Stoke-on-Trent’s iconic Spitfire is set to return home in June as a stunning new multi-million pound gallery nears completion in the city.
A striking glass fronted extension at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery has been taking shape for the last year, and once the famous Spitfire returns, remaining work will be completed before the new attraction opens to the public this autumn.
As well as getting up close to one of Britain’s most famous aircraft, the new free-to-visit gallery will offer visitors a chance to “pilot’ a Spitfire and will reveal more about the story of the plane and its designer, Reginald Mitchell, who has close connections to the city.
For the last two years, the Spitfire – based on Mitchell’s famous design – has been in a workshop 200 miles away in Kent, where aircraft preservation specialists have painstakingly restored the plane to its former glory.
Now, aircraft RW388 is ready to “touchdown” once again in Stoke-on-Trent.
Returning in two sections, it will be reassembled by a team of RAF experts, with the new gallery expected to open to the public in September as one of the region’s top tourist attractions.
The 3,800 sq ft gallery will feature glass walls at the front and back, so the public can see the plane lit up at night, and will not only showcase the plane itself, but also feature a simulator, allowing visitors to experience what it would have been like to pilot the aircraft.
Part of the gallery will also be used to project images about the plane – built in 1945 and unusual in that it still has most of its original parts – and its designer, Reginald Mitchell.
Mitchell was born in Kidsgrove in 1895, and 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.
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 new extension has been designed and built by Morgan Sindall Construction, and funded by the city council.
The museum’s café is also being updated with improvements to the walls, ceiling and new flooring as part of the work, while the public realm is being improved outside the gallery, as well.
For further details, visit https://www.stokemuseums.org.uk/pmag/collections/local-history/spitfire-rw388/
For general tourist information about the area, see https://www.visitstoke.co.uk.