Skip to content

Centennial Park Weather Station

Name:
Centennial Park Weather Station

Location:
Centennial Park, see interactive map here

Date built:
Circa 1907

About the Weather Station

A rare weather station, recently uncovered in Centennial Park, has been fully restored and opened to the public.

The Centennial Park weather station was part of a network of meteorological stations installed across Australia from the 1860s, yet it is exceptionally rare in type. Built on a square timber frame, its slatted pyramid-shaped roof and lattice sides open at the bottom allowed air to circulate freely while protecting the instruments inside from direct sunlight and wind. Despite its square shape, it was called a Round House weather station.

A little bit of history…

In the early 19th century the scientific community learnt how to measure temperature with greater precision, as the designs of thermometers were refined. Temperatures became an integral part of measuring and recording the weather.

At that time thermometers were often placed in direct sunlight, or on the walls of buildings. It was realised by Thomas Stevenson (1818-1887) - a civil engineer working on lighthouses, and father of Robert Louis Stevenson - that air temperature measurement needed to occur in a space shielded from the sun's radiation, wind and rain. For this purpose he developed in 1864 what is now known as the Stevenson Screen, which is still in wide use.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology was formed in Australia in 1908, after which time the structures of weather stations became more consistent across Australia.

One of the primary goals of the forecasting service at that time was to reduce the number of shipwrecks.

Originally constructed in 1907, the Centennial Park weather station was part of a much larger project to assist the European settlers across Australia to understand and predict the weather. From extreme drought to deadly fogs, floods and storms, the weather has profoundly shaped the development of the Australian colonies and nation. In the years before Federation, scientists took a leading role in thinking of the Australian continent as a united place.

In November 1879, the first inter-colonial conference on astronomy and meteorology was held at Sydney Observatory, and soon after a standardised system for recording weather information and issuing continental weather forecasts and charts was put into place. As a measure of a united approach and the importance of science to national development, when the new Commonwealth of Australia was established in 1901, astronomy and meteorology were specifically defined as Commonwealth responsibilities.

In its early years, one of the main goals of the Bureau of Meteorology’s forecasting service was to reduce the number of shipwrecks. Today these measurements continue to provide valuable evidence to issues such as climate change and other matters of scientific and environmental concern.

Role of the Centennial Park weather station…

From 1907 to 1975 the weather station in Centennial Park recorded the daily maximum and minimum temperatures. The readings were used by the government astronomer, and from 1908 the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, to forecast weather, a matter of vital concern to the young nation of Australia.

By the 1960s the weather station in Centennial Park had badly deteriorated, and it was decided by the Bureau of Meteorology that it would be “cheaper and more satisfactory” to completely rebuild the Round House rather than attempt repairs.

As a result, the current weather station was built in 1967–68. This replica is itself a rare and significant structure as it is one of only two existing replicas of this type of weather station in Australia - the other is within the grounds of the Sydney Observatory.

The weather station was finally decommissioned in 1972 and the remnants were later deposited in the Centennial Park Bird Sanctuary.

Letter of Decommissioning

Restoration Project

In 2004 a Heritage Assessment Report was commissioned by the Centennial Park and Moore Park Trust (Trust) to assess the significance of the weather station. Study findings concluded that the weather station was unique in the area as an excellent surviving replica of its type and was of local historical significance.

It was recommended that it should be reconstructed for interpretative purposes in a suitable position, using as much of the salvaged existing fabric as was practical, and as close as practicable to its original position.

In 2008, the Centennial Parklands Foundation was successful in obtaining funding from the NSW Heritage Grants Program which allowed restoration works to commence. The works detailed restoration of the timber structure and preparation of the new site including paving, edging and turfing.

The restored weather station is now located on the site outside the Bird Sanctuary on Parkes Drive in Centennial Park. This site was assessed to be the most suitable in terms of accessibility, public visibility, security, compliance with the Centennial Parklands Conservation Management Plan (CMP) and proximity to its original position.

Although the weather station is not in use for regular measurements, it will provide historical and educational information to visitors and as part of the Parklands’ school education and interpretation programs. Plans are also in place to install in situ thermometers in the near future.

Technical detail: Assessment of Heritage Significance

The following assessment of significance has been prepared in accordance with the ‘Assessing Heritage Significance’ guidelines from the NSW Heritage Manual by City Plan Heritage.

a) an item is important in the course, or pattern, of the local area’s cultural or natural history

  • The original Centennial Park Round House weather station was built c1907 just before the formation of the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology in 1908, after which time the structures of weather stations became more consistent across Australia. It was faithfully reconstructed in 1967-1968 and continuously served as a weather station until November 1972, when technology changed

  • Historically, the Centennial Park weather station, although it has been reconstructed and later dismantled, is important for its ability to demonstrate the meteorological observation practice and standards in Australia during the early 1900s

  • The Centennial Park weather station is evident of the provision of meteorology services using Round Houses in NSW and across Australia for 65 years

  • The Centennial Park weather station illustrates the typical characteristics of a Round House Screen weather station which is a rarer type of weather station in the history of Meteorological activities in Australia.

b) an item has strong or special associations with the life or works of a person, or group of persons, of importance in the local area’s cultural or natural history

  • The research conducted to date does not provide any evidence that the Centennial Park weather station has strong or special association with the life of a person, or group of persons.

c) an item is important in demonstrating aesthetic characteristics and/or a high degree of creative or technical achievement in the local area

  • The Centennial Park weather station is an excellent replica of the original Round House Screen type weather station. It exhibits the detailing, shape, form and construction techniques of the original station despite its current deteriorated state. It can be easily reassembled in accordance with the available photographic evidence, heritage scope of works and information from file notes

  • It demonstrates typical characteristics of a phase of technological achievement on the measurement of air temperature and humidity in the early 1900s.

d) an item has strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group in the local area for social, cultural or spiritual reasons

  • The involvement and interest of the Bureau of Meteorology during the preparation of this report has made it apparent that the weather station was of importance within their operation systems. They have also professed their interest in being involved in the reconstruction of the weather station as part of the centenary of the Bureau in 2008.

e) an item has potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of the local area’s cultural or natural history

  • Due to its reconstructed fabric faithfully replicating the original design the Centennial Park weather station has a high degree of potential to yield information on the Round House type of weather stations that were constructed in the early 1900s and used for at least half a century until technology changed. It was part of the cultural landscape of the Park and contributed to the meteorological operations.

f) an item possesses uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of the local area’s cultural or natural history

  • The Centennial Park weather station is one of the only two in NSW known to staff at the Bureau of Meteorology. The other one is located at Observatory Hill, and had also been replaced with a replica in 1982, which itself took the detailing from the Centennial Park weather station

  • The only other known weather station of this type in Australia was in Adelaide and was demolished in 1951

  • Therefore, the Centennial Park weather station is the only surviving example of the Round House type of weather station. It is rare in this regard despite it being a replica.

g) an item is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of the local area’s

  • cultural or natural places; or

  • cultural or natural environments

  • The Centennial Park weather station is a representative example of Round Houses that were a rarer type of late 19th century weather stations.


Acknowledgements

The Trust would like to acknowledge the following people and organisations for their work during the restoration project:

Restoration Project Partners

Project Partners
scripttarget