientific value due their contributions to the field of astronomy. The Main Building (a Georgian building)– designed by the British naval architect, John Rennie, and completed in 1828, the heliograph – the oldest dome on the site and runs on cannon balls, and the McClean Telescope Building – designed by Herbert Baker are closely association with David Gill and leading astronomer of the time.


The range of scientific objects related to the observatory as a collection are integral to the scientific value of the site. Some of the instruments within structures have been used with varying degrees of continuity and consistency for about 180 years



The demarcation of the South African Astronomical Observatory (Royal Observatory) is as follows:



Site Name

Erf No/Farm





The South African Astronomical Observatory (The Royal Observatory)

Erf 26423 Cape Town

Western Cape

Cape Town

City of Cape Town

A,B,D,D1,E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O


N1404 Diagram