There are so many hidden gems in Centennial Park, but here is the story about one historic feature of the Park you will likely know nothing about – the Centennial Park Weather Station!
In fact, you’ve probably walked past it many times without noticing it. But before we talk about it…
First, a little background
In the early 19th century the scientific community learned 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 the writer 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.
Centennial Park’s role in saving ships?
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.
The Centennial Park Weather Station, originally constructed in 1907, was used to record the daily maximum and minimum temperatures.
The readings were used by (firstly) the government astronomer, then (secondly) the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, to assist in forecasting weather (when the Bureau of Meteorology was formed in 1908, one of the primary goals of the forecasting service at that time was to reduce the number of shipwrecks!).
Centennial Park’s weather station
Despite its square shape, it was called a Round House weather station. Its roof was designed in a slatted pyramid-shape with lattice sides, open at the bottom to allow air to circulate freely while protecting the instruments inside from direct sunlight and wind.
The original outer structure had deteriorated badly by the mid-1960s, 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.
However, it has been noted that 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 Centennial Park weather station was finally decommissioned in 1972 – here’s the decommissioning letter from 1968:
The weather station was dismantled and (for all intents and purposes) lost in the mists of time.
Rediscovery a generation later
As part of a clean up and regeneration project in the Centennial Park Bird Sanctuary in the early 2000s, an old pile of broken wooden pieces was uncovered and ear-marked for disposal…until further investigation was undertaken.
This investigation, that included a Heritage Assessment Report, confirmed its identity as the remains of the Centennial Park Weather Station and recommended that it should be reconstructed for interpretative purposes in a suitable position, using as much of the salvaged existing fabric as was practical.
In 2008 a successful grant funding application by the Centennial Parklands Foundation led to the weather station’s re-creation and return to display in Centennial Park.
Just another story about Centennial Park that makes this place fascinating.
Love Centennial Park? Love learning about history? We have two great opportunities available for you: