Curator’s corner: The story of the Sea Venom at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum

PUBLISHED: 12:20 26 March 2020 | UPDATED: 12:05 04 June 2020

The restored parts of the Sea Venom at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum today. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum

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Alistair Hodgson, curator of the de Havilland Aircraft Museum, shares some of the museum’s special attractions and hidden secrets to our readers in the first Curator’s Corner.

Because you can’t come to see us for the time being, I’d like to bring some of the museum to you instead!

I’m going to show you our aircraft and maybe some treasures from our archives as well, just to whet your appetite for when we open our doors again.

The first aircraft I want to show you is a special one for me personally – it’s our DH.112 Sea Venom, and when I joined the museum in 2006, this is the one they told me to work on!

It was built in 1957 and flew operationally with the Royal Navy from then until 1960 when it went into storage for five years.

From 1965 to 1970 it flew with a second-line Naval Squadron and then it became a ‘Gate Guardian’ – one of those planes you sometimes see at the entrance to military airfields.

Ours was at Portsmouth, where it stayed until 1978 when it came to the museum.

Although it was restored in the early 1980s, its fate was to spend most of its time outdoors.

Despite being a jet fighter, the Sea Venom is partly made from wood (just like the Mosquito) and being outdoors did it no good whatsoever.

The Sea Venom as it was in 2006 before work started at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum at Salisbury Hall, London Colney. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft MuseumThe Sea Venom as it was in 2006 before work started at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum at Salisbury Hall, London Colney. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum

I joined the museum in 2006 and being interested in naval aircraft, they gave me the poor old neglected Sea Venom to work on.

You can see from the picture just what I was faced with.

First the wings and the engine came off, then all the decaying wood was removed, and everything was stripped out of the cockpit to leave just a wooden shell.

A lot of the smaller components were restored on the workbench ready to be refitted.

By this time other people were involved and we had become a small team.

There comes a point in a restoration job when you “turn the corner” and the work changes from dismantling to refurbishment and eventually to reconstruction, which is very satisfying.

You can see how far we’ve come now, and I look forward to finishing work on the wings one day, and then reassembling the whole aircraft.

Like many other independent small charities, the volunteer-run de Havilland Aircraft Museum at Salisbury Hall, London Colney, is solely reliant on visitor admission fees and charitable donations.

You can donate at www.dehavillandmuseum.co.uk/product/charitable-donation/


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