Jodrell Bank Observatory becomes UNESCO World Heritage Site

Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire has been named as the UK’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognising the Observatory's role in transforming our understanding of the Universe.  The Observatory becomes the UK’s 32nd site to be added to the prestigious list alongside international sites such as Machu Picchu, the Great Wall of China  and the Taj Mahal.  

Lovell Telescope with cirrus cloud. Credit: Anthony Holloway
The Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank. Credit: Anthony Holloway.

Jodrell Bank Observatory, 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 telescopes and 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 works together with astronomers and telescopes across Europe and beyond in the European VLBI Network. Jodrell Bank also 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, its work in tracking spacecraft in the early space race, and its research into topics such as 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.

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 continues to inspire young scientists and astronomers all over the world."

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."

Professor Michael Garrett, Director of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics and Sir Bernard Lovell Chair of Astrophysics, said:

"We’re very proud that the contribution of the Observatory and its staff, have been recognized at the very highest level.

We continue to explore the Universe with e-MERLIN and our participation in the European VLBI Network, and we look forward to playing a major role in the scientific exploitation of the Square Kilometre Array."

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.

Notes to editors

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is responsible for meeting the requirements of the World Heritage Convention within the UK. This includes maintaining and reviewing the Tentative List of sites, formally nominating new sites, and ensuring existing sites are conserved, protected and given a life in the community.

The University of Manchester was awarded £12.1million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and a further £4m from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in 2018 for a new Discovery Centre at Jodrell Bank, Cheshire. Named ‘First Light at Jodrell Bank’ the project is creating a spectacular new gallery building to promote and celebrate the observatory’s world-leading place in the history of astronomy.

The other UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the UK are:


·         Blaenavon Industrial Landscape (2000)

·         Blenheim Palace (1987)

·         Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine's Abbey, and St Martin's Church (1988)

·         Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd (1986)

·         City of Bath (1987)

·         Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape (2006)

·         Derwent Valley Mills (2001)

·         Durham Castle and Cathedral (1986)

·         Frontiers of the Roman Empire (1987,2005,2008)

·         Gorham's Cave Complex (2016)

·         Heart of Neolithic Orkney (1999)

·         Historic Town of St George and Related Fortifications, Bermuda (2000)

·         Ironbridge Gorge (1986)

·         Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City (2004)

·         Maritime Greenwich (1997)

·         New Lanark (2001)

·         Old and New Towns of Edinburgh (1995)

·         Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey including Saint Margaret’s Church (1987)

·         Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal (2009)

·         Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (2003)

·         Saltaire (2001)

·         Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites (1986)

·         Studley Royal Park including the Ruins of Fountains Abbey (1986)

·         The English Lake District (2017)

·         The Forth Bridge (2015)

·         Tower of London (1988)



·         Dorset and East Devon Coast (2001)

·         Giant's Causeway and Causeway Coast (1986)

·         Gough and Inaccessible Islands (1995,2004)

·         Henderson Island (1988)


·         St Kilda (1986,2004, 2005)


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