The Grahame-White Factory

Yesterday while at the RAF Museum at Hendon I was able to go into the Grahame-White Factory, which houses the bulk of the museums First World War collection. This is the first time I have been able to view the collection as I did not realise that this section of the museum is on open until 12 so I have always missed viewing it. The hall is named after Grahame Claude White a British aviation pioneer known for his stunts that were performed in an attempt to inform both the government and public alike of the importance and threat of air power; an early exponent of airmindedness. Brett has a good biographical sketch of him on his site. Possibly his most daring attempt  to bring air power to the fore include his ‘Wake Up Britain’ campaign where lead a group of aircraft around Britain with this slogan emblazoned on the aircraft.[1] He wrote widely on the subject and founded a school at Hendon on the site that the museum now stands.

Anyway on to some of the aircraft on display. The museum has a good variety, which if you get a chance you should take a look at.

Sopwith Tabloid

Bleriot XXVII

Sopwith Triplane

Hanriot HD1

Vickers FB5

Vickers Vimy

Royal Aircraft Factory SE5A


[1] Richard Hallion Taking Flight: Inventing the Aerial Age from Antiquity through the First World War (Oxford University Press, 2003) p. 238

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7 responses to “The Grahame-White Factory

  1. Great pics! I didn’t get to the Grahame-White Factory when I visited, I think it was only open in the mornings or something. I’ll have to go back 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing. The stories behind these aircraft are interesting also – the several replicas built to fly, now preserved static, the original from a private flying collection, and the Bleriot that seems to have no known history…

    Sadly one of the several odd management ‘decisions’ at the RAF Museum Hendon is the fact that areas of the collection are permanently closed off for periods – and this is something the greeters at the fancy reception area don’t bother to tell visitors about, nor does there seem to be signage about it. Without your own prior research, you’d easily miss the Battle of Britain Hall and Grahame White Factory completely (both closed alternate half days) while the exhibition galleries beside the Great War era Belfast Truss hangars appear to be permanently closed. Given the recent news of the impending resignation of Director Dr Michael Fopp, the new incumbent might find it time to actually staff and open the place properly.

  3. Cheers Brett. Yeah that is why I never usually get to it as I didn’t realise that. I’m not sure why though but a good collection.

  4. James I agree that it is problematic but I think it comes down to funding and security. I’m sure the security guys I saw in the factory in the morning were the same ones that were in the BoB hall in the afternoon. It is a shame but a sign of the times probably. Another area always off limits at the moment is the mezzanine in the BoB hall by the Sunderland.

  5. That looks like an impressive collection of Great War aircraft. Definitely rivals the collection of similar aircraft at the Smithsonian’s Udvar Hazy Center.

  6. Hi Ross,
    Being very interested in the performance of aviation museums, the odd shortcomings of the RAF Museum raise a tendency to rant, rather. So with that warning…

    The question is why is the RAF Museum is unable to find enough of the lowest-paid lowest-qualified staff* to ensure the museum is fully open – and critically why that’s accepted when no other peer museum (either locally in museum status, or internationally in museum type) currently offers such poor hours. I’d agree that the sole attendant I saw in the Grahame-White building in the morning was to be seen in the afternoon in the Battle of Britain hall. But let’s note that the ‘moment’ of the Sunderland mezzanine closure extends back at least to July 2007 before when it was closed (no reason given) when I last visited.

    The reception staff not informing visitors – such as a good friend of mine with a distinctly Australian accent – that they have a limited time to see part of the museum is inexcusable.

    I’ve visited aviation and other museums on three continents and about 15 countries last I counted, interviewed directors and written extensively about them – I currently volunteer in one. I can’t think of any other national level, premier or peer type collection that is so poorly managed on basic key performance standards.

    The sadness is the excellence of the collection, so much of which is not supposedly on public view but isn’t – for the want of horseshoe nails.

    Regards,
    James

    *Having been a museum attendant in the UK, I’m very aware of what we cost and what we were expected to do.

  7. James rant away. I agree that it is a shame as the museum, over both its sites, probably has the best collection anywhere. However, these are things we tend to learn to live with. Hopefully with fresh blood at the helm, and if it is who I think it will be he has an abiding interest in the First World War, then maybe we will see an improvement to the situation.

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