Orwell Astronomical Society (Ipswich)

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An Unusual Request

20210814_Ben+Bella_3_annotated.png The happy couple!

20210814_Ben+Bella_2.jpg Ben and Bella.

20210814_Ben+Bella_1.jpg Bill, Paul, Ben and Bella.

20230708_wedding.jpg The wedding.

We have hosted many things at Orwell Park Observatory, from picnics to scout investitures, but the request received towards the end of July 2021 was probably the most unusual. A young man, Ben, enquired whether it would be possible to visit with his girlfriend, Bella, and to propose marriage to her while they were there! The couple’s first date had been at the Royal Greenwich Observatory, hence the request to become engaged at Orwell Park Observatory.

The three week timescale that Ben requested was problematic. Due to the pandemic, the Observatory had not been opened for eighteen months, other than for occasional inspection visits, and, as a result, the walls in the equatorial room had been colonised by mould and the transit chamber was in an even worse state. Dust and cobwebs were everywhere and the posters in the belvedere had been blown all over the floor. Matters were compounded by ongoing repairs to the balcony doors by contractors employed by the School!

The first task was to seek permission for the event from the School, together with clearance for working parties to restore the décor to a level of respectability before the day of the Proposal. Permission was granted and two teams spent the weekend before the big day cleaning, dusting, sweeping and repairing. Thanks to everyone who heeded the call and made such a difference!

The day of the Proposal dawned, Saturday 14 August. Bill Barton and I met Ben's mother and sister at midday to decorate the equatorial room with flowers prior to the visit by Ben and Bella. At 2.00pm we met Ben and Bella and began the visit. The first challenge was to explain the presence of the flowers in the equatorial room. I said that following the cleaning on the preceding weekend, everyone had agreed to make the Observatory as welcoming as possible. I think I got away with it! The next challenge was to remember the usual historical discourse concerning the history of the Observatory: this proved a little tricky as it had been a year and a half since I had last hosted a guided tour, but both my memory and my patter soon returned.

As usual the tour ended after an explanation of the transit telescope. I then asked if Ben and Bella had any questions: this was the cue for Ben. Out came the ring and down he went on one knee. He asked the question and... after a moment or two (Bella was in shock!) received a reply in the affirmative.

OASI wishes Ben and Bella every happiness for their future together.


A happy postscript ensued some two years later when, on 08 July 2023, Ben and Bella were married. They kindly provided a photo and a note of thanks to OASI.


Paul Whiting, FRAS