As we come towards the end of 2018, it’s an interesting time to offer a brief overview of the Newark Air Museum, which officially opened to the public forty-five (45) years ago on Saturday 14th April 1973.
As a teenager at the local Grammar School in Newark during the 1970s little did I know that a bicycle ride up to the Newark Air Museum for that official opening would lead to a lifelong and ongoing involvement with the museum. During all of those years, the museum, which is a registered charity and runs via a museum membership scheme, has developed into what is now a Gateway Aviation Site for the East Midlands of England. The museum has also become one of the UK’s largest volunteer-managed accredited aviation museums.
Throughout its history, museum members have faced a variety of challenges with stout hearts and a desire to achieve the best for its ever-expanding collection. The museum is currently located on part of a former World War II training airfield called RAF Winthorpe. A significant challenge was presented in 1978 when the collections were to move about one mile and re-establish themselves at the museum’s current location on the eastern side of the former airfield.
A major aircraft acquisition was finalised on 7th February 1983, when an ex-Royal Air Force (RAF) Avro Vulcan bomber was flown in to join the museum collection. This delivery flight took months to organise, but only a ten minute flight to complete the delivery from nearby RAF Waddington. When the aircraft touched down, it became the largest aircraft ever to land on the airfield’s former wartime runways. Now the Vulcan is one of the museum’s star attractions. When volunteers are available and for a small additional fee, visitors can participate in guide tours of the Vulcan’s cramped cockpit.
The museum’s diverse collection features ninety aircraft and cockpit sections from across the history of aviation. The types displayed range from a Tiger Moth biplane to the mighty Vulcan bomber, Russian MiG fighters and a Swedish Saab Viggen fighter/bomber.
More than fifty-five airframes are displayed in two large display hangars. The first of these display hangars was completed in 1989, thanks to the fund-raising efforts of museum members and a grant from Newark & Sherwood District Council. In 1996 the museum completed the purchase of 12 acres land adjacent to its leased site, which not only provided long-term security for the collection, but also afforded the opportunity to build a second display hangar. This building was completed in 2004, with a major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and visitor/museum member contributions.
Additionally, other areas feature displays of more than 40 aero engines and a diverse assortment of artefacts, many of which depict local aviation history. In late summer 2018, the museum opened a new café and a large museum shop which prides itself on being the best specialist aviation outlet in the Midlands. The museum hosts an excellent programme of special event, pre-booked guide tours for group visits, and diverse educational programmes for visiting school parties and groups.
As previously mentioned, the museum is based on part of what was the wartime training base of RAF Winthorpe, which during its operational phase hosted thousands of airmen from across the Commonwealth who came to train as RAF bomber crews. Their stories and the history of the site are recounted in a book published by the museum in late 2014. http://www.newarkairmuseum.org/RAF_Winthorpe_Book
More recently, other local aviation history has been recorded in another book, entitled Station of Nations – The History of RAF Balderton. This particular airfield is located just 5 miles from the museum. During World War II, RAF Balderton was a wartime RAF station which was hosted amongst others namely: No.408 (Goose) Squadron Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) 437th and 439th Transport Carrier Groups, the Rolls-Royce jet engine trials unit; and No.227 Squadron RAF. http://www.newarkairmuseum.org/RAF_Balderton_Book
Aviation history in this part of the UK has a strong international element and these international connections are maintained today by the museum hosting regular visits from aviation enthusiasts and veterans and their families from across the world. In recent times this has include visitors from: Australia; Brazil; Bulgaria Canada; Denmark; Finland; Ireland; Italy; Lithuania; New Zealand; Poland; Romania; Spain; Sweden; USA.
Address: Newark Air Museum Ltd., Drove Lane, Winthorpe, Newark, Notts, NG24 2NY
Opening Times: Everyday except December 24th, 25th & 26th and January 1st; November to February daily 1000 – 1600 hours; March to October daily 1000 – 1700 hours (including weekends & Bank Holidays). Last admission 1 hour before closing.
Admission: Adults £9.00; Over 65s £8.00; Children £4.50; Family ticket [2 adults & 3 children] £24.00
Appointments are preferred for group [15 plus people] visits, although not essential and a party rate booking information pack is available upon application.