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Armstrong Siddeley Centre Pentre

Heritage Trust Progress.

This week has seen a serious start to the preparatory work needed in unit 1a at Pentre, the Heritage Trust’s new home. Our trustee John Stoodley, pictured below, has taken on this task and is clearly not averse to ‘hands on’ when needed. The first of the two windows giving natural light to the top floor has now been replaced.

The report below, written by John, gives some idea of the task ahead.

Armstrong Siddeley Centre – The Development of Unit 1A

The original vision and work to date

On the 12th November 2021, the Armstrong Siddeley Owners Club (ASOC) and the Armstrong Siddeley Heritage Trust (ASHT) agreed a 25-year lease with the Landlord for Unit 1 and 1A at Pentre Industrial Estate near Shrewsbury. At over 5000 sq ft, both premises are known as the Armstrong Siddeley Centre and will be the long-term facility for the stores (Unit 1) and historical artifacts (Unit 1A). Initially the focus was on making the buildings secure and water tight and developing Unit 1 ready to accept the stores held for so long at Conkwell.

A team of volunteers, paid helpers and professionals built dividing walls, interior windows, toilets and a kitchen, repaired the concrete floor and installed power and lighting. External costs were covered by generous donations from members to the Pentre fund. In October 2022, after weeks of preparation by volunteers at Conkwell and months of building at Pentre, the stores began to be moved using a combination of volunteers and professional services. An extensive stocktake took place in May 2023 now most of the spares are at Pentre. The remaining, tasks in Unit 1 are to build an office and packing room for the Stores Manager (that can be heated when necessary) and some cosmetic finishing to the kitchen area.

Spares taking up residence in Unit 1.

Display of Armstrong Siddeley artefacts in Unit 1A

With the stores largely in place at their new home, attention now moves to Unit 1A which will accommodate the many artefacts belonging to ASHT and ASOC. These items represent the extensive engineering history and include pictures, documents, a library, scale models, a telephone exchange, engines from a torpedo, a car, an aeroplane and even a jet engine. The largest items are historically significant pre and post war cars. The development of Unit 1A is planned as 3 steps. Step 1 is to provide a secure and dry space to store the many artefacts at a single, accessible location. Currently, the items are distributed around members’ homes, garages and storage facilities and even on loan at national museums.

Step 2 is to safely display these items for the Armstrong Siddeley community to enjoy. Unit 1A has a ground floor, a raised ground floor and a top floor which lend themselves well to the range of artefacts. The ground floor has the space and access to display up to 4 cars and perhaps other heavy items. The raised floor is solid and could accommodate heavy items such as the aeroplane engines, large display cabinets, and table top displays. The top floor has natural light and would provide a meeting room using the original Armstrong Siddeley Board Room furniture, presentation and research areas and space for the club’s library. There are large windows on the ground and top floors overlooking the racks of spares in Unit 1. Finally, Step 3 could provide limited public access such as to other historical interest groups at pre-agreed dates and times. However, at this time, Step 3 is very much an aspiration due to the additional legislative and leasing requirements to consider.

Top floor - A bright space and ideal for research, meetings and presentations.

The development of Unit 1A

Developing Unit 1A to safety display artefacts alongside the stores already held in Unit 1 will deliver the full vision for the Armstrong Siddeley Centre as a single, accessible facility that will greatly benefit the Armstrong Siddeley community. As an example, members could choose to collect their spares in person and take the opportunity to tour the artefacts, conduct research using the many documents and library books or arrange with others to hold a meeting in the ‘Board Room’. For those further afield or unable to travel to Pentre, a video tour of Unit 1A would be possible and accessible through the ASOC and ASHT websites. For security this feature may need to be restricted to members only via a password.

To store and then display the artefacts will require a significant programme of work on Unit 1A. The ASHT Board Members met in April to review, record and prioritise the works required to deliver Steps 1 and 2. To keep the items dry, roof and wall insulation and background heating will be necessary and the main roof may need to be recovered to minimise condensation.

Exterior windows and doors will need to be reinstated or replaced. The concrete floors will need to be levelled and the top floor reinforced to reduce movement under load. To address safety, the main stairs to the top floor will be modified, one set of stairs between the ground and middle floor will be relocated and a second set will be replaced by a ramp. Additional heating for the meeting and research areas will be provided. Cosmetically, there are ceilings, walls and floors to cover and paint. For the displays, better lighting and power sockets will be required. It is hoped that most of the display cabinets and surfaces can be obtained either for free or at salvage costs but fire proof cabinets could be an expensive, but necessary, purchase.

Ground floor - when ready will be ideal for a car display.

Your help is still required

Work is ongoing to estimate the full list of works but initial thoughts are this could cost up to £25,000 for materials and professional services. Whilst some of the funds raised last year still remain, a significant part of the funding will still need to be obtained through further fund raising and member donations. It is recognised that donations to Pentre so far included a few very large and generous amounts. By comparison now, if each ASOC / ASHT member donated as little as £25, we would raise in the order of £16,000 and be well on the way to achieving our goal. So, as with the original request, your kind donations to further develop Unit 1A are sought and a donation page is included in this blog. Similarly, to reduce costs we need as much of the work as possible to be completed by volunteers. If you have relevant building skills, or are just good with a paint brush, then please find some time to help those already volunteering at Pentre.

Thank you.

To use this form please click on it and copy to your favourite word type document, print it out, complete and return to:

Southleigh, Reading Road, Burghfield Common, Reading, RG7 3BL.

Please remember to send your donations by cheque or bank transfer as shown on the form.


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