5 min read

Stoke’s restored Spitfire to be unveiled in new glass gallery 1

photo of a Spitfire fuselage being craned into a new gallery building

The fuselage of the Spitfire being transported into the new gallery in June 2021, ahead of it being reassembled by specialists. Courtesy Stoke-on-Trent City Council

The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery has a bright, shining new home for its newly-restored Spitfire

One of the most surprising encounters in a museum filled with treasures ranging from astounding ceramics to the nation’s most important Anglo Saxon Archaeology, used to be the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery’s Spitfire, RW388.

Seemingly trapped inside a room deep within this captivating museum, the Spitfire was gifted to the city of Stoke-on-Trent in 1972 in memory of its local designer Reginald Mitchell.

But in 2018 the iconic fighter plane left the building to undergo a major restoration prior to its journey to a new brighter purpose-built setting.

The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery’s new £5.4 million, 3,800 square foot extension – complete with glass walls at the front and back – will allow the public to see the plane lit up at night in the city’s new Spitfire Gallery.

photo of the rear fuselage of a Spitfire undergoing restoration in a workshop

Spitfire RW388 undergoing restoration at Medway Aircraft Preservation Society.

fuselage shot of a spitfire in grey and green camouflage with roundel and numbers U4

Fuselage restoration at Medway Aircraft Preservation Society.

photo of a partly dismantled plane fuselage without wings

The Spitfire was partly dismantled to remove it from the Museum.

The new building and its restored plane will be unveiled to the public in time for Battle of Britain Day on September 15, the day that marks the day in 1940 when 13 hours of intense conflict over south east England countered the Luftwaffe’s longest bombing attack against Britain. This was the day when RAF Fighter Command claimed what proved to be a decisive victory over the German air forces.

Stoke-on-Trent’s Spitfire has been in the workshop of Medway Aircraft Preservation Society at an airfield 200 miles away in Kent for the past three years, allowing specialists to spend hundreds of hours painstakingly restoring it to its former glory.

It was finally transported back to Stoke-on-Trent in June 2021, with a huge crane finally lifting the precious cargo into its new home.

Part of the new Spitfire Gallery will be used to project video, animations and images about the plane and its designer, Reginald Mitchell, who lived in Normacot and was educated in Stoke-on-Trent before becoming one of the greatest aeronautical engineers of his generation.

RW388 was one of a batch of 1,500 Spitfire XVIs manufactured at Castle Bromwich in 1945, too late to see any war service. However the plane still had an eventful RAF career.

First taken by No. 6 Maintenance Unit at RAF Brize Norton on July 18, 1945, a month later it was issued to No. 667 Squadron where it sustained damage in a flying accident.

It was then taken to No. 411 Repair and Salvage Unit on December 30 for repair and in 1946 was sent to RAF High Ercall for storage before returning to RAF Brize Norton on January 12, 1949.

photo of an aeroplane wing being hoisted into place

A wing is hoisted into place.

photo of an RAF roundel on the fuselage of a plane

Fuselage restoration.

photo of a glass fronted gallery building

The new Spitfire Gallery.

By 1951, RW388 had been allocated to No. 612 Squadron where it remained for six months before going to the Fighter Command Control and Reporting School.

After being damaged a second time, it was retired and installed as a display aircraft ‘gate guardian’ at RAF Benson and RAF Andover, finishing up as a showpiece at the Royal Tournament and Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

In 1972 the well travelled Spitfire was presented to Stoke-on-Trent by Air Chief Marshall Sir Neil Wheeler.

The new exhibition has been funded through a successful bid for £210,000 from a joint funding pot run by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in partnership with the Wolfson Foundation.

Further funding totalling £47,000 was also raised with help from Operation Spitfire, The Friends of the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, and through visitors’ donations.

The museum’s café is also being updated with a more modern look as part of the work, and the public realm is being improved outside the gallery. A date for the re-opening of the wider gallery and museum, which has been closed during the new building work, will be announced soon.

venue

The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery

Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire

Travel back in time and discover the history of the the Potteries, including the world's greatest collection of Staffordshire ceramics. See Reginald Mitchell's World War 2 Spitfire and all sorts of art and craft. Enjoy a light lunch or afternoon snack in our relaxing Café Museum and browse in The…

One comment on “Stoke’s restored Spitfire to be unveiled in new glass gallery

  1. Keith Bracey on

    Glad to see the nod to the Castle Bromwich Spitfire factory where the majority of Spitfires were #MadeinBirmingham 1938 until the 1950’s before and during WW2. This was after Birmingham Ladywood MP and @Brummie Neville Chamberlain MP had seen the Nuremburg Torchlit Rallies and feared the obvious threat to Britain from an aggressive and expansionist Germany with “Lebensraum” or “Living Space” having been outlined by Hitler in his 1923 tome “Mein Kampf” or “My Struggle” written as a “Political Prisoner” of the German State as Hitler as a Great War Veteran felt much maligned by the then Chancellor Paul Von Hindenberg after his return from The Great War in 1918 with the abortive “Munich Beer Hall Putsch” in 1922. Chamberlain decided to rearm in light of the threat to Britain replacing Biplane RAF aircraft the outdated Gloster Gladiator with the fastest and most maneuverable and agile fighter in the world the Vickers Supermarine Spitfire, the prototype of which had won the 1929 Airspeed Record Schneider Trophy beating American and German airplanes for speed, agility and handling . Castle Bromwich where most Spits were made and which won the Battle of Britain in 1940 when me Dad Les Bracey joined the RAF as an 18 year old volunteer.

    Reply

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *