What’s in a name? The origins of ‘Jodrell Bank’

We are often asked, “why the place name Jodrell Bank?” and the Jodrell Bank Twitter account did answer this question quite succinctly in February 2009 (see above).

Bank is the Cheshire name for a small rise or hill and Jodrell is an evolution of the surname Jauderell and is the name of a small area of land near the Cheshire village of Lower Withington previously owned and named after William Jauderell (whose name, over the centuries, changed to Jodrell). Jauderell was an archer known to have fought with the Black Prince (Edward, Prince of Wales) at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356.

The Jodrell dynasty: military heroes over the centuries. Photograph by James Middleton via <a href="http://www.whaleybridge.com/2012/11/the-agincourt-war-memorial-in-st-james/" target="_blank">http://www.whaleybridge.com/2012/11/the-agincourt-war-memorial-in-st-james/</a>.
The Jodrell dynasty: military heroes over the centuries. Photograph by James Middleton via WhaleyBridge.com at http://www.whaleybridge.com/2012/11/the-agincourt-war-memorial-in-st-james/.  Image used with kind permission.

The battle was one of the three great English victories of the Hundred Years’ War between England and France. Jauderell was known as “the archer” and died in 1375. A memorial to him and some of his descendants can be found at St James’ church, Taxal. The memorial also traces the evolution of the spelling of the family surname.

Over 100 years later in the reign of King Henry VII, Roger Jodrell of Yeardsley acquired estates at Twemlow by marriage, and the family then made their home on the Twemlow estate. In the eighteenth century, the Twemlow estate passed to the Leigh family of West Hall, High Legh. The heiress to the Yeardsley estate, Frances Jodrell (1752–1828), married John Bower of Manchester in 1775, who then assumed the surname Jodrell.

Photograph taken by Bernard Lovell on his first day at Jodrell Bank in December 1945. Image credit: The University of Manchester.
Photograph taken by Bernard Lovell on his first day at Jodrell Bank in December 1945. Image credit: The University of Manchester.

In 1939, the original eleven-acre Jodrell Bank site consisting of three fields now at the southern part of the much larger site was purchased by the University of Manchester’s Botany Department. The site was purchased from local farmer Ted Moston and not, as some sources claim, from the Leigh family mentioned above who owned a local ‘country estate’ including Jodrell Hall which is now the Terra Nova independent / prep school. The correct details of the transaction are recorded in Bernard Lovell’s The Story of Jodrell Bank where it is also recorded that Moston helped out with Lovell’s early work on the site including using his tractor to assist with moving Lovell’s equipment on to the site in December 1945. Prior to purchase by the University of Manchester, the site was working farmland and the site still follows many of the original field boundaries.

The huts at Jodrell Bank in 2002. Image credit: University of Manchester.
The huts at Jodrell Bank in 2002. Image credit: University of Manchester.

The Jodrell Bank site was used as experimental grounds by the University of Manchester’s Botany Department from 1939 through to the 1990s, although regular botany activity on the site probably ceased before the 1990s.  Botany experiments at the site began with experiments with fruit and vegetables and it was to this small site that Bernard Lovell arrived with his ex-Army radar equipment in December 1945 and begin his early research at the site.

In The Story of Jodrell Bank (1968), Lovell describes the first day at Jodrell Bank in early December 1945 as follows:

… in early December my trailers were being towed by an Army convoy along the road south from Manchester to Jodrell Bank.  The Army deposited me and the trailers and departed.  I was at Jodrell Bank, with two wooden huts full of fertilizers and spades, and two friendly gardeners – Alf Dean and Frank Foden – no electric power within miles, and in thick fog and hard frost.

… In one of the huts there was a coke stove before which we thawed, brewed tea and ate our packed lunches.  So, Jodrell Bank began.  These are the answers to the frequent question ‘Why did you pick on Jodrell Bank?’  It picked me; the gardens, the people, the isolation were irresistible.   For a short time, alas a very short time, I was happy and content with the trailers, Alf and Frank, and the coke stove.

Further information

Jodrell Bank Observatory, University of Manchester: The History of Jodrell Bank

Lovell, Bernard (1968). Story of Jodrell Bank. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0192176196 (hardback)

Author: Dr Elizabeth Bruton is Heritage Officer at Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre.