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Latest AIM/Biffa Award heritage landmarks project opens
06 June 2014

The Barnes Wallis Stratosphere Chamber Exhibition at Brooklands Museum, Weybridge, Surrey became the latest project to open from AIM/Biffa Award National Heritage Landmarks Partnership (NHLP) Scheme. 


Biffa Award pledged £1.5m over three years to AIM - the Association of Independent Museums for the scheme, which will create a high profile network of interpretation and education projects across the UK, showcasing the far-reaching changes in industrial development that have shaped our nation’s history.  Annual awards are allocated to projects that help transform derelict buildings and sites into inspirational resources that tell the stories of people, processes, industrial development and change.


At Brooklands the Stratosphere Chamber Exhibition was opened by Mary Stopes Roe, daughter of Sir Barnes Wallis, following the restoration of the chamber using a £120,000 NHLP award grant.  The unique high-altitude research facility built in 1947 has been restored and re-interpreted, enabling the chamber and the museum’s world-class collection of aero engines to be fully open to the public for the first time. 


The Chamber was built as a huge laboratory in which high altitude conditions could be simulated for research into high-speed flight.   It was part of Wallis’ Research and Development Department, set up after the Second World War at the Vickers aircraft factory at Brooklands.  The Chamber, operated until 1980, is 25ft in diameter and 50ft long, able to accommodate complete aircraft up to the size of a De Havilland Sea Vixen, fuselage and cockpit sections of larger aircraft and guided weapons.  It was also used for cold-weather testing of objects as diverse as North Sea fishing trawlers, diesel engines and Arctic clothing.  It was capable of generating temperatures between -65 degrees C and +60 degrees C.


Allan Winn, Museum Director, says:


“Until now the museum has not had the resources to restore and properly interpret this unique research facility, so we were delighted to receive this grant from AIM, under its Biffa Award scheme.  This restoration has seen a fantastic level of co-operation between our contractors, volunteers and staff, and the finished exhibition is a wonderful tribute not only to them, but also to Barnes Wallis and his team who created and utilised this extraordinary Chamber.”


For further information on the NHLP scheme contact: Sam Hunt at, 01460 75222, 07833 366624.