Centenary of the first transatlantic flight being celebrated this June

In September 2020 Derby Museums will open the new Museum of Making in Derby featuring, at its heart, some astonishing objects that have shaped the world in which we live. One of the stand-out objects is the Eagle Engine, which helped to power the first transatlantic flight by Alcock and Brown 100 years ago on June 14th and 15th 1919.

This small, but powerful Rolls-Royce engine will be a star object in the Museum of Making; a new visitor destination in the heart of Derby exploring 300 years of Derbyshire’s history of making through incredible objects that made a mark on the world.

Housed within Derby Silk Mill, on the site of the world’s first factory, the Museum of Making aims to use the stories of our making past to inspire creativity and the modern maker in all of us. The Museum will do this, not just through the objects on display, but through the stories of the people involved with those objects. That is why, ahead of its opening in September 2020, and on the centenary of the first transatlantic flight, Derby Museums is asking for stories related to the Eagle Engine that it hopes to feature in the new Museum of Making when it opens.

The Museum of Making is being developed and will be operated by Derby Museums which has secured major grant funding of £9.4 million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, £2.5 million from Arts Council England and £3.7 million from the Local Growth Fund by D2N2, the Local Enterprise Partnership. Significant support has also been received from Rolls-Royce and a range of charitable trusts and foundations.

Do you have any connections to the Rolls-Royce Eagle Engine? Was someone in your family involved on the Eagle production line at Rolls-Royce?  If so the Museum of Making wants to hear from you. The flight was also the first air mail plane and carried some interesting correspondence with it – did anyone in your family receive any mail from the flight?

Tony Butler, Executive Director at Derby Museums, the charitable trust which is developing and will operate the Museum of Making said: The new Museum of Making is being completely designed and put together with the people and industries of Derby. That is why we are issuing this call to find anyone with stories who can paint a wider picture about their involvement in this key milestone of aviation.

“It is those personal stories that will bring the Museum of Making to life and help inspire the maker in all of us. Derby was, and still is, making things that are having a huge impact in the UK and around the world, and this new Museum will not only be showcasing this through stories such as that of the Eagle Engine, but will also provide a hub for makers today.”

Gill Fennell, Community Investment Manager, Rolls-Royce said: We are incredibly proud of the role the Eagle Engine played in this amazing milestone in aviation history. As well as celebrating this key moment, we are also looking towards the future skills and expertise we need to help us pioneer new technologies. That is why we are a partner in the new Museum of Making which will be a fantastic inspiration and resource for the makers – and pioneers – of tomorrow.”

British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Brown made the first non-stop transatlantic flight in June 1919, taking off on 14th June. Flying in a modified First World War Vickers Vimy bomber from St John’s Newfoundland, they landed in Clifden, Connemara, Ireland on 15th June. This was a truly major achievement, taking place within 20 years of the Wright Brothers making the first flight. Many others had attempted this journey, but Alcock and Brown were the first to succeed in making the flight.

The modified plane was fitted with two Rolls-Royce Eagle Engines. Winston Churchill, as Secretary of State for Air, presented the two pilots with the Daily Mail prize of £10,000 for the first crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by aeroplane in “less than 72 consecutive hours.” A small amount of mail was carried on the flight, also making it the first transatlantic air mail flight.

The Eagle Engine is just one of over 50,000 objects that will go on display at the new Museum of Making when it opens its doors in September 2020.  The vast majority of these objects have never been accessible to the public before. Through these objects the new Museum will tell Derby’s story of making in the past, present and future.

This call out to local people to share their stories is all part of the approach to create the new Museum of Making with the people of Derby. If you have stories or connections related to Eagle Engines made by Rolls-Royce in Derby, or are interested in volunteering to help us make the new Museum of Making please contact us at info@derbymuseums.org.

Anne Jenkins, Director, England: Midlands & East from The National Lottery Heritage Fund “We are delighted to be supporting this major new museum development in Derby, it is an exciting example of a museum being created in a completely new way, putting local people right at its heart. It is therefore fitting that National Lottery funding is being used to support local communities as they help shape the museum of the future.”