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Work starts on extending Eastchurch Aviation Museum

Volunteers have been busy extending Eastchurch Aviation Museum.

Despite battles against showers and gusts of wind, the first wall panels were raised on Saturday.

Work is to continue tomorrow.

Caleb Watson, left, and retired carpenter John Carey lend a hand at Eastchurch Aviation Museum. Picture: John Westhrop (11971170)
Caleb Watson, left, and retired carpenter John Carey lend a hand at Eastchurch Aviation Museum. Picture: John Westhrop (11971170)

Trustees Martin and Rosemary Hawkins had called for history fans to lend a hand in the grounds of Standford Hill Open Prison on the Isle of Sheppey.

Chairman Martin said: "It has taken us a year to get all the necessary permissions to begin extending the museum.

"The concrete foundation had already been laid. Now we need lots of volunteers to help put the timber extension together."

Ready to start work at the Eastchurch Aviation Museum (11972473)
Ready to start work at the Eastchurch Aviation Museum (11972473)

The 24 prefabricated sections, built by prisoners at HMP Kirkham, had already been delivered to the site ready to be bolted together.

Museum manager Peter West said: "I'd like to thank the wonderful team which worked today on the museum extension, working between, and sometime actually in, downpours. I look forward to better working weather tomorrow."

Among the volunteers were inmates from the open prison.

Martin and Rosemary Hawkins of the Eastchurch Aviation Museum, Sheppey. Picture: John Nurden (11972194)
Martin and Rosemary Hawkins of the Eastchurch Aviation Museum, Sheppey. Picture: John Nurden (11972194)

Martin said: "We would like have a Sheppey version of the TV show DIY SOS. It would be great to have the outside completed by the end of the weekend.

"We desperately need anyone with skills, like builders and carpenters. But anyone who can hold a paintbrush or lift things will be very welcome."

The £5,000 extension will double the size of the existing premises in an old RAF pilot training room so more artefacts from Sheppey's flying history can be displayed. It will provide a research room and purpose-built 16-seat theatre where groups such as Beavers and Brownies can watch historic films about the birthplace of British aviation.

How the new extension to the Eastchurch Aviation Museum will look like(11972142)
How the new extension to the Eastchurch Aviation Museum will look like(11972142)

Audio-visual equipment is being provided by Big Local Eastern Sheppey.

Martin said: "This extension is vital. In many ways we have become a victim of our own success. People have been very generous in donatingitems from the past but we have run out of places to show them off."

FloPlast from Sittingbourne has donated guttering and Thames Reinforcements from Sheerness provided steel for the base. There has been help from builders merchants Jewsons and nearby building sites.

Eastchurch Aviation Museum as it looks now (11973210)
Eastchurch Aviation Museum as it looks now (11973210)

Some safety equipment will be available but volunteers should take their own gloves, safety shoes, hi-vis jackets and hard-hats if they have them.

The trustees are also hoping to convert two original aircraft hangars on the site and have lodged a business plan with the Ministry of Justice.

The museum attracts more than 3,000 visitors a year. It is open on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday between 10am-3pm.

Martin Hawkins, chairman of the Trustees with other volunteers putting up the first panel on an extension to Eastchurch Aviation Museum.Picture: John Westhrop.(11971167)
Martin Hawkins, chairman of the Trustees with other volunteers putting up the first panel on an extension to Eastchurch Aviation Museum.Picture: John Westhrop.(11971167)

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