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“The Bureau of Meteorology – Home on the Hill” COSHA talk by Dick Whitaker

09/09/2023 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Dick Whitaker will be giving a talk to COSHA (City of Sydney Historical Association) later this year, with the topic being ‘The Bureau of Meteorology – Home on the Hill’ that will concern the Bureau History in Sydney across the period 1908 to 1963. A precis is below.

As well as the early history he will then move to the 11th-hour saving of the building by the NSW Department of Education in a restoration that is now approaching completion.

The Bureau of Meteorology – Home on the Hill

2 pm, 9th September 2023
Sydney Mechanics School of Arts
280 Pitt Street, SYDNEY

 The NSW Bureau of Meteorology, today a Commonwealth Public Service entity, had an interesting history, with much of the early days concentrated around Observatory Hill in Sydney.

In the 19th Century the meteorological duties were performed by the Government Astronomer at the Observatory, with Henry Chamberlain Russell a well-known figure at the time. An amazing event took place in 1877 when a deranged young man attempted to murder Russell with a homemade bomb that was fortunately discovered and defused in time.

After the Bureau was formally proclaimed as part of the Australian Public Service in 1908 it remained at the Observatory but with the relationship between the astronomers and the weathermen becoming increasingly testy.

To solve this problem the Bureau was temporarily relocated in the nearby Messengers Cottage, and, from 1922, in a special purpose-built structure just to the west. The Bureau would remain there until 1963. This was known as “The Hill” and was well known to the public and media as such for many years.

This period was a fascinating time, involving intense conflict between the Bureau Head and the Government Astronomer, the first meteorological balloon flight in Sydney in 1915, as well as two World Wars, all interspersed with several memorable weather events.

After the Bureau’s departure from the Hill in 1963 the Bureau building gradually fell into disrepair and several attempts to repurpose it came to nothing. It was feared that the historic structure would become uneconomic to repair.

However salvation came from an unexpected source in 2018 when the NSW Department of Education decided that the nearby Fort Street Public School needed extending and took ownership of the old Bureau building.

It is now being restored and converted into the school library, a wonderful outcome that will result in an important part of Bureau history being preserved. It is anticipated that this work will be completed later this year.


2:00 pm - 4:00 pm


Sydney Mechanics School of Arts
280 Pitt Street
SYDNEY, NSW 2000 Australia
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