An icon is born
Click below to watch the film and learn more
With stormy skies engulfing Europe...
The Supermarine Spitfire endures as the most iconic plane from World War II and the romance associated with it transcends generations.
So when in 1972 the RAF gifted a MK.XVI Spitfire to the City of Stoke-on-Trent to commemorate the designer of the plane - Reginald Mitchell who was born in Stoke - it was proudly exhibited in the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery.
Despite it's place in the museum, the City decided to bring the Spitfire back to life through a full restoration, landing it as the centre piece of a newly built exhibition space that would inspire future generations. This short film tells the story of RW388...
About the film
Back in 2019, with the new gallery construction beginning, and the Spitfire sitting in the expert hands of the Medway Aircraft Preservation Society (MAPS), the stakeholders took the opportunity to engage Lambda Films in order to elevate this story beyond the build.
Over two years, and through a pandemic, the studio worked with the stakeholders to storyboard and capture the journey of RW388 from its original gift in 1972, through restoration and to its final resting place in the new museum extension.
This meant marrying archived footage with new filming in the restoration hangers with the preservation experts at MAPS, right through to the final time-lapse as the Spitfire rested into its first night in the museum.
Whilst the pandemic meant that we were unable to capture some scenes, the overall storyboards developed by the group remained on track throughout.
The narrative, voiced by a local Stoke-on-Trent artist, was written by an English poet and helps journey us from RJ Mitchell's original design vision, through its careful restoration towards its heroic potteries heritage where it is inspiring pioneers.
Click to zoom into the poem
Matt Abbott Poet, helped us create a fitting narrative for the film, guiding the audience through a journey of the Spitfire.
Matt has been working on poetry commissions since 2014 including several national and global campaigns - but it's his talent with words and thoroughness to understand the subject that captured us.
More than 20,000 Spitfires were built between 1936 and 1948 - the aviation brainchild of Reginald Mitchell, who continued to refine the design until his death in 1937.
Born in Staffordshire in 1895, Mitchell created 24 different aeroplanes during his career, including flying boats, high-speed racing seaplanes, and the Supermarine Spitfire.
His ground-breaking design boasted superior specifications that gave the British a decisive advantage fighting the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain.
Stoke-on-Trent's very own Spitfire RW388 was built in Castle Browmwich in May 1945. It's a Mark XVI with shortened clipped wings and an engine tuned for low altitudes.
This version could be armed with both machine guns and cannons, as well as bombs under the wings and fuselage. RW388 may never have been fitted with weapons due to entering service so late in the war. It was in Germany just after the Second World War ended and later towed targets for Naval ships to aim their guns.
The aeroplane last flew in 1952 when it was damaged during take-off at RAF Middle Wallop, Hampshire. It spent time as a ‘gate guardian’ outside RAF bases before being donated to Stoke-on-Trent in 1972 in honour of Reginald Mitchell.
Envisioned by Stoke-on-Trent City Council and procured through the SCAPE framework, the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery project involved a new extension to house the Spitfire, as well as a refurbishment of the existing café.
Designed by Glancy Nicholls Architects, project managed by Perfect Circle, and built by Morgan Sindall Construction, the 3,800 square foot extension is a beautifully engineered marriage between ornate stone and glazing, connecting the Spitfire with visitors both inside and outside of the museum.
High quality public realm and external landscaping enables anyone to enjoy the views from outside, whilst internally a mezzanine level around the Spitfire allows for elevated views of the aircraft whilst providing additional space for exhibition artefacts.
To cap off the landmark project, the team came together to help crane in the sensitively refurbished Spitfire into the gallery. Delivered on time and in budget, the project achieved a 9/10 customer satisfaction score and reinvested £1 million in Social Value locally.
Watch the Spitfire Delivery
Creating social impact
A £1 million social value return on investment is a huge part of any #TeamScape project. It's about making a difference way beyond the build.
During the project the team donated countless hours to Men Unite, raising money and supporting the mental health charity.
101 apprentice weeks were hosted on the scheme for new industry entrants, whilst partnerships with Nottingham Trent University and Birmingham City University helped facilitate guest lectures about the project and careers in the construction industry.
In addition, the team designed and installed bespoke mural hoardings depicting the timeline of R.J. Mitchell's life.
Taking inspiring from the museum and wrapping the site, the murals helped passers by get inspired about the new building to come. Upon project completion the MURAL's were donated to local schools for the story to live on. Click below to zoom...
Inspiration through restoration
Operation Spitfire is a group, chaired by R.J.Mitchell's great-nephew Julian Mitchell, established with the support of the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Staffordshire Community Foundation and Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
In addition to helping raise funds for, and guide the renovation of, the RW388 Spitfire, the group had three main objectives.
To restore the aircraft, celebrate our engineering heritage, and inspire current and future generations to a career in engineering.
Their 12 year journey has ensured this 80 year-old masterpiece stands proudly connected to the City and people of Stoke-on-Trent.
But the journey isn't yet finished, it will continue to create the impact that R.J. Mitchell himself wanted himself - something that can make a better future - and this Spitfire exhibit does exactly that by providing inspiration through restoration.
Photo courtesy of Stoke Sentinel
Fit for its final journey
Bringing the Spitfire back to life, ready for its final resting place in the new extension at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery was a labour of love.
Handled expertly by a crew of volunteers at the Medway Aircraft Preservation Society (MAPS), the RW388 entered their Kent workshop on the 5th February 2018.
Whilst the fuselage and wings were relatively sound, with little corrosion, needing only some serious TLC, the remainder of the plane required significant restoration. Significant cleaning, removal of the old paint, rebuilding aspects such as the tail elevator, as well as cleaning and painting the engine were all part of the thorough restorations delivered by the expert volunteers.
By the end of June 2021, the Spitfire had been lovingly restored, delivered, and rebuilt within the new gallery, ready for its grand opening in September 2021.
Heroic potteries heritage, inspiring pioneers
The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery is part of Stoke-on-Trent museums and boasts over 650,000 individual objects and is widely acknowledged as having collections of regional, national and even global significance.
The newly built Spitfire gallery is a story of great design and is home to the City's RW388 model.
Poised at the centre of a brand new extension, it stands as a symbol of great design and engineering and, whilst the gallery tells the story of the Spitfire's Reginald Mitchell, it also services as a place to inspire future pioneers in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM).
Want to learn more - take a trip to see the new museum, or click here to explore the online gallery.
SCAPE is a public sector partnership that helps to improve the buildings that we use, the roads we travel on and the places we live. Since 2006 they have accelerated over 12,000 projects across the UK with their direct award frameworks, property services and innovative design solutions.
Click here to visit SCAPE
Perfect Circle delivers the broadest range of consultancy services available to the public sector. It is jointly owned by Pick Everard, Gleeds and Aecom. The PMAG project was led by Pick Everard who undertook the cost consultancy and project management.
Click here to visit Perfect Circle
Glancy Nicholls Architects is a RIBA chartered practice which is now considered one of the leading architectural practices in the Midlands.Employing over 70 members of staff, the studio combines excellent design architects with professional, highly-experienced technical staff.
Click here to visit GNA
Morgan Sindall Construction is a tier one contractor undertaking construction projects across all sectors. Its purpose is to create inspiring places that enhance the communities in which we all live, learn, work, play, care and protect.
Click here to visit Morgan Sindall
Stoke-on-Trent City Council are the ultimate client for the PMAG project. This unitary authority had the vision, purpose and and investment to drive forward the scheme and bring together the team to deliver a fantastic project its residents to enjoy now and in the future.
Click here to visit Stoke CC
The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery is part of the Stoke-on-Trent museums service, established in 1911. The museums Staffordshire pottery collection is widely acknowledged as the finest in the world and other collections have national significance.
Click here to visit PMAG