UK

Restored Spitfire Unveiled On Battle of Britain Day

The new 3,800 sq ft Spitfire Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent will tell the story of the aircraft's designer, Reginald Mitchell.

A Spitfire donated to the city of Stoke-on-Trent by the RAF in 1972 is back on public display in a new glass-fronted £5.4m gallery.

The aircraft was officially unveiled, following a multi-year restoration programme, at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery on Battle of Britain Day.

The new 3,800 sq ft Spitfire Gallery will tell the story of the Spitfire's designer Reginald Mitchell.

His great-nephew, Julian Mitchell, attended the event and said he could remember being taken as a small child to the previous ceremony in June 1972.

Mr Mitchell, whose great-uncle died aged 42 in 1937, said: "I am delighted that it has come back restored to how it was when I first saw it.

"The plane means a lot to the people of Stoke-on-Trent. I think it means a lot to the people of the country, and it's a symbol of hope, the Spitfire."

Stoke-on-Trent's very own Spitfire aircraft was restored to its former glory following a three-year project by experts in Kent.

The dedicated Spitfire Gallery, where the illuminated aircraft is visible from the street at night, opens to the public on Saturday.

The Mark XVI Spitfire, built at Castle Bromwich, Birmingham, in May 1945, saw service in Germany shortly after the Second World War ended and last flew in 1952, when it was damaged during take-off at RAF Middle Wallop in Hampshire.

It was then used as a "gate guardian" at RAF bases before being donated to Stoke-on-Trent in honour of RJ Mitchell, initially going on display in a large greenhouse-type structure on the city's Bethesda Street.

Stoke-on-Trent's Spitfire spent three years in a workshop at an airfield in Kent, where it was restored, before being transported back to north Staffordshire in June, with a crane lifting it into its new home.

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 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 visitor donations.