Out of this world find in Southwold

For shoppers browsing antiques in Southwold at the weekend, it was a sight that was simply out of this world.

For amid the clutter of Cornucopia Antiques, and a stark contrast with the nearby Georgian table and brass candlesticks, was a strange spherical object that might easily have started a rumour that aliens had landed.

It caused instant excitement when antiques dealer Andy Clancy explained to quizzical onlookers that the object was in fact the prototype model for Britain's first satellite – UK-1 – which literally launched Britain into the space age in 1962.

The model was dispatched to the US where the American Space Agency NASA used it to build the satellite which was launched – five years after the first Soviet satellite Sputnik – to carry scientific equipment into space for an experiment looking at cosmic rays.

Incredibly, since its return to the UK the wood and metal model had been locked in a garage for four decades at the nearby Halesworth home of the modest, long-since-retired engineer who worked on the project.

Mr Clancy, who runs the shop in Blackmill Road with six other local dealers, said: 'We have done business with the gentleman, who is now in his 80s, before and we were aware of the model's existence, but until now he had wanted to hang on to it.'

Still with its original, battered storage box displaying the name of the company, McMichael, which was commissioned to undertake the work by the Imperial College of Science in London, the model will soon be returning to the capital – to take pride of place at London's Science Museum.

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Mr Clancy, who lives in nearby Wrentham, said: 'I bought it as a decorative item and thought it would look good displayed in a big modern apartment. I was particularly thinking about the people who live in London and have a second home in Southwold.

'But within 10 minutes of me putting it on display, a local architect, Alan Greening, came in and said it deserved to go on display in the Science Museum in South Kensington. Without me knowing he contacted them, and they phoned me up and said they would really like to have it. Apparently, at the moment they only have a 1970s satellite.'

Mr Clancy revealed he was selling it to the museum, which will collect it later this week, at considerably less than his original asking price of �2,500 because he felt it was the right place for it to go.

In the meantime, it is attracting considerable attention in the shop, which is a haunt of such celebrities as Stephen Fry and Twiggy.

'People just stop and stare, and I could have sold it 10 times over,' he said.

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