The Observatory was built in 1808 by Sir Thomas Brisbane. He also built observatories at Parramatta, Australia (1821) and Makerstoun, Kelso (1826). The Largs and Parramatta observatories have been demolished but the Makerstoun Observatory survived and was restored in 1987.
All that remains of the Brisbane Observatory system are the meridian markers and the ruined base of the Observatory in Brisbane Glen.
Three large markers, known locally as "The Three Sisters", are built on top of Greenhill at Halkshill (also known as Astronomer's Hill). The centre marker has a pediment and the outers had uprights on top. They have groves on the top to hold lights at night. A smaller marker is to the south of the Observatory in Brisbane Glen and one to the north (now built into a wall). Brisbane would sight his telescopes on the smaller south marker first to give him the direction of the larger set. The longer distance to the Three Sisters (there was one marker for each of the three major instruments in the Observatory) would give him a more accurate reading to set his telescopes to true south.
The Observatory and meridian markers cost Brisbane £545 to construct and his astronomical instruments were £528 when he bought them in London. A truly expensive hobby. Halkshill was bought from the Brisbane Trustees in 1815 by John Scott of Greenock.
In October 1957, Alex Simpson called for the restoration of the Three Sisters at the Largs Business Club. The previous year he had overseen the conservation of the Prophet's Grave and its transfer to council ownership.
The Three Sisters were gifted to Largs Burgh in 1960 by the Halkshill Estate to enable restoration and maintenance as a place of public interest. They are now the property of North Ayrshire Council.
The Brisbane family home was built in 1636 by the Kelso family and acquired by the Brisbanes in 1671.
Brisbane House remained occupied by the Brisbane family until 1932 when Miss Florence St Aubyn Brisbane died there on 20 September. She was a distant relative and had adopted the name Brisbane to her own St Aubyn.
The house was put on the market but remained unsold and unoccupied until it was purchased by John McKellar Robertson of Noddsdale, Largs in 1938. He had the roof removed to avoid paying rates and in 1939 the house was listed as derelict.
Brisbane House was demolished in 1942 by No. 3 Commando Unit as an exercise when they were training in Largs. All that remains today are some wall fragments and the cellar. However, the front door of Brisbane House has been preserved. In 1939, the building was being vandalised and Mr Robertson employed the firm of Mackie and Fearn of Largs to remove all the timber.
William Mackie saved the door and kept it at the firm's workshop. Later, when Mackie and Feran were closing down, he gave it to Largs Burgh. In 1958, the Provost sent the door to Australia and it is now on display in Brisbane City Hall.
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