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Jodrell Bank welcomes Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal in celebration of UNESCO World Heritage status.


Jodrell Bank were honoured to welcome Her Royal Highness

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal visited Jodrell Bank yesterday (Tuesday 30th January) to mark the occasion of Jodrell Bank Observatory being awarded UNESCO World Heritage Status in 2019.

The Princess Royal was welcomed to Jodrell Bank Observatory by the University of Manchester’s President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, before introductions to dignitaries, academics and guests from across the University, the Observatory and representatives of Cheshire East.

Director of Jodrell Bank Centre for Engagement, Professor Teresa Anderson, alongside Associate Director of Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, Professor Tim O’Brien thanked The Princess Royal for her visit, and discussed the decade-long process to achieve UNESCO status and the delight they share in being the first research Observatory to be recognised.

An introduction and overview of the significance of the telescope by Director of Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, Professor Mike Garrett followed. The Princess Royal was then given the opportunity to operate the famous Lovell Telescope from the control panel, under the watchful eye of the gathered academics and telescope controllers. Her Royal Highness also heard about recalled a previous visit to the Observatory by The King, as Prince of Wales, back in 2003.

Professor Philip Diamond, Director-General of the neighbouring SKA Observatory (SKAO) explained the unique significance of having its international headquarters located at Jodrell Bank. A truly global intergovernmental organisation with 16 partner countries, and telescopes in South Africa and Australia, the SKAO’s presence at Jodrell Bank is apt; the home of radio astronomy, now recognised for its global significance by UNESCO.

After signing the Control Room visitors book, Her Royal Highness then participated in a visit to the brand new First Light Pavilion at Jodrell Bank Centre for Engagement. Opened in 2022, with the support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Pavilion includes a Space Dome and the award winning ‘Story of Jodrell Bank’ permanent exhibition. Upon arrival The Princess Royal met with Exhibition staff and admired the surroundings and architecture.

A Royal visit to Jodrell Bank wouldn’t be complete without the planting of a tree in Jodrell’s orchard to mark the occasion. Professor Rothwell addressed the gathered attendees before Her Royal Highness was invited to plant a sapling apple tree, grown from a rather significant seed. The pip originates from the ‘Flower of Kent’; the apple tree within Sir Isacc Newton’s Lincolnshire garden said to have inspired his Theory of Gravity. The pip was then taken on board the International Space Station as part of Astronaut Tim Peake’s mission in 2016, and one of just eight such ‘Space Saplings’ to have been grown in the UK.

President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Manchester, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell said, “We are honoured to welcome Her Royal Highness to Jodrell Bank Observatory. We celebrate this unique achievement at a very special moment for us all, as the University itself celebrates it’s bicentenary this year. At Jodrell, we’re surrounded by world-leading research, and those who strive to inspire the next generation of scientists. The recognition by UNESCO will only serve to cement Jodrell as a centre of excellence and inspiration to many. 

Director of Jodrell Bank Centre for Engagement, Professor Teresa Anderson said, “Her Royal Highness’ visit to Jodrell Bank has showcased what we do really well here. From engaging new audiences with science and heritage, to introducing them to the remarkable home-grown achievements in astrophysics and space exploration. We are delighted to be able to celebrate our UNESCO inception with the Princess Royal and thank her for her continued support.”