Sculpture "languishing" in underground car park

Sculpture honouring Kingston's aviation past

Sculpture honouring Kingston's aviation past "languishing" in underground car park

First published in News by , Digital editor

A sculpture commissioned to commemorate Kingston’s aviation past is languishing in an underground car park.

A helmeted pilot in the skies with a Sopwith Camel, a Hurricane and a Hunter jet was created by artist Carole Hodgson in 1987 to commemorate 75 years of the town’s involvement with British Aerospace.

The closure of the factory in 1992, then the town’s biggest employers, ended 80 years of aircraft design and manufacture in the royal borough.

Twenty five years later, with the 100th anniversary approaching this summer, the sculpture has ended up hidden away on the wall of the Cattle Market car park by the spiral staircase.

Michael Frain, a former engineer who signed the documents closing the British Aerospace site in Richmond Road in 1992, said: “I was one of the judges for the competition. The art critic from the Sunday Times was there too.

“[The sculpture] was put there temporarily as Kingston was a building site at that time.

“I feel very sad. It just fails to reach out to the public.”

Australian-born Harry Hawker established himself as an aviator years before World War I began, after managing hangars at Brooklands aerodrome, the hub of British aviation.

He became chief test pilot for Tom Sopwith, who was already acknowledged as the originator of many fine aircraft, most famously the Sopwith Camel.

The pair later went on to co-own Hawker Aircraft Limited after Kingston-based Sopwith Aviation Company went bankrupt in the aftermath of the World War I.

In 1935 the company was renamed Hawker Siddeley Aircraft and went on to produce more famous military aircraft, including the inter-war Demon and Hart and the post-war Hunter and Harrier.

Chief designer Sir Sydney Camm designed the Tempest and Hawker Hurricane, which was one of the front-line defences during the Battle of Britain in World War II.

In 1977 the company was nationalised to form part of British Aerospace.

A four-day event in Market Place, with life-size planes and flight simulators, will mark the centenary of Hawker over the Queen’s diamond jubilee bank holiday from June 2 to 5.

Councillor Dennis Doe, who is trying to help find somewhere to rehang the sculpture, said: "The centenary is coming up. Can’t that now be put in a public place?"

q Can you think of somewhere to display the sculpture? Call our newsdesk on 020 8744 4244.

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