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Spectacular new Brooklands Aircraft Factory and Flight Shed opened by Prince Michael of Kent

£8.4million National Lottery-funded project transforms Surrey’s Biggest Museum

The UK’s extraordinary history in aviation design and manufacture is celebrated with the opening today by HRH Prince Michael of Kent, GCVO CD of the next stage of Brooklands Museum’s Re-Engineering Brooklands project. The Brooklands Aircraft Factory, housed in the restored Bellman Hangar, and the new Flight Shed combine to show the ingenuity and skill of the men and women who designed, built and flew aircraft at Brooklands from the early pioneering days in 1908 through to the development of supersonic flight.

The £8.4 million Brooklands Aircraft Factory & Race Track Revival Project includes the restoration of the Finishing Straight of the Race Track, re-opened in June on the 110th anniversary of the original opening of the Brooklands Track. It was made possible thanks to a grant of £5.467million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and further funding from LIBOR banking fines, Arts Council England, Surrey County Council, charitable trusts and foundations and individuals.

The Bellman Hangar was originally built in 1940 on the Finishing Straight of the Race Track and has been restored and re-erected in its new position with the innovative Brooklands Aircraft Factory exhibition inside. The new exhibition tells the story of 80 years of aircraft manufacture and innovation at Brooklands and nearby Surrey, where nearly 18,900 aeroplanes were built or assembled and first flown - more than anywhere else in Europe to this day. It will enable visitors to “clock in” and immerse themselves in appreciating the skills involved in aircraft manufacture and trying them for themselves in various ‘workshops’. The Hangar remains the home of the Vickers Wellington Bomber ‘R’ for ‘Robert’ that was rescued from Loch Ness and is the only one left that saw active service in the Second World War. It and other aircraft and their major components are displayed in various stages of completion on “assembly lines” running through the factory.

A restored Hawker P.1127 “jump jet” prototype looks out over the Factory floor from a new mezzanine level that tells the story of aircraft design at Brooklands and allows visitors to explore the challenges and compromises of designing new and future aircraft. From here a walkway leads into the first floor Flight Shed exhibition, which houses some of the Museum’s live aircraft as well as radar and radio equipment and a permanent exhibition on pioneering pilots.

The new facilities are enabling the Museum to develop and expand its Learning programmes, which aim to inspire school children and students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). New workshops in the ground floor of the Flight Shed will be the home of an Aviation Heritage Skills course, so that the ability to restore and conserve historic aircraft can be passed on to a new generation.

Allan Winn, Director and CEO of Brooklands Museum, says: “The Brooklands Aircraft Factory is the only full exhibition in the UK devoted to the design and manufacture of aircraft. Just as the tens of thousands of people who worked in the factories here transformed aviation and its technologies around the world, and the fortunes of this area, the Brooklands Aircraft Factory will transform the experience of our hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The 10 years of effort by our staff, volunteers and contractors, and the generosity and vision of our funders, have produced an exhibition which will inspire future generations to embrace the STEM subjects and thus help sustain the country’s vital technological industries. It’s the biggest and boldest project the Museum has ever undertaken, and a spectacular pointer to further developments to come.”

Perdita Hunt, Trustee at HLF, says: “We are at risk of forgetting the UK’s extraordinary historical achievements when it comes to engineering innovation. Now more than ever we need to encourage future generations to master STEM skills and what better place to gain such inspiration than from Brooklands Museum? Our funding comes thanks to National Lottery players and I hope many of those players will visit and enjoy learning more about how Brooklands set the standard for aviation design and manufacture during the 20th century.”

THE BROOKLANDS AIRCRAFT FACTORY & RACE TRACK REVIVAL PROJECT:

  • Lead Consultant & Architect – Thomas Ford & Partners
  • Structural Engineers – Alan Baxter
  • Main Contractors – Brymor Construction
  • Exhibition Design – Ralph Applebaum Associates
  • Exhibition Fit-Out – Elmwood Projects

MAJOR DONORS include:

  • Heritage Lottery Fund, awarding funds from the National Lottery
  • Support provided by the UK Government from LIBOR fines
  • The estate of Vaughan and Jane Davis
  • The estate of Alan Burrows
  • The Michael Bishop Foundation
  • Bamford Charitable Foundation
  • Surrey County Council
  • Arts Council England
  • Garfield Weston Foundation
  • Foyle Foundation
  • BAE Systems

See the full list of our supporters

HRH Prince Michael of Kent GCVO arrives at the Brooklands Aircraft Factory.

From left to right: Mr Michael More-Molyneux DL, HM Lord Lieutenant of Surrey; Sir Gerald Acher, Chairman of the Brooklands Museum Trust; Allan Winn, Director and CEO of Brooklands Museum; HRH Prince Michael of Kent GCVO; Councillor Rachael Lake, Mayor of Elmbridge; Mr Peter Martin, Chairman, Surrey County Council

Photos by Jason Dodd

Brooklands Aircraft Factory opening - photos by Jason Dodd