12 May Winchcombe Meteorite
Landing again soon, The Winchcombe Meteorite! It is unusual for Winchcombe to make the national news, let alone international media and TV, but the Winchcombe Meteorite’s rendezvous with the tarmac driveway of the Wilcock family’s home, has achieved that.
The Wilcock’s may have experienced a slight disturbance in the night on 28 February 2021, but that was nothing to the media maelstrom which followed. The television cameras of BBC, ITV and Sky were roaming the streets of Winchcombe, looking for more news items on what was famously initially described as the “discarded contents of a BBQ tray”. Subsequently it became clear that the meteorite was black scientific gold.
Cathryn, Rob and Hannah have presented their and the meteorite story in such and engaging and friendly way, not only on the BBC news, but also on Countryfile and subsequently on 2 American TV shows including the BBC. They are now experienced media presenters in their own right.
So what next for the Winchcombe Meteorite? Well, thanks to the incredible generosity of the Wilcock family, they have donated the main find to the Natural History Museum, whose expert scientists are already undertaking further study.
But in addition, Rob, Cathryn and Hannah wanted to share the meteorite with the local communities, and so they have also donated pieces to Winchcombe Museum and to the Wilson Gallery.
The Trustees of the Museum are extremely grateful to the Wilcock family for this wonderful gift. We hope to do our best to interpret and display it in the best possible way. We are proud of our achievement in hosting many important examples of Winchcombe history in the Museum, and the pieces of Winchcombe Meteorite will form an extremely important addition to the collections.
Their express wish is that the local museums and Natural History Museum work together (with local schools in particular) to share as widely as possible the scientific significance and relevance of the Winchcombe Meteorite. The meteorite pieces may be relatively small, but to borrow from Neil Armstrong, they represent a giant scientific leap in our potential understanding of our Universe and how it came about.
Winchcombe Museum is delighted to have been donated 3 pieces by the Wilcocks, and to help with this educational opportunity, which Cathryn, as a primary school teacher, is particularly keen to focus on.
As you may recollect, the meteorite is older than Earth itself, and may well hold clues to the origin of our Universe and indeed how life itself in its manifest forms started. Whilst Winchcombe’s own 5,000 year history is impressive in UK terms, adding another 4.67 Billion years (as represented by the meteorite) to the tally makes Winchcombe truly unique.
The pieces are being prepared by the Natural History Museum for us to display. We are consulting with them about what kind of display cabinet is most appropriate, as the environment will need to be kept very dry. The pieces are too fragile to be handled, so they will need to be specially mounted. We may need help with the financial cost of this special cabinet.
Of the 3 pieces Professor Sara Russell of NHM tells me that “one of which we will CT scan and one of which we will make into a polished section for element mapping”.
As part of the educational remit for the meteorite, we are discussing obtaining display and other material from NHM, so that our own display can be made as attractive and informative as possible.
This will help us in assisting with the educational programmes which the Wilcock family will be developing in conjunction with NHM and ourselves. We are in the process of setting up a steering group, to act as a co-ordination point with the local schools and the Museums and of course Cathryn, Rob and Hannah Wilcock.
Winchcombe Museum is keeping in close touch with the Natural History Museum, as they develop their own plans for exhibiting in London later this month. Our plans for opening Winchcombe Museum are on hold, whilst we work out what to do about the ceiling of the Museum, which is in urgent need of repair. We expect to be able to give more news in the very near future, whilst we evaluate the options.
We expect to have a great display for the Meteorite, and are working also towards transforming the main Museum room as well. We welcome help and support in developing these plans, and we will be inviting Community involvement in this from all sectors, including young people. Our Winchcombe past may now (thanks to the Wilcock family) be 4.67 Billion years in the making, but the young people today are the future of all of us.
Michael Dufton – Chair
Winchcombe Town Trust and Museum