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   Inside Out - West: Monday February 6, 2006

Concorde

Concorde
Modern icon - Concorde in its heyday

There's a hole in our Concorde!

The Bristol Concorde is losing its battle with the elements.

Inside Out West reveals that a hole has opened up on the leading edge of one of the aircraft's wings.

It's already big enough to poke a finger into - and experts fear it may get bigger as the plane continues to be buffeted by the wind and rain.

Concorde corrosion is now a real concern.

James Kingdon, from the Concorde maintenance team says:

"There's nothing we can do about it really apart from cut the corrosion out. It's like cancer of the aircraft in effect."

Hole in Concorde
The hole story - we investigate Concorde's state of repair

Enthusiasts are desperate for the aircraft to be put under cover to try to prevent any further damage.

They're worried that Bristol's aviation heritage is literally being allowed to crumble away.

Frank Nutbeen, a senior engineer with Concorde throughout its history, says:

"I want to get this aircraft under cover. Everybody does. Everybody is working to that end - to get this aircraft under cover and stop it deteriorating."

Museum prospects?

As well as the hole on the wing, there is a problem with the rubber seal around one of the doors which has started to corrode.

Inside Out West guest reporter Chris Serle flew on Concorde himself and is saddened that she's been left languishing in the open air on the side of a runway:

"A big part of it was being treated like royalty – it was the best cabin service you could have. And of course you felt, just for those three and a half hours across the Atlantic surrounded by the jet set, like a fully paid up member of the rich and famous."

Chris Serle with Concorde
Chris Serle with Concorde

The Bristol Concorde, 216 Alpha Foxtrot, was the last one to fly.

When she landed at Filton more than two years ago, the emotional crowds who welcomed her home assumed she would become a high profile visitor attraction.

But progress on the plans for an aviation museum has been less than supersonic.

CONCORDE

1969 - She flies!

1970 - PanAm launch the Jumbo, which offers cheap transatlantic flight and proves to be Concorde's nemesis.

1972 - Over a dozen airlines place orders for Concorde.

1976 - Of 16 Concorde's built only nine have been sold. In the end planes are sold for £1 each.

1976 - Concorde's first true commercial flight is a success

2000 - All Concordes grounded after one crashes outside Paris, killing everyone aboard.

2002 - Concordes are back in service after bulletproof fuel tanks are fitted.

2003 - Last Concorde flights to take place after a 'rescue bid' by Richard Branson's Virgin fails.

Chris Serle would like Concorde to follow the example of the SS Great Britain, which secured lottery funding to become a major tourist attraction in a prominent, highly visible location.

It now attracts more than 100,000 visitors every year.

The plane is being looked after by a dedicated band of volunteers.

Once a week, a small maintenance team from Airbus come to give Concorde a look over.

They carry out a whole series of checks throughout the plane.

But, as hard as they try, they can't do anything about the constant battering Concorde gets from the salty winds which blow in off the Bristol Channel.

They're disappointed there hasn't been more momentum to get the great white bird under cover.

Visit the Inside Out Concorde photo gallery

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The mystery of the painted lady

Painted lady
Mystery lady of Wells

TV archaeologist Mark Horton is on a mission to shed more light on an historical riddle which has set tongues wagging in Wells.

Workmen have discovered a risque wall painting of a lady, hidden under the floorboards in the Bishop's Palace.

The palace, which stands alongside Wells Cathedral, remains the family home of the Bishop of Bath and Wells.

The exquisite painting was found by a plumber who was carrying out some work in the Virgin's Tower in what used to be the throne room.

But no-one is quite sure who it depicts.

Some people think it could be a woman of ill repute, because of her low cut gown.

The Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Right Rev Peter Price, thinks it could be Mary Magdalene.

Mystery woman

Mark Horton sets out to investigate the mystery for Inside Out West.

Mark Horton looking for clues
Mark Horton looking for clues under the floorboards

His first clue is the headdress the lady is seen wearing. He discovers that it was only fashionable for around 10 years.

Using brass rubbings he's able to date the fashion to around 1460.

A quick check of the cathedral's records shows that in 1460, the Bishop was Thomas Beckynton.

Beckynton was responsible for building a whole section of the Palace, including the very same tower which is home to the mysterious lady.

So he concludes the painting is almost certainly from Beckynton's time as Bishop, which ended in 1465.

Back in the Bristol University library, Mark makes an extraordinary discovery.

He finds an account of a meeting between Beckynton and the playwright Thomas Chaundler.

Beckynton
Beckynton - meeting with a playwright

Remarkably, it shows an illustration of Chaundler presenting a play to Beckynton in the Bishop's throne room.

The walls are covered with a floral pattern which seems to reflect the background of the painting we can see today.

While Mark's detective work doesn't reveal the precise identity of the mystery lady, he has uncovered some fabulous new clues.

His work has inspired the current Bishop who would love to see the throne room restored to its former glory, with the enchanting painted lady in pride of place.

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Red hats

Red Hat Society
Absolutely fabulous in their red hats

Inside Out West meets the Absolutely Fabulous Ladybirds of Thornbury, a chapter of the Red Hat Society.

The Red Hat Society is a group for women over 50.

Their aim is to ignore growing old and just have fun.

They try to be a "haven for silliness".

It all started with a poem called 'Warning' written by the Gloucestershire poet Jenny Joseph.

It encourages women of a certain age to wear purple clothes and red hats, run their walking sticks along the railings and learn to spit.

The poem struck a chord, and its words inspired an international movement.

In America there are 40,000 'chapters'of the Red Hat Society, but it's been slower to take off in Britain, where there are now just over 50.

Margaret Crocombe started the Thornbury group three years ago.

Inside Out West presenter Tessa Dunlop joins them on a weekend away to a Red Hat convention on the Isle of Wight.

She discovers that as well as being great fun, the Red Hatters also provide support and friendship for women who might be going through a difficult time.

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