News & Events

Jodrell’s visitor centre reaches for the stars

20 Jan 2014

Discovery Centre
The Planet Pavilion, constructed in 2011, is one of two current buildings at the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre. Credit: The University of Manchester.

The award-winning Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre looks set to expand thanks to a £250,000 donation by the Wolfson Foundation.

The Discovery Centre has proved a huge hit with visitors to the University of Manchester’s world-famous Jodrell Bank Observatory since opening in 2011, attracting more than 140,000 people last year alone.

But with the Centre’s schools education programme often oversubscribed and capacity stretched generally, bosses have been keen to explore how visitor numbers can be increased.

The Wolfson Foundation grant will pay towards a new Star Pavilion to complement the existing Planet and Space Pavilions.

“Visitor numbers to the Discovery Centre have exceeded all expectations, particularly for educational school visits, leading to pressure on current facilities,” said Centre Director Dr Teresa Anderson.
“The Star Pavilion will provide an outstanding and much-needed extension to the new science outreach facilities and nearly double our capacity for school visits, as well as providing more hands-on science for all our visitors.”

The Star Pavilion will be a single-storey, fully accessible building, situated adjacent to and designed to complement the existing Discovery Centre buildings. It will provide the following features:

The overall project, which has also received funding from the University, includes an extension to the highly popular café in the Planet Pavilion to provide cover for the decked, outdoor terrace and increase seating capacity.

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation, said: “Jodrell Bank remains an inspiration and the Wolfson Foundation is delighted to support the Discovery Centre in its important work – often sparking an interest in the natural world and science that lasts a lifetime.”

Plans for the new Star Pavilion have been submitted and, if approved, building work is due to start in the Spring.


The Discovery Centre currently has four school group visits a day during busy periods, providing capacity for up to 18,000 school pupils (Key Stage 1 to 4 and A Level) each academic year. Its educators offer a lively and engaging programme linked to the national curriculum, which has received extremely positive feedback from visiting schools. Activities include the Discovery Centre’s pop-up planetarium and hands-on workshops, such as building a Mars Rover or discovering the electromagnetic spectrum.

The schools programme is currently delivered in the Space Pavilion using its Events Space for larger groups and an Education Space for smaller parties, including A level sessions. The limited space available restricts the number of groups that can be accommodated, so the new Star Pavilion will greatly enhance the Centre’s educational facilities.

The Planet and Space Pavilions opened in 2011 following successful funding bids to the Northwest Regional Development Agency and the European Regional Development Fund.

Since opening the Discovery Centre has won:

About the Wolfson Foundation:

For more information contact:

Aeron Howarth
Media Relations Officer
Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences
The University of Manchester
Tel: 0161 275 8387