This World War Two aircraft hangar dates back to a 1936 Air Ministry 'Bellman' design for a ‘transportable aeroplane shed’. Bellmans were supplied to the RAF and the Ministry of Aircraft Production (MAP) between 1938 and 1940 by manufacturers Head Wrightson & Co. Ltd of Thornaby on Tees.
Some 450 Bellmans were built for the RAF and MAP in the late 1930s and these were the only large hangars of their type available until 1941, but the rapid development of military aircraft by the early 1940s meant that Bellmans soon became too narrow for new aircraft and the larger T.2 hangar type was introduced.
Brooklands Museum’s Bellman was built by the MAP on the Track’s Finishing Straight in late 1940 as one of four identical dispersal hangars for Vickers-Armstrongs. All had a clear internal height of 25ft to accommodate Vickers Wellington and Warwick aircraft. Records state that construction of all four hangars began at the height of the Battle of Britain on 16/9/40, they cost £5,513 each and Vickers took possession of the Finishing Straight hangar around 12/12/40.
Initially the Finishing Straight hangar was used for dispersed final assembly work on the Wellington Mk II bomber and later the Warwick. Access to the aerodrome was along a new taxi-way north of the Paddock connecting the Finishing Straight via the ‘North Bridge’ across the river Wey. This route required removal of the pitched roof of the Paddock’s Shell Pagoda to allow clearance for Wellingtons’ wings when towed from the hangar.
Identified on site plans as building ‘T202’ since 1946, the hangar was used for associated production/repair work on Warwick, Viking and other post-war Vickers aircraft types in the later 1940s and from the early 1950s it also housed a new Vickers Guided Weapons Department.
From the late 1950s it was chiefly used as the ‘mock-up’ hangar where precise replica wooden fuselages of Vanguard, VC10, and BAC One Eleven (variants) airliners were built. The last mock-up was for the ill-fated BAC Three Eleven project cancelled in 1970.
From 1970 until 1987, T202 became a store for the British Aircraft Corporation and then British Aerospace but in 1988 it was used once again as a aircraft hangar with Brooklands Museum’s Roe 1 Biplane and Vickers Wellington exhibits being among the first occupants. It was Listed (Grade 2) in 1999 as a rare surviving example of the taller type of Bellman and notably it retains its original form of corrugated iron sheet cladding.
In February 2015 the Museum received a confirmed grant of £4.681million from the Heritage Lottery Fund for its ‘Brooklands Aircraft Factory & Race Track Revival Project’. This project will transform the Second World War Wellington Hangar into the ‘Brooklands Aircraft Factory’; build a new annexe (the ‘Flight Shed’) to house more of the Museum’s outstanding collection of historic aircraft; and restore the Finishing Straight of the Brooklands Race Track, the world’s first purpose-built motor-racing circuit. The project also aims to inspire current and future generations to embrace science, technology and engineering, and will include a training scheme for volunteers in historic aircraft restoration and a raft of new activities on the Race Track. Work starts in March 2015 with completion of the Aircraft Factory and Flight Shed experiences due in the summer of 2016.
The Hangar will be completely restored on a new site adjacent to its current one, allowing the Finishing Straight of the Race Track to be brought back into use for both motoring and aviation activities. Fittingly, in view of its original purpose, the Hangar itself will be presented as an aircraft factory, its displays showing how aircraft from the earliest biplanes and triplanes to Concorde were designed, built and developed at Brooklands over an 80-year period. The “Factory” will be an interactive learning centre, in which visitors will be able to immerse themselves in the atmosphere of an aircraft manufacturing plant and try for themselves many of the crafts and skills used by thousands of workers in Brooklands’ manufacturing heyday.
In the new adjoining “Flight Shed”, the Museum’s active aircraft such as its Sopwith Camel and Hurricane will be kept ready to roll out onto the refurbished race track for static and taxying demonstrations. In the Flight Shed’s lower floor, Museum volunteers will learn and practice aircraft restoration skills in new workshops, and environmentally controlled, purpose-built storage (the first the Museum has had), will protect Brooklands’ internationally significant archives.