Jodrell Bank Observatory: Park Royal Building


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Jodrell Bank, Lower Withington, Macclesfield, SK11 9DL


Ordnance survey map of Jodrell Bank Observatory: Park Royal Building
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Statutory Address:
Jodrell Bank, Lower Withington, Macclesfield, SK11 9DL

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Cheshire East (Unitary Authority)
Lower Withington
National Grid Reference:


Single-storey hut used as a control room, built in 1949 (with small extension built in 1963-64), to house scientific apparatus, laboratories and research offices.

Reasons for Designation

The Park Royal Building, Jodrell Bank Observatory is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Historic interest: as one of the earliest, purpose-built auxiliary buildings at the Observatory built as the control building for the 218ft Transit Telescope, then adapted for use as the control building for its replacement, the Mark II Telescope, the first telescope in the world to be controlled by computer;

* Development of the site: the control building replaced a temporary military vehicle housing equipment and as such demonstrates the more permanent establishment of the Observatory with financial investment in the site infrastructure;

* Group value: the Park Royal Building has a strong functional link with the Mark II Telescope for which it was the control building, and visually with similar huts around ‘The Green’ built to support the scientific research Lovell and his team were undertaking into the new discipline of radio astronomy.


The observatory at Jodrell Bank was one of the earliest planned sites for radio telescopes in the world. As such it had a pivotal role in the development of the new science of radio astronomy which was one of the first steps towards modern Astrophysics, revolutionising our understanding of the Universe. The site was first used for academic purposes in 1939 when the University of Manchester's Botany Department purchased three fields in the Cheshire countryside covering around 11 acres. The earliest use of the site for radio astronomy occurred in December 1945 when Bernard Lovell, who worked for the university’s Physics Department, moved here to escape the radio interference that occurred in Manchester city centre. His first observations used ex-army radar equipment located at the south end of the site, close to two pre-existing botany huts. Subsequently his team expanded northwards with the continuing construction of more permanent buildings, aerials and telescopes. Jodrell Bank’s status as a world-class centre of ongoing scientific research continues to this day with the construction of the global headquarters for the Square Kilometre Array project linking hundreds of telescopes and aerials in South Africa and Western Australia.

In 1946 Lovell acquired former military technology and hardware to aid his research into radar echoes from meteors. This included a military trailer which Lovell described as ‘a large cabin packed with electronic equipment built onto a prime mover which was commonly known in the service as a ‘Park Royal’. The name originated from Park Royal Vehicles Ltd who were the London coach-builders who built the vehicles. When moving the Park Royal to the north end of the site, it became stuck in the mud half-way, where it then remained, determining the siting of several aerials and then the first purpose-built, permanent buildings. In 1947 a 218ft Transit Telescope was built with the size of the bowl determined by the distance between the place where the Park Royal trailer stood and the edge of the field; the receivers were placed in the trailer. In 1949 one of the earliest permanent buildings was constructed close to the trailer specifically to house its apparatus and instantly became known as the Park Royal Building. It is first shown on the 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey map published in 1952. The building was originally the control room for the Transit Telescope which was used to detect radio waves from the Andromeda Galaxy, the first known extragalactic radio source and the remnant of Tycho’s supernova. It also housed the radar transmitter for a Yagi array experiment (date unknown), for the development of electronics equipment, and as offices. When the Mark II Telescope was built in 1962-64 the Park Royal Building was extended with a small, projecting control room added on the south-east side looking towards the telescope, built in 1963-64. It was the first telescope in the world to be controlled by a computer and it is believed that this computer was housed in the Park Royal Building. The extension is first shown on the 1:2500 Ordnance Survey map published in 1969-71. The building was also used over the following decades as research offices and laboratories. At present it is mainly used for storage.

The building was re-roofed in 2016.


Single-storey hut used as a control room, built in 1949 (with small extension built in 1963-64), to house scientific apparatus, laboratories and research offices.

MATERIALS: pre-cast concrete system with concrete portal frames and walls of large, concrete blocks, very shallow-pitched and flat membrane roofs, re-roofed using modern materials in 2016.

PLAN: single-storey, rectangular building sub-divided into a number of rooms with a slightly lower, single-storey, single room extension on the south-east side.

EXTERIOR: the walls are constructed of large, concrete blocks, which also course through to the small extension, now painted with textured paint. The doors and vertical, rectangular windows have pre-cast concrete frames and the majority of windows are multi-paned with galvanised metal frames incorporating side-hung and top-hung opening lights. The north-west long elevation has a wide doorway left of centre with timber double doors with glazed upper lights. To the left is a narrow window, two former doorways, now converted to windows with multi-light timber frames, and a wider window at the left-hand corner. To the right are five windows of varying widths. The south-west end elevation has a doorway with a timber door and four-light upper panel, flanked by two windows to the left separated by a concrete mullion and a single window to the right. The south-east long elevation has a row of seven windows of varying widths, the fifth window now blocked. At the right-hand end is the small, projecting extension. The extension has a large, multi-pane window which wraps round the south, left-hand corner with a chamfered, single-pane with a square corner to the wall beneath. The outer, south-east elevation also has a narrower window to the right. The north-east end elevation has a single window in the return of the extension and a row of three windows in the main building.

INTERIOR: the building has herringbone parquet flooring throughout. The painted, concrete portal frames are visible, dividing the ceilings into bays. The building has a number of rooms opening off an L-shaped corridor. The rooms have flush-faced timber doors with simple, moulded architraves.


Books and journals
Lovell, Bernard, The Story of Jodrell Bank, (1968)
Jodrell Bank Observatory Site Conservation Management Plan Site Gazetteer, December 2014 (final draft) Chris Blandford Associates.
Jodrell Bank Observatory, the University of Manchester, Conservation Management Plan, June 2016, Chris Blandford Associates


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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