What is the future for the Grove airplane?

In 2007 an airplane was erected outside the Grove Business Park by the then owner, flown in from Switzerland and suspended almost as a gate guardian on a patch of land next to the roundabout, acting as a landmark and guiding people into the park. Unfortunately, in February 2022 it was gently tipped it off its podium by the 100mph Storm Eunice (see this video taken by a local resident just before it came down). It has not since been restored or repositioned. The local community is saddened by its loss and continuing to wonder whether or not it will be preserved.

Whilst many of us enjoyed the opportunity to make “low flying plane” jokes on the roundabout, the statue was so much more than that – it was also a reminder of Grove’s history as a WW2 airfield, which is what lead to the plane being erected there in the first place.

The plane is a De Havilland Venom, repainted with the RAF stripes, which are still visible even in ruin. It has an eye-catching twin boom tail, which it was given to provide stability and easier access to the engine, which made it a unique landmark. The Venom was used by the RAF as a high-altitude fighter bomber and a similar Sea Venom was created for the Royal Navy.

Retired for the last time in 1973 by the Swiss Air Force, most (including Grove’s beloved plane)  are now held by private owners. However, models such as the Vampire can be seen at the De Havilland Museum at Salisbury Hall near Hatfield. The Grove airplane was chosen because of the Venom’s strong connections with Grove Airfield during and after WW2. It was purchased from the Swiss Air Force, flown over and erected on its stand in 2007. It proved to be, as well as a popular local feature, an effective landmark for the Grove Business Park.

In an attempt to find out if there were any plans for the airplane, we contacted Grove Parish Council. As spokesperson told us that they were often asked about this, but that they owned neither the land nor the plane and were not told of any plans for it to be reinstalled. Oxfordshire County Council had also contacted them not days before, showing how much people value the plane and want something to be done to restore it to its former glory.

We then called Grove Business Park. We learnt that when the business park was sold about eight years ago, the plane and the patch of land it was on were retained by the previous owner.

Our next call was therefore to Robs Lamplough, the owner of this patch of land and the plane and the former owner of the Business Park, to ask about any plans to have the Venom re-erected. He told us that there was interest from Grove Business Park in just such a scheme and that discussions were ongoing. He added that he has hopes that the plane will be repaired: he would want the original plane up again and restored in a way that would preserve it and that this shouldn’t present insuperable problems. Whilst the traditional design would see the cockpit made of wood, a material such as fibreglass would allow the same model to remain where it previously stood. Other issues that will need to be resolved include the ownership of the land, possible planning issues and, of course, the cost of the restoration and who will pay for it.

Penny Post will be keeping in touch with those involved and will bring you more news when available. We wish them all the best in coming to a suitable arrangement.

Whilst many of us would be delighted to have it as a trophy in our own front gardens, the thought that the plane may be returned to its former glory leaves many of us very happy. Watch this space…

Imogen Thomas, Didcot Sixth Form

Photo credit: Mike Hissey

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One Response

  1. There was a massive amount of money donated to a go fund me page, when the venom plane was originally blown down in the storm. The residents of Wantage and Grove want to see the plane back up. The fund page was set up by a local person, who admitted that they hadn’t understood the complexities of restoring the plane when they set the page up, so they closed the page down and refunded everyone’s money. Community support is still there, if funding is an issue, then please ask the local community.

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