60th anniversary celebrations for country’s oldest aviation museum
PUBLISHED: 13:01 27 May 2019 | UPDATED: 12:34 28 May 2019
An aircraft museum preserving the heritage of Hatfield’s former de Havilland factory has celebrated its 60th anniversary.
The de Havilland Aircraft Museum, the oldest aviation museum in the country, marked its 60th anniversary with a party earlier this month where the Lord-Lieutenant of Hertfordshire, Robert Voss, led the celebrations.
The Lord-Lieutenant was supported by his wife Celia and one of his deputies, Lionel Wallace, an aeronautical engineer.
They were among nearly 200 guests at the museum at Salisbury Hall, London Colney, where the Lord-Lieutenant praised the work of the registered charity.
The museum has been dedicated for the past six decades to the preservation of the heritage of the Hatfield-based de Havilland Aircraft Company, as well as communicating to the public its pioneering contribution to innovative aviation technology.
Mr Voss called the museum "one of the hidden gems of Hertfordshire" and, referring to the world-beating aviation heritage of the company, added: "We are proud of that heritage which you are putting on display here."
Then, using a special ceremonial spade, the Lord-Lieutenant planted in the newly created museum garden the first example of a new variety of rose named Geoffrey de Havilland, after the man who founded the company.
Opening the celebration, museum chairman Alan Brackley recalled that de Havilland first became involved with the nearby Salisbury Hall Tudor mansion in 1939.
The company decided to move its aircraft design team from its Hatfield base to the Hall and built a small hangar there in which the prototype of the 'Wooden Wonder' DH98 Mosquito aircraft of the Second World War was constructed in 1940.
Incredibly, the prototype is back "in the same place where it was constructed", as the star among more than 20 historic civil and military de Havilland aircraft types on display there.
Mr Brackley told guests that the museum was the idea of a retired Royal Marines officer, Walter Goldsmith, who purchased Salisbury Hall in the 1950s.
A series of coincidences led to him acquiring a small hangar, which was erected in the grounds, and taking on loan from de Havilland the first prototype, W4050, in 1958.
On May 15, 1959, he opened the 'Mosquito Aircraft Museum', as it was then called, to the public.
Later acquisitions of other de Havilland aircraft led to the construction of another, larger, hangar which was officially opened in May 1984 by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and named after the museum's founder.
She and her husband, King George VI, had visited the site in 1940 where they saw W4050 under construction.
This year, the museum is in fact celebrating three major anniversaries.
These are the museum's 60th, the 80th anniversary of de Havilland moving into Salisbury Hall, and the 25th anniversary of the Queen Mother's visit.
It is also the 70th anniversary of the first flight of the de Havilland DH106 Comet, the world's first commercial passenger jet airliner.
Mr Brackley concluded his address by expressing his thanks to the museum's volunteers and staff, who over the years have given their support and skills, without which the museum would not be able to operate.
He also thanked the Lord-Lieutenant for his support of the anniversary event.
The Lord-Lieutenant and Deputy Lieutenant toured the museum, seeing some of the aircraft on display.
Of special interest was the large new hangar which is being built there with over £1.9 million of National Lottery Heritage Fund backing.
The project will re-display and interpret collections alongside a programme of activities, learning and volunteering opportunities.
The hangar is scheduled to be finished by the end of July.
After the museum closes for the winter in November, some of the aircraft currently kept outside will be moved into it ready for reopening in early 2020.
It will provide a superb community facility which organisations, schools and companies can visit.
You can also book the impressive venue for meetings, conferences, parties, learning and other social events.
To visit the museum, you will find it signposted off Junction 22 of the M25, Sat-Nav code AL2 1BU.
● For more information, visit the de Havilland Aircraft Museum website at www.dehavillandmuseum.co.uk
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