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A selection of my photographs, many from Edinburgh throughout the year.   Also photos from Scotland, London, Iceland, Italy, Hong Kong and elsewhere    Many old maps of Edinburgh (Old Town, New Town, while City), Leith and Newhaven.  Includes several old transport maps and a comparison of old maps with recent aerial photos.   Old engravings, mailly of Edinburgh scenes.  Some from the 1820s, some from the 1890s,  some others - includes many hand-coloured examples from the 1820s.   News from Edinburgh today  -  Events, Collections, Buildings and Gardens, Transport   This site includes     1. Post card portraits taken in studios in Edinburgh:    2. Post card views either takeen/published by Ediburgh photographers or views of Edinburgh, or both.y Edinburgh    Views of Edinburgh, grouped into three sections:     1. Street views:    2. Buildings:    3. Around Edinburgh   Views of transport around Edinburgh  -  Horse drawn trams and buses, cable cars, electric trams, buses and a few railway photos.  Also several maps of Edinburgh's bus and tram routes.   Summary of the updates added to this site each month since the site was launched   Frequently Asked Questions

 

 

The Time Ball

on the Nelson Monument

and

One o'Clock Gun

at Edinburgh Castle

Time Ball on Calton Hill

In 1852, Edinburgh installed a time ball at the top of the Nelson Monument on Calton Hill, to enable the sailors in Leith Docks and the Firth of Forth to check and adjust their chronometers.

Time Ball in raised position

Photographed at 12.59pm -  2 October 2006

The Nelson Monument on Calton Hill.  The time ball photographed at 11.59pm on October 2, 2006  -  waiting to be lowered at 1pm

© peter.stubbs@edinphoto.org.uk

The Edinburgh time ball was devised by the photographer and Astronomer Royal for Scotland, Charles Piazzi Smyth, who had worked previously as assistant astronomer at the Cape of Good Hope Observatory, which had its own time ball.

The time ball mechanism was designed by the Edinburgh clockmaker, Frederick James Ritchie.

Detail from an advert in the Edinburgh & Leith Post Office Directory  -   1867  -  Ritchie & Son, with a view from Calton Hill ©

Ritchie of Edinburgh still have the contract for maintaining the time ball and several of Edinburgh's public clocks, including the Floral Clock in Princes Street Gardens.

Observations of the stars were made, using the telescope on Calton Hill.  This enabled the precise time to be known.

On the Nelson Monument, the time ball was raised shortly before one o'clock every day, then lowered at one o'clock so that the people of Edinburgh and on the ships in the Firth of Forth could check their clocks and chronometers.

Mons Meg at Edinburgh Castle

This is not the canon that is used for the one o'clock gun!

    Mons Meg  -  The C15 siege gun at Edinburgh Castle ©

In 1861, a master clock on Calton Hill was linked by an overhead electric cable to a clock at Edinburgh Castle.  This enabled the one o'clock gun at the castle to be fired automatically at exactly one o'clock.

Equipment used for the observations at Calton Hill can still be seen in the Observatory on the hill.  The clock used to time the firing of the cannon at the castle is now on display in a case in the Café at the castle beside the one o'clock gun.

The electric cable linking the castle and Calton Hill was 1,225 meters long.  It passed passed over Waverley Valley, without any support, at the height of 73 meters.

The gun could be heard from far afield.  The falling of the time ball at the top of the Nelson Monument could be seen immediately,  but it took several seconds for the sound of the gun to travel even the two miles from Edinburgh Castle to the ships in Leith Harbour.

Time-Gun maps were published in the Edinburgh & Leith Post Office Directories in 1861 and 1862.  These maps showed the time taken for the sound of the gunfire to travel across Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Time-Gun Map  -  1861  -  The whole map ©

Connection between

Time Ball

and

One o'Clock Gun

Question

Cable

I read, some time ago, that there used to be a cable, strung across the  Waverley Valley, connecting the One o'Clock gun at Edinburgh Castle to the Nelson Monument on Calton Hill.

I've been trying to find out more about this cable and how long it survived for.

Reply

Nineteenth Century

Thank you to George Robinson for telling me more about this cable.

George wrote:

"The cable was hung in one single span, three quarters of a mile long, between the Castle and the Nelson Monument in April 1861 by a squad of  sailors from Leith.

In 1873,  due to the strain on the Nelson Monument caused by the the weight of the cable, it was attached to the Old Post Office, the New Post Office, St. Giles and the steeple of the Highland Tolbooth Church.

In 1896, the time began to be sent from the Royal Observatory on the Blackford Hill to the One o'Clock Gun, along the GPO's cable."

George Robinson:   One o'Clock Gun & Time Ball Association:  August 21+25, 2011

1990s

In the 1990s, while working on a personal project to photograph people at work in Edinburgh, I accompanied the Edinburgh Clock Winder on a few occasions.  He was one of the employees of clockmaker, Ritchie who created the original time ball in 1861.

One of his daily duties was to climb the steps of Nelson Monument and wind a handle to raise the time ball a few minutes before 1pm.  He then watched the gun at Edinburgh Castle until he saw a puff of smoke from it, and immediately released the time ball.

The sound of the gun firing reached Calton Hill about 4 seconds later, and reached the shipping in Leith Docks about 11 seconds later.

Time Gun Map

Please click on the thumbnail image below to see an extract from the 1861 Time Gun Map, and discover how long it takes sound from the gun to travel across Edinburgh.

    Edinburgh Time-Gun Map  -  1861  -  Edinburgh to Leith  -  without key ©

 

Links to Other Pages

EdinPhoto - Home Page      Please send me an e-mail ...  with your questions, comments, suggestions or news.      At any time, you can search for a word  -  perhaps a photographer's name or a photographic topic.  The search will produce a list of pages on the EdinPhoto web site where this word appears.            At any time, you can search for a word  -  perhaps a photographer's name or a photographic topic.  The search will produce a list of pages on the EdinPhoto web site where this word appears.

Photographs and Other Images  -  These include portraits of photographers  -  photographic outings -  Princes Street views  -  Newhaven Fishwives  -  etc.  Early Photography in Edinburgh  -  Talbot, Brewster, Hill & Adamson, Early Professional Photographers in Princes Street, etc.  Professional Photographers in Edinburgh  -  1840 to 1940  -  Their names, dates of business and studio addresses.  The Photographic Society of Scotland  -  1856 to 1873  -  Lectures, Exhibitions, Outings, etc.  The History of Edinburgh Photographic Society  -  1861 to date  -  Lectures, Exhibitions, Outings, Poems, etc.  EPS Publications - EPS Handwritten Records  -  Photographic Journals  -  Trade Directories  -  Books  -  etc.  Thanks to all who have encouraged and supported me in creating the EdinPhoto web site  -  including descendants of photogrpahers  -  researchers  -  providers of photographs and other material  Background notes on the research thal led up to the creation of this site  -   together with lists of new material added to the site since its launch.  Brief comments on how this site might be used  -  Just browsing?  -  Seeking specific information?  Please add your questions, suggestions or other comments to the Guest Book.  Links to other web sites  -  Photographic Societies  -  Photographic History  -  Family History  -  etc.  Click here to find the link to the Edinburgh Photogrpahic Society web site.  Details of who owns the copyright of photographs and other mateiral on this web site.

A selection of my photographs, many from Edinburgh throughout the year.   Also photos from Scotland, London, Iceland, Italy, Hong Kong and elsewhere    Many old maps of Edinburgh (Old Town, New Town, while City), Leith and Newhaven.  Includes several old transport maps and a comparison of old maps with recent aerial photos.   Old engravings, mailly of Edinburgh scenes.  Some from the 1820s, some from the 1890s,  some others - includes many hand-coloured examples from the 1820s.   News from Edinburgh today  -  Events, Collections, Buildings and Gardens, Transport   This site includes     1. Post card portraits taken in studios in Edinburgh:    2. Post card views either takeen/published by Ediburgh photographers or views of Edinburgh, or both.y Edinburgh    Views of Edinburgh, grouped into three sections:     1. Street views:    2. Buildings:    3. Around Edinburgh   Views of transport around Edinburgh  -  Horse drawn trams and buses, cable cars, electric trams, buses and a few railway photos.  Also several maps of Edinburgh's bus and tram routes.   Summary of the updates added to this site each month since the site was launched   Frequently Asked Questions

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