Jodrell Bank visit to Sir Bernard Lovell Academy, Oldland Common

In early October 2016, three members of the Jodrell Bank Discovery team – education team leaders Julia and Jamie and Heritage Officer Liz – travelled down to Oldland Common, near Bristol, to assist with preparations for a blue plaque on the childhood home of founder and first director of Jodrell Bank observatory, Bernard Lovell.

We had a tour around Oldland Common with the members of the Bitton Parish Council leading the Blue Plaque project, where they showed us local landmarks connected with Bernard Lovell’s early life at Oldland Common including his childhood home (where the Blue Plaque will go up) as well as the Methodist Chapel where Bernard’s father was a preacher.

Rose Cottage - Bernard Lovell's childhood home, October 2016.
Rose Cottage – Bernard Lovell’s childhood home, October 2016.

The following day we delivered an education event and demonstration to local primary and secondary school students at Sir Bernard Lovell Academy and assisted with the students’ exhibition displays, which form part of the wider Blue Plaque project.

Bernard Lovell was born on 31 August 1913 to Gilbert Lovell and Emily Laura Adams. His childhood home in Oldland Common was Rose Cottage where his parents moved when they married in 1901. This will be the site of the new Blue Plaque which is scheduled to be officially opened in November 2016.

The Methodist Chapel where Bernard Lovell played the organ and his father preached, Oldland Common, October 2016.
The Methodist Chapel where Bernard Lovell played the organ and his father preached, Oldland Common, October 2016.

Bernard’s father was a Methodist minister and his mother was a keen cricketer and a member of one of the first all-female cricket teams in Britain. Both parents were keen musicians and the young Bernard (known to his family as ‘Lovell junior’) inherited his parents’ interests, in particular cricket and music. Bernard learned to play the piano and later the organ and by 13 years of age he was playing the organ in the Methodist chapel in Oldland Common where his father preached and where Bernard attended church.

The following day we delivered a multi-part education event and demonstration to nearly 200 primary and secondary school students from local schools at Sir Bernard Lovell Academy. In the first morning session, Julia and Jamie delivered “Bernard Lovell & the story of Jodrell Bank”, a presentation which used demonstrations and audience participation to tell the story of Bernard Lovell and Jodrell Bank, beginning with Bernard Lovell’s early life in Oldland Common through to his wartime radar work and early work at Jodrell Bank and finishing up with his legacy at Jodrell Bank in the present day.

Julia and Sir Bernard Lovell Academy headmaster Rupert Maule in the morning session, October 2016.
Julia and Sir Bernard Lovell Academy headmaster Rupert Maule in the morning session, October 2016.

After a break, Liz delivered a short 15-minute presentation on historical research skills – explaining how we learned / researched the content we’d delivered in the first morning session and how these skills could be applied to the students’ exhibition displays. After this, we went around the different pupil groups, assisting them with their exhibition content and answering any questions they had. The morning session was filmed, along with interviews with some of the pupils and Bernard Lovell’s daughter Judy Spence, by a team from ‘BBC Points West’ and was featured on the show later that evening.

Julia and Jamie deliver the afternoon session in one of the science laboratories, Sir Bernard Lovell Academy, October 2016.
Julia and Jamie deliver the afternoon session in one of the science laboratories, Sir Bernard Lovell Academy, October 2016.

In the afternoon, Julia and Jamie delivered a more in-depth and science-focussed session to 30 secondary school pupils in their science laboratory. We began with an interactive recap of the history of Bernard Lovell and Jodrell Bank as about half the pupils had attended the morning session as chaperones for the younger pupils.

After this, we went into further detail about scientific research and discoveries – past and present – which have taken place at Jodrell Bank including early radar astronomy at Jodrell Bank including cosmic rays and meteors; early contributions to radio astronomy; early research into quasars and pulsars; the understanding of the universe; and, last and most definitely not least, Jodrell Bank and the Space Race including the tracking of the Sputnik 1 carrier rocket and the interception by fax machine of the first photographs taken on the lunar surface by the Soviet Luna 9 space module. These topics tied in closely with what these secondary school pupils are studying as well as the KS3 science curriculum.

Julia, Jamie, Liz, Judy Spence, and members of Bitton Parish Council, Sir Bernard Lovell Academy, October 2016.
Julia, Jamie, Liz, Judy Spence, and members of Bitton Parish Council, Sir Bernard Lovell Academy, October 2016.

We very much enjoyed our trip to Oldland Common and meeting some of the people continuing the legacy of Sir Bernard Lovell, as we do at the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre. We wish Bitton Parish Council, all the school pupils and teachers, and all involved the very best of luck with the unveiling of the Blue Plaque, and the creation of the pupils’ exhibition on Sir Bernard’s life. If you’re in the area – make sure you pop along to see it! The exhibition will open at St Anne’s Church Hall in Oldland Common, before moving to the Sir Bernard Lovell Academy.