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New home needed to keep Wolverhampton aircraft manufacturer flying high

By John Scott | Wolverhampton | Wolverhampton nostalgia | Published:

They have been flying the flag for their company through thick and thin for 28 years but the end may be nigh for the Boulton Paul Association unless it can find a new home in the near future.

From left to right with the reconstructed tail piece. Dave Brocklehurst MBE Chairman and Curator of the Kent Battle of Britain Museum with Boulton Paul Association members Terry Herrington, Harold Brooks, Julian Richardson, Jack Holmes and Mike Richards.

It was formed in 1991 by a group of former apprentices to keep the name of Boulton Paul Aircraft alive after the firm changed its name to Dowty Aerospace and two of the original team – Cyril Plimmer and Jack Holmes – are still active members at the age of 91.

Initially it was given a small area in one of the outbuildings on the Wobaston Road, Pendeford site to store drawings and documents linked to past projects that had been saved from the scrap heap.

It grew as the company gave its members increasing room in which to work until they had sufficient space to start a museum by constructing replicas of aircraft the company designed and built.

Jack Holmes and Cyril Plimmer - both now 91 years old - relax shortly after becoming apprentices over 75 years ago

The dedicated group made copies of a 1920s P6 Biplane, a Battle of Britain Defiant and a Balliol, the last of which was a labour of love involving 12,000 hours of work by a dozen strong team that started with a chance discovery of two corroded and damaged cockpits in a Cumbrian scrap yard 27 years ago.

Then their museum was forced to close when GE, the owner of the site of the original Boulton Paul Aircraft factory, decided to prepare the land for sale.

The association was invited to use the engineering laboratory at Wednesfield High Specialist Engineering Academy but it can no longer be housed there and moved out last week.

The association is now looking for a new home with at least 50 square metres of space and access to a 230 volt electricity supply in the greater Wolverhampton area.

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They will bring three pieces of equipment – a folding machine, a roller and a guillotine – with them.

Their final piece of work before leaving the school was to complete the repair and rebuilding of the tailplane of a Second World War Bristol Blenheim bomber which was transported to the Kent Battle of Britain Museum at Hawkinge near Folkestone where the rest of the plane has been restored to flying condition after being badly damaged in a crash landing.

The original tailplane assembly was built in 1942.

The association’s Boulton Paul Defiant replica pictured in 2015

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The plane is on show at the museum where a replica Boulton Paul Defiant Mk 1 fighter, also built by the volunteers, is also on display.

Terry Herrington, another former employee of the company and now secretary of the association, said: “We are all getting older and are in our 70s, 80s and 90s but the work allows us to keeps us going mentally and physically and allows us to use our skills.

“It would be disappointing if we had to throw in the towel now.

“We have orders with more work from the Hawkinge museum. There are only six of us left and a fresh start would hopefully encourage others to join.

“They do not have to have worked for Boulton Paul.”

Anybody who feels they can help the association find a new home should send their details to terry.herring ton22@gmail.com

John Scott

By John Scott
Reporter/News Feature Writer

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