From the Archives…

A key part of our First Light Project is about bringing the story of Jodrell Bank to life through our archives. Visitors to the new heritage exhibition will be able to explore a wealth of historic material: photos of the site in the early days (what the local community named ‘the Fairground’), logbooks from big discoveries in radio astronomy, correspondence covering the critical years of telescope construction, recently released material revealing Jodrell’s role in the cold war, and audio and video clips that take you right into the control room at key moments of the space race.

Jodrell Bank ephemera is held in archive collections around the country, but our official archive is in the Special Collections at the University of Manchester Library. This is a vast collection, some 2000 files, many of which contain hundreds of documents. Our Heritage Officer Hannah has the daunting task of researching it: ‘I think I know the history of Jodrell Bank quite well, but every time I open a file from the archive I discover something new – a new perspective, an unexpected connection, or an intriguing segue in the story. I really hope that we can give visitors to the exhibition this same thrill of discovery’.

For example, when the Jodrell Engagement Team visited the John Rylands Library earlier this year to look through the collection for themselves, they discovered that at school Bernard Lovell wasn’t the star physics pupil they had imagined him to be…

Kingswood Grammar School report, Autumn term, 1925: young Bernard achieves 78 in Chemistry, 78 in Botany, but just 38 in Physics: ‘Capable of doing much better’.

His grades did improve as his school years went on, but the Headmaster’s comment in the Spring term of 1931 seems to summarise Lovell’s approach to his schooling: ‘Should do well, but must definitely decide not to think of cricket when he is doing mathematics and science’.

As it happens, Lovell never did stop thinking about cricket whilst doing maths and science, but that’s a story for another day…