Binstead designer, Richard Curtis, has a plan. It’s a plan he’d like your opinion on.
He’s submitted a proposal to the National Trust to build a full scale replica of the Black Arrow Rocket at its original testing site at High Down, the Needles.
Richard, who works mainly in the construction industry, admits to being “a bit of a space enthusiast” and he feels his plan for the full-scale replica would be a great way to celebrate and remember the Island’s space legacy.
Being reviewed by the National Trust
The proposal is currently under review by the National Trust, is keen to get some feedback from OnTheWight readers as part of the his process.
He’s created a Facebook page (Black Arrow on the Wight) for you to visit and show your support.
Richard estimates the cost of the project to be around £75,000 with the possibility of funding from various sources, corporate sponsorship, partnerships with a main contractor or possibly lottery funding support.
He believes the project could also help boost funding for the site through the sale of merchandise, which he says would both help to maintain the exhibit and as well
go towards improving facilities at the site.
Share your views
Richard has kindly shared the detail of his proposal below. See what you think and let Richard have your feedback.
To stay up to date with the proposal, check Richard’s Facebook page Black Arrow on the Wight
Black Arrow on the Wight: The Main Proposal
The proposal is to build a full size replica of the Black Arrow Rocket at the Gantry No1 site, at the former rocket testing facility at High Down on the Isle of Wight. The replica would be a simplified model of the original rocket made from light weight but durable materials to ensure that it has minimum impact on the existing original structure.
The model would be located in a modified replica of the Gantry structure used to house the rocket for testing. This would give visitors a sense of scale & of purpose of the original structures used to hold & test the rockets, as well as helping to protect the model of rocket from weathering.
The design avoids trying to create a verbatim replica of the original gantry structure, as these no longer exist. The original Gantries were clad in corrugated Aluminium which although functional may not be deemed that attractive by the public & would create a limited viewing location, so I have proposed using clear Perspex instead.
The main concrete structures at High Down appear to be in very good condition with no signs of “spalling” or material flaking due to internal reinforcement corrosion.
The good condition of the concrete infrastructure is supported by a fairly recent 2009 survey by English Heritage, on the behalf of the National Trust, which suggested the former gantry sites were good enough to be used for future Rocket testing, although this may prove difficult now due to the sites current popularity with the general public.
These structures seemed to be built to last, designed to withstand the weight & force of a fully fuelled rocket undergoing engine firing, as well as any potential weathering from the coastal location, a testament to the builders & Engineers of the day.
The existing fixing plates combined with modern fixing technologies, such a resin fixed connectors, could be used to support & hold a lighter replica rocket & gantry structure, without compromising the integrity of the remaining original structure.
Most of the structure could be fabricated offsite, with on-site construction causing minimum disruption to visitors, construction could take place outside of visiting hours.
Their may also be the potential for assistance with infrastructure renewal at High Down, from the newly formed Island Road Company who have expressed their desire to support Island based projects.
This could take the form of hand rail replacement or paving repair etc at the site, to compliment the Black Arrow exhibit.
Boosting the Local Economy
The Isle of Wight has been recognised as an area of relatively high levels of unemployment for the South of England, particularly in these difficult times. Their are several companies on the Island who have the capability to fabricate the replica rocket model & gantry structure, who could benefit from the work this project generates.
The National Trust have expressed their hope for developing an improved visitor centre at the High Down site in the future, this project could act as a significant gateway & catalyst towards making that a reality, through demonstrating the sites potential & the media coverage this project would generate.
Autumn 2015 will mark the 50th Anniversary of the Black Arrow Rocket being assembled & the engines being test-fired on the Island.
This would give a window of around 12 months to initiate & complete the project, which should be achievable, as its a relatively simple structure.
The construction of a full scale replica rocket at this location, where the Black Arrow & other British rockets were tested, would be a fitting celebration of Britain’s Space history, as well helping to inspire future generations of rocket scientists.
The High down testing facility is an important part of Britain’s technological history, probably the closest Britain has to the Kennedy space centre.
The site is well attended & I feel this proposal would be extremely popular with the visiting public, as it would help to give a real sense of scale to the rockets tested at high down & work undertaken their as part of the UK’s space program.