Beds, Herts & Bucks

De Havilland Aircraft Museum opens new £3m hangar

De Havilland Museum hangar
Image caption The new hangar makes de Havilland Museum an "all-weather" attraction

A new £3m hangar at the UK's oldest aviation museum has been described as a "game-changer".

Since 1959, most of the collection at the de Havilland Aircraft Museum in Hertfordshire has been outside.

The hangar, built using a £1.9m National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, would make it an "all-weather" attraction, a spokesman said.

Marketing director Mike Nevin said it would give visitors "a better experience".

Image copyright De Havilland Museum
Image caption Mike Nevin from the museum said the new hangar "adds an extra dimension" and is "much more interactive"
Image copyright De Havilland Museum
Image caption It is more comfortable for visitors and provides better conditions for those restoring aircraft

The independent museum at London Colney was the first aviation museum in Britain when it opened in May 1959 at Salisbury Hall, the home of the de Havilland Mosquito, a combat aircraft, introduced during World War Two.

Its first exhibit was the Mosquito prototype W4050, which one of the museum's founders, Walter Goldsmith, had saved from destruction

Mr Nevin said it was originally like a "club" where men came to "tinker" with planes, but the focus was now on making it "a centre of excellence" and to teach vintage aircraft restoration techniques.

Exhibits now housed inside include a pre-war Tiger Moth, Hornet Moth, Vampire, Chipmunk and the fuselage of a DH106 Comet, built at nearby Hatfield in 1953.

This aircraft is the last surviving example of a plane with a window design that contributed to fatal crashes.

Image copyright de Havilland Museum
Image caption The Comet 1A was lifted by a crane to the new hangar's door

Mr Nevin said as well as being more comfortable for visitors, the new hangar provided better conditions for those restoring aircraft.

"We've put all our energy into this and it's a game-changer for the museum," he said.

"We're trying to make it an all-weather museum so there's shelter, whether it be too hot or too cold, which makes it much easier for everybody."

The new building also allows it to redisplay and interpret its collection alongside a programme of activities.

"The NHLF grant was not just for a shed," Mr Nevin said.

Image copyright De Havilland Museum
Image caption The new building will "provide more facilities for visitors, such as a learning centre and event space"

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