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Clifton Observatory, Camera Obscura and Cave

Add Clifton Observatory, Camera Obscura and Cave to your Itinerary

Clifton Observatory and camera obscura Bristol


Clifton Observatory, Camera Obscura and Cave sits high up on The Downs and offers superb views from above the Clifton Suspension Bridge. It is in fact one of only two camera obscuras still open to the public in England. Clifton Observatory, Camera Obscura and Cave was originally a snuff mill built by James Waters, but it was partially destroyed during a strong gale in 1777. The mill was rented to William West in 1828, who used the building as his artist studio and installed the camera obscura.

The camera obscura itself projects a panoramic view of the surrounding area onto a white surface inside a darkened room. A box on top of the building contains a convex lens and sloping mirror. Light is reflected vertically downward onto the table, giving a true (not mirror) image of the surroundings. Note that the 16th century technique provides the best results on bright days.

William West also cut out an underground passage to Ghyston’s Cave, which was originally only accessible via the cliff face. At the cave mouth, visitors can enjoy a spectacular view of the Clifton Suspension Bridge and Avon Gorge below.

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Litfield Place
North Bristol

Tel: +44 (0)117 974 1242

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Opening Times

Open (1 Jan 2017 - 31 Dec 2017)

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