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Penzance Library exhibition set to take a look at 100 years of aviation history in the area

By CMJohannaCarr  |  Posted: January 11, 2013

  • A rare picture taken at 8pm on July 23, 1910 when Claude Grahame-White made the first powered flight in Cornwall at Long Rock.

  • A picture of the Wild Goose Drone project, which took place at Predannack Airfield, near Mullion on the Lizard.

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These days everyone will have seen an aeroplane fly or heard the roar of a helicopter taking off and many will been on a flight at least once.

In 1910 though, when the first powered flight in Cornwall took off from Long Rock, the vast majority of people would never have seen such a thing as a man flying through the air in a flimsy wood and canvas aircraft.

Since that first flight, which must have seemed almost magical to spectators, aviation has had a rich history in west Cornwall and that history has now become the subject of a free exhibition.

Peter Waverly, who started the Penzance Archive in 1993 after the town's public library celebrated its centenary, is putting on the display at the library for four weeks.

He said: "I realised that nobody had been collecting local history on behalf of Penzance and west Cornwall.

"All the history was locked in newspapers. I have been putting it all together and this allows me to put on displays."

Although Mr Waverly gets some help from friends and the Cornwall Studies Library in Redruth he does most of the work himself.

The inspiration for his latest display came after he managed to get a number of photos of aviation spanning the past 100 years, something he said was essential when putting on a exhibition.

Visitors to the display will be able to follow the history of aviation in west Cornwall from the first flight in the area at Long Rock in 1910 to the present day with the final daylight landing of a helicopter last October.

Claude Grahame-White brought his plane to Cornwall by train and put on a display – flying over Mount's Bay.

It would have been the first time the majority of west Cornwall people had seen an aircraft.

Mr Waverly said: "Claude Grahame-White was the leading early aviator in Britain and he went around the country giving air displays to give people their first sight of and aircraft.

"They had just never seen anything like this before, they would have been awestruck to see a man flying over Mount's Bay."

Mr Grahame-White had to wait until 8pm before he went up in the canvas and wood plane because the plane was so lightweight it could not fly in windy conditions. Mr Waverly added: "The next day he flew to Camborne, landed at Pendarves Road, dismantled his aircraft and the crowd helped him carry it to a special train and he left Cornwall on this train."

The display, which will open in the library on Monday, covers aviation during the Great War, its early commercial uses during the inter-war years and events in World War II.

In the post war era it depicts the Wild Goose drone project, the arrival of the helicopter service, and the bombing of the Torrey Canyon.

The Wild Goose drone project was run by Leonard Cheshire and involved a rocket powered drone, which was flown from a trolley on wheels.

The project was not entirely successful but west Cornwall was left with a valuable legacy – the St Teresa's Disability Cheshire Home in Marazion.

Mr Cheshire originally founded the home in a disused aircraft building on the Predannack Airfield, near Mullion on the Lizard but it was later moved to its current site in Marazion.

The Penzance Archive display will be on show at Penzance Library, Morrab Road until February 9.

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