Tag Archives: Westland

Canvassing Interest

A busy and involving week since our last posting from South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, near Yeovil.

One of the notable features of our week so far is the number of objects and photographs which continue to be donated to the Centre. We are particularly grateful that people have our Collecting Policy of Yeovil and South Somerset in mind, which enhances the existing collection and saves us time re-locating items to another Museum.

The intriguing items included two paintings with an especially local provenance, but which also raised some concerns, in terms of condition.

The paintings are timely as they depict an early tank and a bi-plane. The tank and the aircraft are painted on a type of canvas, which we understand is the same canvas used by Westland Aircraft to cover aircraft wings in the First World War. This connection is enhanced when the donor informed us that they were painted by her mother, when working for Westland between 1915 and 1918. This is significant as we already have a photograph showing another member of the donor’s family in the ammunition factory at Nautilus Works, Reckleford, Yeovil.

The donor also provided a thought-provoking detail. They understand the images of the tank and the bi-plane came ‘ready-made’ as an outline already painted on the canvas and the owner then ‘coloured in’ or ‘filled in’ with the desired colour. This would explain why we have a red tank!

The condition of the paintings, particularly the one of the tank presents an issue, notably in terms of storage. The donor’s mother nailed the canvas to a simple wooden frame to aid display. However, the canvas has become loose and is falling off the frame and the frame itself is now just about holding together. Due to the provenance, we would consider bringing these items into the main collection, but due to the condition, we are seeking specialist conservation advice. We will let you know the outcome!

The “Celebrating Yeovil” 2017 Calendar continues to do well!

The paintings on a type of canvas used to cover aircraft wings manufactured by Westland Aircraft in Yeovil. Can anyone tell us more?

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Learning to Fly

Another intriguing and thought-provoking week at South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre.

One of our main projects at the moment is our exhibition to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Westland Aircraft. This will be on show in Yeovil Town House, Union Street, Yeovil and we can let people know when this starts.

Selecting objects and photographs for the exhibition has proven to be an interesting process, especially as many of the objects were only recently donated to the Centre.

An initial search of the collection, found the Petters era (prior to the formation of Westland Aircraft) well covered in terms of objects, photographs and written information but less so on Westland and particularly the early years at the start of the First World War.

Due to this fact, we set out on a programme of ‘active collecting’ with a press release in the local newspaper. This led to some significant finds including A folder containing the original plans and drawings for the Westland Wizard dated 4th January 1928. It was handed to Mr Bruce who played such an important part in the formation of the Westland Aircraft Works in 1915 and was accessioned by our volunteers. Interestingly, this also came with another document, which details the Westland Aircraft produced in the First World War Period and how many of each type were manufactured, annotated in pencil above each image. They are also labelled ‘Confidential’ not to be taken from Mr Bruce’s office!

We also received a folder of Westland information assembled by one person, which included extra details on existing items in the collection, to enhance our knowledge of these areas. Examples included a booklet detailing the Flight over Everest by a Westland PV3 (Wapiti) and PV6 (later became a Wallace) in 1933 and a flyer for a play “First over Mount Everest” written by Kate Blacker and performed by Chris Crooks. The “specially commissioned illustrated lecture commissioned by the Discovery Gallery, London of the celebrated Houston Mount Everest Expedition was created from Colonel Blacker’s original lecture notes and magic lantern slides by his grand-daughter, Kate Blacker. In 1931, Colonel LVS Blacker, an officer in the Indian Army, assembled a committee including Lord Clydesdale, author John Buchan, Lord Peel and the Maharajah of Nawanagar to plan the conquest of Mount Everest by air.

We now have the labels completed and the objects selected and hope to install the exhibition towards the end of July 2015. This also raises another interesting environmental issue. We recently attended an “Introduction to Collections Course” organised by the South West Federation of Museums, which was held at The American Museum in Britain at Claverton Manor near Bath. One of the areas that stayed with me was ‘lux hours’ or the length of time an object is exposed to light and the type of light involved (direct sunlight or artificial light). As the Westland items are likely to be on show we will monitor this with humidity strips and regular visits. This is one of the main reasons why a ‘condition report’ is completed before an object selected for exhibition goes on display – to see the level of  deterioration or marking before, during and after display.

As in most things and particularly like Westland, we are learning all the time.

A ‘Wizard’ Find! and model of a Westland Wessex aircraft

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Rotor into the Club

Yeovil is possibly best known for its football team, known as ‘The Glovers’ reflecting the town’s main industry for throughout the 19th and mid 20th centuries.

Next on the list would probably be helicopters and in the current form of AgustaWestland.

Westland celebrate 100 years in 2015 spanning the early Short seaplanes made under agreement to the latest Lynx ‘Hellcat’ Variant.

Another side to Westland employment are the many social clubs organised by the Company and by fellow employees. One of our volunteers is currently documenting a number of Yeovil badges and plaques, one of which is a Westland Motor Club. This serves as an intriguing contrast to the ‘high flying’ well-known side of the business and offers an insight into the continuing principles laid down by the founders of Westland, Ernest and Percival Petter; remembered in “Petter’s Way” just off South Street, Yeovil.

DSCN0908 An example of a Westland Motor Club metal plaque