Monday, May 16, 2011

The Barwell meteorite of Christmas 1965

It is Christmas Eve 1965. You are in the large Leicestershire village of Barwell. You see a bright light in the sky. Is it a star showing the birthplace of our Lord?

No, it is the largest meteorite ever to fall to earth in Britain.

As the BBC Inside Out pages tell it:
The village of Barwell near Leicester, was showered in thousands of pieces of what became known as the Christmas meteorite.

From fragments to large chunks Barwell became the target, yet amazingly no-one was injured.

Had the meteorite landed elsewhere, it could easily have been a different story as another Barwell local, Roger Platts explains.

"If it had hit a few seconds later and gone into Leicester at 4.15pm Christmas eve, it would have been a disaster."
At least the meteorite turned out to be something of a goldmine for the village:
As soon as the news broke, Barwell was inundated with meteorite hunters from around the world.

With museums offering money for every piece, the search was on - although not everyone was cashing in.

"Huge sums of money were being paid for fragments of this meteorite," remembers Annie Platts.

"Had we realised we could have been very rich people because we were stumbling around it all on our carol singing trip."

Annie wasn't the only one refraining exchanging meteorite for money.

Astronomer Patrick Moore arrived in Barwell as soon as he heard the news and on finding a lump of the meteorite took it promptly to the local museum.
You can see part of the meteorite that fell on Barwell in the video above. Lembit Opik is 46.

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