Lincolnshire has enjoyed a long association with the nation’s aviation heritage; from the establishment of the Royal Flying Corps in 1912, the Dambusters at Scampton during the 2nd World War, through to the Red Arrows currently.
Tangible evidence for the Royal Flying Corps in Lincolnshire is minimal today, but during the 1st World War there were 38 landing grounds dotted around the green fields of Lincolnshire, including an Aircraft Acceptance Park (AAP) on the West Common in Lincoln. Opened as No.4 AAP in 1915 the facility was expanded throughout the war with the purpose of testing new aircraft, with the Racecourse Grandstand used as offices. The officers’ mess still survives on the West Common at the junction of Alderman’s Walk and the A57 (Saxilby Road).
A rare legacy from this early period of Lincoln’s aviation heritage survives as a large RFC mural painted above a fireplace in the Grandstand in 1917. It is signed in the lower right corner “2nd A.M HUNTER” (Air Mechanic 2nd Class, Hunter).
Although the mural has survived quite well over the intervening years, it has suffered from some unsympathetic restoration in the past and the original varnish has significantly darkened detracting from its true nature.
Now, in the centenary year of the establishment of the RAF, Lincoln Conservation, along with students studying for an MA in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage at the University of Lincoln, have just completed a programme of cleaning and conservation of the mural to stabilise and restore it back to its original appearance.
The darkened varnish was carefully removed from the surface using suitable solvents. Later disfiguring attempts at repair were removed and areas of cracked plaster filled. Areas of paint loss were reintegrated after a coating of isolating varnish was applied.
Finally, the mural was coated in a matt varnish with ultra-violet inhibitor to even out the surface finish and provide a protective coating.