The origins of the
Helicopter Museum goes back to 1958, when the founder, aviation
writer/historian Elfan ap Rees, began to build up a private collection of rotorcraft
and artifacts. Over the next 10 years his collection grew and in 1969
he acquired his first complete helicopter, a Bristol Sycamore Mk.3.
In 1974 his purchase of a Bristol
Belvedere, built at Weston-super-Mare, motivated the formation of a volunteer group to restore the aircraft.
the following years more acquisitions were made and the volunteer
group expanded to
start preserving the collection. In December 1976 an
ex Royal Navy Westland Whirlwind HAS Mk.7 was
In July 1977 an ex Royal Air Force Bristol Sycamore HC Mk.14 was
added to the growing collection, increasing the number of
aircraft in the collection to eight.
1977 also saw the formation of the British Rotorcraft Museum, a
registered charity and Limited company, with the primary aims of further developing
the collection and opening it up to the public.
1978 saw continued growth of the historic
collection of rotorcraft with three rare prototypes joining the collection. These were the Fairey Ultra-Light tip-jet driven helicopter, the Thruxton Gadfly
HDW.1 two-seat autogyro and the Campbell Cougar autogyro, which became the first
aircraft acquired directly by the museum itself.
In the 1978 the museum
managed to obtain a small area and some buildings on
which included a second world war armoury building and air-raid shelter. The
buildings required extensive repair work but by the summer of 1978
collection was opened to the public, with nine aircraft on display and a range artifacts.
Due to the success of the
this initial opening the museum collection was again opened
up to the public for
the summer season in 1979, but the lack of a permanent site for the
collection was now foremost in the minds of the members of the Museum,
search was started for a suitable site.