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Jodrell Bank added to UNESCO World Heritage List

Jodrell Bank has gained Unesco World Heritage status.

The Cheshire observatory becomes the 32nd UNESCO World Heritage Site in the UK and joins the prestigious list alongside international sites such as Machu Picchu, the Great Wall of China  and the Taj Mahal. 

The site, owned by the University of Manchester, is famous as the home of the Lovell Telescope, the world’s third largest steerable radio telescope. Completed in 1957, the dish was the largest of its kind anywhere in the world until 1973 and was the catalyst for the construction of many other large scale satellite dishes.  

The Lovell Telescope’s first act was to track the Soviet Union’s Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite. Today, Jodrell operates the UK’s national e-MERLIN radio telescope and hosts the global headquarters of the Square Kilometre Array, a radio telescope project that will build the world’s largest telescope, comprised of a network of instruments sited in South Africa and Australia. 

The addition of Jodrell Bank to the UNESCO World Heritage List is in recognition of its outstanding scientific heritage including its pioneering role in the development of radio astronomy and its work in tracking spacecraft in the early space race, and its research into quasars, pulsars and gravitational lenses. The site has evidence of every stage of the history of radio astronomy, from its emergence as a new science in the 1940s through to the present day.


Photo: Getty Images

Teresa Anderson, Director of the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre said: “This is wonderful news and a great day in the history of Jodrell Bank. It honours the pioneering work of Sir Bernard Lovell and the early scientists here, together with the world leading research that continues to this day. 

“Receiving this recognition will help us tell their story and the story of the communities connected to the site both across the UK and worldwide.”

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester said: “I’m absolutely delighted to hear that the Jodrell Bank Observatory site has been assigned World Heritage status by UNESCO. This is fitting recognition of the history of science and discovery at Jodrell Bank, and the work that continues today.

“Indeed, the site is fantastic for the University because of its heritage, its teaching and its research, and also because it is a place where many members of the public come to learn and be inspired about science.”

Heritage Minister Rebecca Pow said: “I am delighted that Jodrell Bank has become the UK’s 32nd UNESCO World Heritage Site. The research completed here has transformed our understanding of the universe and it is right that this is recognised.

“Today’s announcement will make sure that this remarkable site will continue to inspire young scientists and astronomers all over the world.”

Councillor Sam Corcoran, Leader of Cheshire East Council said: “I am thrilled that UNESCO has designated Jodrell Bank as a World Heritage Site.  The Observatory, with its iconic Lovell Telescope, has for many years been a defining feature of the Cheshire East landscape and the site continues to attract scientists, students and many visitors to our borough to learn more about science and the cosmos.

“Jodrell Bank, with its discovery centre, gardens and arboretum, is a unique part of Cheshire East’s strong tourism offer, part of a visitor economy already worth £921m. This recognition will put Cheshire East on the global tourism map.

“Jodrell has a unique heritage, but it is also ideally positioned as part of Cheshire East’s strong science economy. In 2015, the Council invested £1m as part of a support package to keep Jodrell Bank at the forefront of global scientific research by retaining the headquarters of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Observatory.

 “We look forward to the new discoveries that Jodrell Bank and the SKA will bring and we will work to maximise the opportunities that this international recognition brings for Cheshire East, our science, technology and visitor economies as well as education and learning in the borough”.

In 2017 the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) increased the Observatory’s recognition in the National Heritage List for England. The Mark II Telescope joined the Lovell Telescope in being listed at Grade I, the highest form of protection, with a further five buildings listed at Grade II. Together, these listings recognised the pivotal role played by the Observatory in the development of the science of radio astronomy, revolutionising our understanding of the universe. 

The decision to add Jodrell Bank Observatory to the UNESCO World Heritage List was taken at the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee in Baku, Azerbaijan.

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