A unique high-altitude research facility originally built in 1947 for the famed inventor Sir Barnes Wallis at Brooklands, has been re-opened by his daughter, Mary Stopes-Roe.

The ‘Stratosphere Chamber’ was built to investigate high-speed flight at very high altitudes, and has been restored using a grant of £120,000 from the Association of Independent Museums (AIM) Biffa Award Scheme.

The restoration means that the huge building which houses the Stratosphere Chamber and the Museum’s world-class collection of aero engines, is now fully open to the public as an exhibition space for the first time. A new exhibition highlighting Wallis’ research work for the Vickers aircraft company after 1946 has also been created.

The Stratosphere Chamber was constructed by Barnes Wallis in 1947 as a huge laboratory in which high-altitude conditions could be simulated for research into high-speed flight. It formed part of his Research and Development Department, which was set up after the Second World War at the Vickers aircraft factory at Brooklands. The Chamber, which operated until 1980, is 25ft (7.6m) in diameter and 50ft (15.2m) long, and was able to accommodate complete aircraft up to the size of a De Havilland Sea Vixen. It was also used for cold-weather testing of objects as diverse as North Sea fishing trawlers, diesel engines and Arctic clothing, as snow, ice and blizzards could also be created. It was capable of generating temperatures between 65°C and +60°C, and being evacuated to 1/20th sea-level air pressure.

Entry to the Chamber is included in the museum’s general admission price. Charges for entry are: Adults: £11, Students/Seniors £10, Children (5 – 16yrs) £6, Family Ticket (2 x adults & up to 3 x children) £30. For more information visit Brookland’s website.

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