Jodrell Bank Observatory named as newest UNESCO World Heritage Site in the UK

Posted 8th Jul 2019

  • Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire has been named as the newest UNESCO World Heritage Site in the UK.
  • The observatory becomes the UK’s 32nd site to be added to the prestigious list.
  • New status recognises Jodrell Bank’s role in transforming our understanding of the Universe.
The 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.

Jodrell Bank, 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.


“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.”


“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.”

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.

Set in rural Cheshire, Jodrell Bank is one of the earliest sites for radio astronomy and the world’s only site with evidence of every stage of the emergence of this new science since 1945. 

It is an icon of world-class science and engineering with a history of tremendous scientific achievements that have revolutionised our understanding of the Universe. The site is home to a vast variety of early scientific equipment, buildings and discoveries such as the Lovell Telescope, the world’s largest telescope in 1957 and the third largest today and a bearing witness of the UK’s pivotal role in radio astronomy. 

But Jodrell Bank is more than just a relic from the post-war flourishing of research technology. It is also a beacon and centre of excellence for world-leading research and education, reminding us that there is far more to the Universe than meets the eye. It is part of one of the UK’s leading universities, the University of Manchester, and hub of the UK’s national array of seven radio telescopes.

And let us remember that, as befits a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Jodrell Bank is a symbol of international collaboration and the exchange of ideas and values. The Observatory cooperates with leading institutions and scientists worldwide to help us all to better understand our place in the Universe through cutting-edge discoveries in astronomy, quantum optics, satellite communications and many other fields. It also welcomes numerous visitors each year to capture their imagination and engage the world with science.

Source: UNESCO Press Release, 08.07.19


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