Just as the InterCity 125 train was a remarkable feat in British engineering (testament to this is that InterCity trains have been operating up & down the country since 1975), so too is the Hovercraft.
British mechanical engineer Sir Christopher Cockerell and his group was the first to develop the use of a ring of air for maintaining the cushion, the first to develop a successful skirt, and the first to demonstrate a practical vehicle in continued use. His SR.N1 model was the first hovercraft to cross the English Channel in 1959 and sealed the deal to bring hovercraft into commercial operations.
The Hovercraft Museum, based in Lee-on-the-Solent, has the only collection in the world of historic hovercraft and there are 60 hovercraft within several hangars on the Daedalus site. The museum started collecting hovercraft in 1986 and 30 years later, after fixing up the the hovercrafts and the hangers, the museum finally opened to the public. It is run by a team of dedicated enthusiasts, engineers, pilots and retired crew which makes for such a enriching experience, there is a tour with guide Jim Gray who is a wealth of information on the world of hovercraft – even the cafe staff are dressed in crew outfits!
I could go on and on about this fascinating place! and I personally loved the way it’s jammed packed full of hovercraft memorabilia as well as these great machines of a beautiful era that many would love to see again. It does sadden me that they had to fight to keep this place open due to some poor decisions made by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) but more than 10,000 people signed a petition to keep it as it is and with the backing of Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Princess Anne it was saved. Money however is needed to fund the museum and it is only open Saturdays and special event days, they hope to restore the amazing Princess Anne hovercraft (see in the photos) and support can be made through playing the Gosport Lottery.
This really is a gem of a place and a trip back in time, somewhere I’ve been wanting to visit for a while and I’m so glad I got these photos – enjoy!
Information about visiting the museum can be found at their website: https://www.hovercraft-museum.org