The R J Mitchell display at the Museum in Stoke on Trent
Let’s start with a very old story:
Hotel Guest “Where’s the Chamber Maid”
Manager “Don’t know sir but the rest of our crockery is made in Stoke on Trent”
Since this city and surrounding towns was the centre of an extensive ceramics industry, it is of no surprise that the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery boasts, amongst its many and varied displays, the World’s best collection of Staffordshire ceramics. What is a surprise, however, to the passing visitor is a statue outside the Museum.
This is not of a famous pottery expert but of Reginald Mitchell, aeronautical engineer and designer of many aircraft including the legendary Spitfire. Inside the Museum is one gallery devoted to him which includes photographs and details of his life and career, a Merlin engine and a Spitfire Mk XVI.
Mitchell was born near Stoke in 1895 and soon proved himself to be adept at mathematics and model making, especially aircraft models. In 1917, he joined the new aviation industry and his practical genius soon transformed the Supermarine Aviation Works in Southampton. Between 1920 and 1936, he designed twenty four aircraft, including the legendary Spitfire which played a crucial role during the Battle of Britain and throughout World War 2. His skill was officially recognised in 1932 when he was awarded the CBE for his services to aviation.
Despite becoming seriously ill in 1933, he worked on tirelessly and lived to see his prototype Spitfire fly. He died of cancer in 1937.
In addition to his statue and the museum display, his name crops up in several places around the town (including being the name of the local Wetherspoons Inn). In 2003, in a poll organised by Midlands BBC, he was voted “Greatest Midlander of All Time.
If you’re in the area, a visit to the Museum is very worthwhile. In addition to the Mitchell and Ceramic Displays, there is a large variety of other exhibits of interest to all ages. Admission is free and the Museum is open every day (afternoons only on Sunday). Main approaches to Stoke by road are from M6 exit 15 or 16 via A500 or from M1 exit 24A via A50. Follow signs for City Centre (Hanley), Cultural Quarter & Potteries Museum.
Further information is available from 01782 232323 or www.stoke.gov.uk/museums
Secretary Ashbourne Section CROCA