Stoke-on-Trent’s iconic Spitfire and its stunning new museum gallery will be unveiled on September 15 – the day which marks the RAF’s victory in the Battle of Britain.
A VIP launch event will be held at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery’s new glass-fronted extension, with guests including Armed Forces dignitaries, veterans, air cadets, local historians, faith leaders and Operation Spitfire members.
Three days later, on Saturday, September 18, the £5.4 million gallery will open to the public for the first time.
A series of fantastic family, education and business events are being planned to mark the occasion, with links to the Spitfire and World War Two themes. Exciting details of these activities are due to be released soon.
Among those attending the private launch on Wednesday, September 15 will be plane engineer Reginald Mitchell’s great-nephew Julian Mitchell, who will talk about the history of the aircraft and the amazing efforts to preserve and restore Spitfire RW388.
The city’s Lord Mayor, Councillor Dr Chandra Kanneganti, and Mr Mitchell will officially open the new gallery.
Stoke-on-Trent’s plane had been in a workshop at an airfield 200 miles away in Kent for the past three years, where specialists spent hundreds of hours painstakingly restoring it to its former glory.
It was then transported back to Stoke-on-Trent in June, with a huge crane finally lifting the precious cargo into its new home.
Since then work has continued on the amazing Spitfire Gallery, which has been designed and built by Morgan Sindall Construction and funded by the city council.
The 3,800 square foot extension has glass walls at the front and back, so after the opening the public will be able to see the plane lit up at night.
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.
Building work on the extension finished last month and then Morgan Sindall officially handed over the site to Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
Museum staff have now completed most of their work on the incredible new exhibition, which features Spitfire RW388 as well as a host of other fascinating displays.
Part of the 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.
The 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.
Councillor Daniel Jellyman, cabinet member for regeneration, infrastructure and heritage, said: “This world-class attraction is a stunning example of the regeneration happening across Stoke-on-Trent. It celebrates our past, but is also a huge part of our future as we power up Stoke-on-Trent and build back better from the pandemic.
“Our heritage-led regeneration is creating a quality environment where visitors, residents and people working here can come and spend time in amazing spaces. It’s changing the landscape of Stoke-on-Trent and the city centre for the better, providing a massive lift for the area and putting our city right on the international map where it belongs.”
Councillor Lorraine Beardmore, cabinet member for culture, leisure and public health, said: “We’re so excited for the opening of the new gallery and we can’t wait for visitors to come and see how special it is. The space has such a wow factor when you walk in and the incredible Spitfire RW388 and its story are truly inspiring.
“The restoration experts, designers, construction team, partners including Operation Spitfire and museum staff have all done such an amazing job making this incredible vision a reality. It’s going to be a first class visitor attraction that can bring so many people to the area, inspire a new generation of engineers and spark immense pride in our local history.”
In order to complete the Spitfire Gallery and some necessary improvements at the museum, the entire site remains temporarily closed until further notice. A reopening date will be announced in the coming weeks.