A flying start to 2021 for Stoke-on-Trent…

Stoke-on-Trent’s famous Spitfire is set to be officially unveiled in a stunning new, multi-million-pound home, at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Hanley, in the summer of 2021.

A £6-million investment will result in a glass fronted gallery being added to the city centre’s Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, so that the iconic plane – based on Reginald Mitchell’s famous design – can become more viewable to the public, and inspire generations to come.

Now work on the landmark new gallery has hit new heights, as construction on the steel frame begins. The first sections of steelwork on the extension can now be seen rising above the hoardings next to the Museum and Art Gallery as the regeneration project gathers pace.

The new gallery will feature glass walls at the front and back, so the public can see the plane lit up at night, and is set to become one of the area’s top attractions when finished.

The Spitfire was previously housed in a gallery within the Museum, which was closed to the public at the beginning of 2018 in order for staff to remove the aircraft and all of associated display materials.

It was left to a team from GJD Aerotech, who specialise in the disassembly of aircraft, to take the Spitfire apart piece by piece. Ever since then, Medway Aircraft Preservation Society has been restoring it to its former glory.

Stoke-on-Trent itself is forever linked with the Spitfire, thanks to one of its most famous sons – the aircraft designer Reginald Mitchell who was born in Kidsgrove in 1895, and was educated at Hanley High School in Stoke-on-Trent. At the age of 16, he gained an apprenticeship at the local locomotive engineering works Kerr Stuart & Co, where he then worked, while studying engineering and mathematics at night school.

In 1917, he joined the Supermarine Aviation Works at Southampton, where he quickly advanced within the company. Between 1920 and 1936 he designed many aircraft. But he is best remembered for his racing seaplanes, which culminated in the Supermarine S.6B and the iconic Second World War fighter, the Supermarine Spitfire.

Hanley High School in Stoke-on-Trent was renamed Mitchell High School in his honour in 1989, while the Kidsgrove primary school just by his birthplace was dedicated to him as Reginald Mitchell County Primary School.

In addition to housing one of the world famous Spitfires, The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery also has a statue of R.J.Mitchell just outside the main building.

The £6m scheme to house the Spitfire in the Museum extension is part of the council’s capital investment programme, and shows how major cultural initiatives are continuing, following the UK City of Culture bid as Stoke-on-Trent continues to build its reputation as a great cultural and creative visitor destination.

When finished, this eye-catching gallery will become one of the top attractions in the city and will further add to the city’s outstanding cultural heritage.

The city’s Spitfire – RW388 – rolled off the production line at Castle Bromwich in 1945 and is unusual among surviving planes in that it still has most of its original parts.

For further details, visit https://www.stokemuseums.org.uk/pmag/collections/local-history/spitfire-rw388/