After years of inaction by successive Labour councils, work will finally start on Wednesday (January 17) to begin the exciting process of moving the city’s Spitfire to its stunning new multi-million pound home.
Conservative/Independent controlled Stoke-on-Trent City Council unveiled plans last year for a £6 million investment which will see a glassed front extension at Hanley’s Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, so the iconic plane – based on Reginald Mitchell’s famous design – can inspire generations to come and is more viewable to the public.
The gallery currently housing the Spitfire will close to the public on January 17 so staff can start to carefully take down all display materials and remove the stage the plane sits on. Then from January 29, a team from GJD Aerotech, who specialise in the disassembly of aircraft, will begin taking the plane apart piece by piece. Once done, the parts will be taken away and handed to Medway Aircraft Preservation Society, which will restore it to its former glory. The Spitfire will return to the museum in 2019 as the star of its new display.
The scheme, part of the council’s capital investment programme, shows how major cultural initiatives are continuing following on from the UK City of Culture bid as Stoke-on-Trent continues to build its reputation as a great cultural and creative visitor destination.
Conservative Councillor Daniel Jellyman, cabinet member for regeneration, transport and heritage at the city council, said: “I’m delighted that we are now at the point where work is getting under way on this fantastic project for the city. This will create a stunning display for both the Spitfire and the role that one of our most famous sons played in a hugely significant chapter in the country’s history.
“It’s a wonderful asset which quite rightly deserves to be on public display in the light of day. When finished, this will become one of the top attractions in the city and will further add to the excellent cultural offer we already have.”
To allow the work to be carried out, there will be a full museum closure from Monday, January 22 until Friday, February 9, with the venue reopening on Saturday, February 10. The museum café will remain open during this period serving a selection of light lunches and homemade cakes. Access will be via the side of the museum opposite the library.
The plans will see the extension provide an additional new entrance to the museum, opening out onto a new public space. The Stoke-on-Trent Walk of Fame, which was voted on by the public last year, is also planned to be installed as part of the public realm improvements in the area.