Jodrell Bank Observatory
Jodrell Bank Observatory is part of the Tentative list of UK in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.
Click here for a short description of the site, as delivered by the state party.
- ●● Tentative
The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.
Hubert Austria 17-Oct-17
When we planned our trip through Wales and Central England in May and June 2017 we were not aware of the fact that the Jodrell Bank Observatory would be the next UK nomination, aiming for inscription in 2019. In hindsight, it was a good idea when that spontaneously decided to make a detour to the Cheshire East district, a few miles south of Manchester.
Although I have a soft spot for technical and scientific sites, I did not know much about the observatory prior to our visit. Except of the entry on the tentative list, I knew Jodrell Bank only because it is mentioned in the novel "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams (the telescope is also shown in the film adaption).
Jodrell Bank is home of the Lovell Telescope, a steerable radio telescope with a diameter of 76 metres. When it was built in 1957, it was the largest of its kind in the world. Today, it is the third largest steerable radio telescope. The Lovell Telescope is the main sight at Jodrell Bank. There is a semicircular path around the telescope, close to the outer rail on which the telescope is moved, so the mechanics of the structure and the supporting towers are well visible. Information panels explain how the telescope works and what it is used for. On our visit the parabolic antenna was aligned towards the zenith, so we could only see the outside of the bowl (photo).
More information on astronomy and the research at Jodrell Bank is provided by the exhibition at the Star Pavilion. The Lovell Telescope was used to track American and Soviet space probes, like the Sputnik 1, the first artificial earth satellite and the first space probes that flew to Mars and Venus. The first gravitational lenses have been discovered there; pulsars, quasars and distant galaxies were investigated, and it was involved in the SETI project (search for extraterrestrial intelligence). Seems to be sufficient reasons to justify OUV. And it is still in use today.
The exhibition is well presented and interesting for both children and adults. There are several interactive exhibits and hands-on experiments. I liked the outdoor exhibits explaining physical principles, e.g. the Whispering Dishes. I suppose that school classes are frequent visitors. There is a glass-walled café with view to the telescope and a souvenir shop in the entrance building, a third pavilion is for events and meetings. So far, there are no guided tours for individual visitors, but maybe this will be offered in the future.
The observatory is located about 30 kilometers south of Manchester and only a few kilometers from the M6, approximately equidistant from the WHS Liverpool, Pontcysyllte and Derwent Valley. We spent about two hours at the site including the exhibition.
The comparison with similar properties in the T-list description on the WHC website is rather sparse and I am not an expert in this field, so I can not assess the significance of the site and whether it is outstanding compared to other radio telescopes. However, it seems that the Jodrell Bank Observatory contributed significantly to astrophysical research and unmanned spaceflight.
In my opinion, it would be a worthy addition to the World Heritage list, it would fill two gaps: scientific sites and modern heritage after 1950.