Barwell meteorite anniversary: Call for stone sculpture

Piece of Barwell meteorite
Image caption Pieces of Barwell meteorite can fetch £65 a gram with collectors

A stone sculpture should be erected to commemorate a meteorite which hit the UK on Christmas Eve 50 years ago, campaigners have said.

The meteorite, which was the size of a "Christmas turkey", exploded into thousands of pieces over Barwell, Leicestershire, on Christmas Eve, 1965.

It was the biggest recorded meteorite to hit the UK.

Graham Ensor, who was nine years old at the time, said a permanent memorial would inspire future astronomers.

Barwell Parish Council said it supports the idea and has applied for funding.

Fifty years ago, eyewitnesses described seeing a "brilliant fireball" and hearing a "tremendous bang" when the meteorite broke up.

The village was strewn with bits of the space rock and meteorite hunters soon gathered to search for a souvenir.

Mr Ensor, from the British and Irish Meteorite Society, lived about 10 miles (16 km) from where the meteorite fell.

He said: "It was the largest [meteorite] fall in Britain and ought to be commemorated.

Image copyright Graham Ensor
Image caption Graham Ensor with a piece of meteorite he found in a US desert

"There's nothing in Barwell [to mark it] but residents are all passionate about it and it would be good to inspire the youngsters."

He said memorial plans had "progressed" following an event in Barwell marking the 50th anniversary.

The former art teacher, who has one of the largest private collections of meteorites in the country, also said shards of the Barwell rock were yet to be found.

"There's a good chance whatever is lying around will be in good condition but recognising it [after all this time] won't be easy."

Mr Ensor said he would like a stone sculpture installed in the field where much of the meteorite fell.

A Barwell Parish Council spokesman said they were "hopeful" of securing a grant from the county council to erect a memorial at a suitable site.

The Barwell meteorite 'gold rush'

Image caption Meteorite hunters in Barwell days after the impact

The Barwell meteorite exploded into thousands of pieces, hitting cars, roofs, fields and driveways.

Residents recalled stepping over bits of rock on their way to a carol service and some described the shards as "red hot".

Meteorite hunters soon arrived in the village, including the late Sir Patrick Moore.

Speaking to the BBC in 2005, he said: "I tramped around, I found [a piece of meteorite], recognised it straight away and then took it to the museum and said 'here you are'."

But the museum told him to hang on to it as they had plenty already, he said.

Annie Platts sold her own piece for £39.50 (about £700 in 2015) 50 years ago and went on holiday with the proceeds, but some chunks can now fetch thousands of pounds.

Josh Barker, from the National Space Centre, said bits of the meteorite, which together weighed about 50 lbs (22.6 kg), are prized items among collectors.

He said they can sell for about £65 a gram and it is largely due to the amazing story behind it and the rarity of the event.

Bits of it are still being found in guttering decades after and the search continues for more of the rock.

Related Topics

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites