Blenheim Celebrates ‘Astronomer’ Duke on Autumn Equinox

Sep 22 2021

Blenheim Palace is marking the official start of autumn on Wednesday by showcasing a collection of 18th century telescopes, scientific instruments and handwritten astronomical observations belonging to George Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough.

A keen amateur astronomer, the Duke had an observatory built at the Palace, and shared his passion with King George III, who had a 10ft telescope made for him by Court Astronomer William Herschel – the man who discovered Uranus.

In addition to three telescopes owned by the Duke, the new exhibition also features his brass orrery, a mechanical model of the solar system, and a series of handwritten manuscripts on astronomy.

The Duke’s interests included meteorology and there is also slim volume containing his observations and recording of rainfall at Blenheim, a practice which continues at the Palace to this day.

The autumn equinox, which can occur any time between 21st and 24th September, marks the time when day and night are of roughly equal length.

It also signals when the northern hemisphere begins to tilt away from the sun, resulting in less direct sunlight and cooling temperatures.

The temporary display is located in the China Anteroom within the Palace and also features two portraits of the 4th Duke.

Home to the Dukes of Marlborough since 1705, Blenheim Palace was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

Set in over 2,000 acres of ‘Capability’ Brown landscaped parkland and designed by
Vanbrugh in the Baroque style, it was financed by Queen Anne, on behalf of a grateful nation, following the first Duke of Marlborough’s triumph over the French in the War of the Spanish Succession.

Today it houses one of the most important and extensive collections in Europe, which includes portraits, furniture, sculpture and tapestries.

Blenheim Palace is also the birthplace of one of Britain’s most famous leaders, Sir Winston Churchill, and it was his father who described the vista on entering the Estate from the village of Woodstock as the ‘finest view in England’.

Issued on behalf of Blenheim Palace. For more information please contact Samantha Vaughan on 07469 129743 or or Niamh O’Sullivan at NO’