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Archive for April, 2017

The official opening of the British Historic Aircraft Museum (as it was first known), situated on the boundary of Southend Airport, took place on 26 May 1972, with Air Marshall Sir Harry Burton in attendance accompanied by a small RAF delegation, all of whom flew in aboard de Havilland Devon VP981.

Ministry of Defence officials had been very co-operative and supportive of the museum, which was never intended to run in competition with Hendon or any other museum, and had made several aircraft available at ‘knock down prices’. With these, the likely donation of a Bristol Britannia donated by Monarch Airlines, and negotiations being in progress for the acquisition of a de Havilland Comet, plans were soon in hand for an extension to be added to the sixty-foot tall museum building. As it was, the museum also displayed more than their collection of flying machines, with rare First World War engines and propellers from the Imperial War Museum, Rolls-Royce Merlin and Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah engines from the Second World War, and engines donated by British Air Ferries, along with bombs and other armaments, personal souvenirs donated by well-known local pilots, both civil and military, and rare photographs and maps, etc, to provide an authentic and often nostalgic backcloth to the aviation collection.

The museum closed its doors on 27 March 1983 after only eleven years because of the lack of visitors and rising costs, and its aircraft and aviation artefacts were sold at auction on 10 May where just over £175,000 was raised. The Blackburn Beverley (which when received by the museum was one of the last two airworthy aircraft of the type and was intended to act as a ‘walk-around’ museum) was the only aircraft not to sell, given its condition of general fatigue after years of neglect and attack by the elements of weather, and was eventually scrapped on site by a JCB over the weekend from 7 April 1989. A further seven years would lapse before plans were unveiled to build a Fitness Centre on the site together with landscaped gardens.

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