£3m pledge by Peter Harrison Foundation secures re-development of Royal Observatory, Greenwich

The National Maritime Museum (NMM) is delighted to announce it has raised the full £15 million required for the Royal Observatory Greenwich redevelopment, following a £3 million pledge from the Peter Harrison Foundation which will ensure the project's completion on time by spring 2007.

The donation to the Royal Observatory Greenwich Time and Space Project was made possible through the Peter Harrison Foundation 'Opportunities through Education' programme and is the largest single donation made by a private individual to the NMM since that of the Museum's founder, Sir James Caird.

In recognition of the Foundation's support, the Museum has announced the futuristic educational planetarium at the heart of the project will be named 'The Peter Harrison Planetarium'.

The inclined cone of the new planetarium is expected to be a design highlight of the project. It will be clad in bronze and the geometry of the cone reflects basic astronomical ideas: it is tilted at 51.5 degrees (the latitude of Greenwich) so that it points to the North Star, the reflexive disc at right angles to this is then aligned with the celestial equator and the vertical north edge marks the zenith.

Along with the new, 120-seat planetarium, the Time and Space Project will provide new galleries, a new science and astronomy education centre and a working horology centre to ensure a spectacular and stimulating learning environment. The redevelopment will revitalize the site’s fine 1890s South Building and open up a third of the site previously inaccessible to visitors, almost doubling in size the Observatory areas open to the public. By greatly enhancing visitor and learning facilities, the project will provide Observatory visitors with a 21st-century exploration of the night sky.

The Museum is also pleased to confirm Lloyd's Register Educational Trust have donated £1 million towards the Time and Space Project for the Observatory redevelopment. This brings the total amount raised to £15 million, including pledges by The Heritage Lottery Fund, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council, Millennium Commission, the Wolfson Foundation, the Garfield Weston Foundation and private donors and public donations through the Museum's Universal Appeal which was launched in May 2004.

The Time and Space Project is in response to public demand. Visitor numbers to the Observatory have never been greater and the existing site is stretched to capacity.

The first phase of the redevelopment will open in March 2006 with six new galleries and a working horology centre following a refurbishment of Flamsteed House, the Observatory's oldest building, constructed in 1675. This expansion will allow the Museum to double the number of timekeepers and other objects on display in these galleries, including many pieces that have never before been seen by the public. The second phase, including the new planetarium and education centre, will open in spring 2007.

Director of the National Maritime Museum, Roy Clare, said:

Peter Harrison has made a commitment to the National Maritime Museum on a scale unprecedented since the Museum opened 70 years ago. We are all extremely grateful that he has backed our imaginative project in such a wholehearted manner. Peter Harrison's generosity is matched by his deep interest in Britain's maritime past and by his passion for navigation and seamanship, skills that lie at the heart and soul of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. Together with the other principal funders, such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Millennium Commission, the Weston Foundation, the Wolfson Foundation, the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council and Lloyd’s Register Educational Trust, our financial supporters have expressed confidence in us as a team and are enabling us to meet public expectations for the world's most famous observatory. We extend our warmest gratitude to Peter Harrison and to each one of these organizations and also to the many scores of people who have contributed to the hugely successful Appeal chaired by Peter Snow. The project is now well underway and the result will be the most exciting and compelling series of galleries and experiences ever opened in London. We look forward to interpreting even more of our collections and to delivering a new range of services for the public, with various aspects becoming available progressively during the coming year or so.

Peter Harrison commented:

I am delighted that, through the Peter Harrison Foundation, we have been able to make possible the construction of this new planetarium as part of the National Maritime Museum's Time and Space Project. This state of the art, innovative planetarium will provide a remarkable educational tool for generations of future visitors to Greenwich - and will enable them to see for themselves the sky and the heavens that have so often inspired me while sailboat racing and navigating across the oceans.

Universal Appeal Chairman, Peter Snow, said:

This is one of the most adventurous undertakings in the 330 year history of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. Our ambition is to create a spectacular new environment in which more and more people can appreciate the wonders of time and space.

David Moorhouse, Executive Chairman of Lloyds Register said

Lloyds Register Educational Trust is delighted to be supporting the Time and Space Project with a £1million donation. The Lloyds Register Education Centre will be a centre of excellence for science education, allowing increased and more diverse audiences to benefit from an inspiring and engaging learning environment at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

While the redevelopment is underway, the Royal Observatory remains open to the public as usual, but its educational programmes have transferred to the main National Maritime Museum building, where a new 'Discovery Room' has been created for schools' visits. The Museum is also currently operating a temporary, digital planetarium featuring both pre-recorded and live commentary.

- Ends -

Notes to Editors

1. The Royal Observatory, Greenwich, with the 17th-century Queen's House, is part of the National Maritime Museum, situated within the 200 acres of Greenwich Royal Park, all being part of the UNESCO-inscribed Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site.

2. Designed by Christopher Wren, the Observatory is home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian and one of the most important historic scientific sites in the world. Since its founding in 1675, Greenwich has been at the centre of the measurement of time and space. Visitors can stand in both the eastern and western hemispheres simultaneously by placing their feet either side of the Prime Meridian line. Today the galleries describe the achievements of the early astronomers, explain the history of the search for longitude at sea and tell the story of precision timekeeping. These stories contain many cross-references to related displays in the National Maritime Museum itself, where the focus is on human endeavour at sea and in ships. A direct replica of John Harrison’s H4, the K1 timekeeper was used on Cook’s second and third voyages of discovery to test the effectiveness of Harrison’s inventions. K1 is one of several time pieces currently on display in the Museum’s Oceans of Discovery gallery.

3. The Peter Harrison Foundation was founded by Mr Peter Robert Harrison in April 1999. Peter Harrison was born in Cheshire. After leaving school at 16, he qualified as a chartered accountant in 1959. His early business career included appointments with the Ford Motor Company, Firth Cleveland and Crest Nicholson Group PLC. Peter Harrison acquired Chernikeeff in 1978 and, as Chairman and Chief Executive, he developed it into the largest privately-held computer networking and internet integration company in the UK. The donation to the Royal Observatory Greenwich Time and Space Project was made possible through the Harrison Foundation 'Opportunities through Education' programme.

4. Lloyd’s Register aims to be the preferred global provider of risk management solutions to enhance our clients' quality, safety, environmental and business performance. Through its constitution, Lloyd’s Register is directed to ‘advance public education within engineering and technological disciplines’, which is accomplished through the Lloyd’s Register Educational Trust. The education centre at the south end of the site will be known as The Lloyd’s Register Education Centre in recognition of its support for the Observatory re-development.

5. The Royal Observatory, Greenwich has received more than 800,000 visitors from across Britain and all around the world in the past 12 months, a figure that is increasing at more than 6% per year.

6. The Universal Appeal Board consists of:

  • Peter Snow (Chairman)
  • Prof (S) Jocelyn Bell Burnell CBE FRS FRSE
  • Prof John Brown (Astronomer Royal for Scotland)
  • Dr M C Faulkes
  • Sir David Hardy
  • Prof Lisa Jardine CBE
  • George Magan
  • Sir Patrick Moore CBE FRS
  • Prof Colin Pillinger CBE FRS
  • Libby Purves OBE
  • Sir Martin Rees (Former Astronomer Royal)
  • Patricia Rothman
  • Dava Sobel
  • Lord Tanlaw FRAS FBHI
  • Prof Kathryn Whaler FRSE.

Issued November 2005 by the National Maritime Museum Press Office.

For further information or images, please contact:

Sheryl Twigg, Gaby Wilson or Lisa Pender
National Maritime Museum Press Office
Tel: 020 8312 6790/6732/6545
Mob: 07903 547 268
E-mail: press@rmg.co.uk