June 14, 2019

Museum Review - Newark Air Museum

Reader Alexander was kind enough to provide this report on the Newark Air Museum in Nottinghamshire, which is about 2.5 hours north of London.1

An Avro Vulcan at Newark2
Type: Air Museum,
Location: Newark, Nottinghamshire, UK
Rating: 4.5/5, limited collection, but the cockpit tours make up for it.
Price: £9 ($11.50 US) for adults


A Blackburn Buccaneer

Earlier this year my wife and I visited Newark Air Museum. They've got a good collection of aircraft, mostly British Cold War era machines, as well as a selection of aircraft parts, engines, armaments and support equipment, and items illustrating the museum's history as an active airfield. The Museum has a number of volunteers on hand who will (for a small supplementary donation) take you into the cockpit of an aircraft and give a talk. For me this was the best part of the visit. We went on a weekday outside of school holidays, so only a handful of aircraft were open, but this meant no queues, nor any hurry to exit and allow someone else in. The volunteers were all very happy to explain the aircraft's history and their connection with it, as well as answer any questions. There is something disturbingly exciting about sitting in the cockpit of a Vulcan, with a former pilot telling you how his crew would have worked together to reach the target, interspersed with anecdotes from training missions.

A BAE Harrier

It was a little while ago that I visited, and even longer since I've been anywhere else for comparison purposes, but in my mind, it compares well with the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, and the RAF Museum at Cosford.

A Fairey Gannet and a de Havilland Sea Vixen

As an aside, I would say that because of the UK's relative compactness and 20th century history, we're quite well off for museums of this sort, with a collection probably only a few hours’ drive from wherever you are. Museum ships are not as common, which seems odd given our maritime history, but I think the disproportionate number of air museums could have something to do with tiling the country with airfields during the second world war.

An Avro Shackleton

1 Context provided for those of us who don't live in the UK. As always, if you'd like to contribute a review, email me at battleshipbean at gmail.

2 All photos courtesy of Alexander.


  1. June 14, 2019timshatz said...

    Thanks Bean, looks like a cool place to visit. Like the part about talking it up with former V bomber guys and sitting in the cockpits. Not enough of that sort of thing anymore.

    Great job!

  2. June 14, 2019redRover said...

    Further to the point about good air museums and bad maritime museums, the Maritime Museum in Greenwich is pretty bad, but the RAF Museum in North London is quite good, with a wide range of eras and airframes represented.

    Also, the main IWM (London, not Duxford) is quite good. Have not been to Duxford or the ship on the Thames, the name of which escapes me right now.

  3. June 14, 2019bean said...

    I’m sad to hear that you found the Maritime Museum bad. I obviously haven’t been, and probably couldn’t be dissuaded from going, but I can also see how my impression has been shaped by their importance in research for naval history. The public-facing collection is probably a different matter.

    The ship on the Thames is Belfast.

  4. June 14, 2019Alexander said...

    Since I wrote this, I visited Sheffield's Kelham island museum (http://www.simt.co.uk/kelham-island-museum), where they've got an impressively sized steam engine that was used for rolling out plate for many of Britain's Dreadnoughts. Also on show was a section of armour from HMS Warrior, and a shell that was probably intended for HMS Furious. The museum is mostly focused on industry (and hand tools?) rather than military history, so not worth a full review, but since I didn't have any expectations of naval themed exhibits they were exciting to come across.

  5. June 15, 2019DampOctopus said...

    I visited HMS Belfast just recently. I should have taken some photos and some notes so I could contribute a proper review. Well, I'll just give a brief one.

    It had many visitors, as you'd expect from its location near the city centre. Most of the ship was accessible, with mock-ups of its old contents: 1940s-era comestibles in the canteen, fake shells in the magazine, and hammocks and mannequins in the messes. There were several screens showing looped videos - the one in one of the turrets was particularly good, with footage describing the battle against Scharnhorst - but it could have used more static explanatory signage.

    Most of the signage, in fact, was left over from the ship's operational days. The galley, for example, had instructions for how to turn on the ovens without (presumably) interfering with other draws on the ship's electrical systems, the boiler room had checklists for the men operating the various stations, the magazine had a sign specifying the ammunition-handling procedures, etc. This really helped to define my impression of what it must have been like for the sailors who served on her.

    The admission fee was £18, and the location is a short walk from London Bridge station. I don't know how it compares to other museum ships, but I found it well worth a visit.

  6. June 16, 2019Doctorpat said...

    I also visited HMS Belfast and I thought it was pretty good. I didn't intend to visit it, I was just walking along the Thames looking at the sights of London, and there it was. (Also, (a reconstruction) The Golden Hind.)

    I got to explain to my Chinese Wife that the battle damage being shown was caused by ... the Chinese. (As stated on the explanatory posters.)

    "England fought a war against China?!"

    "Ah yes... they may have glossed over this in Chinese school, but ..."

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