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The Isle of Wight branch of the Campaign for Real Ale

Brisbane Pillar

by Rob Marshall

Sir Thomas Brisbane lived for a while in Ventnor in the mid ninetieth century.Brisbane Pillar A keen astronomer, he applied to the authorities for permission to place a pillar on the Ventnor esplanade. It was to have a dual function, the first to establish by astronomical observation, the exact global position of a site in Ventnor. The second aim was to denote, in conjunction with stone markings, an accurate indication of the exact time at noon each sunny day. Permission was given in 1851 and the pillar with its capping metal gnomon is there till this day. Modern technology has rendered this monument obsolete but in the days before radio time checks existed it would have been of great value to the town. Using only the chronometers available to him, his latitude and longitude position is remarkably close to the Global Position figures available today.

Sir Thomas had an interesting career. A Scottish landowner, he had enlisted in the British army and served under the Duke of Wellington in the Spanish Peninsular War with the rank of Brigade Commander. In 1821 he went to Australia as Governor of New South Wales. When the neighbouring state of Queensland was established, the capital, Brisbane was named after him. He is remembered in Australia as a gifted astronomer and the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium which he founded still bears his name