Old black and white photo helps RAF Museum recreate Claude Grahame-White's Hendon office

By Richard Moss | 27 April 2015

The RAF Museum has recreated Claude Grahame-White's office using a single old black and white photo

a black and white photo of a room beamed ceilings, wood paneled walls, fireplace and heavy Jacobean style furniture including a table
The office pictured in its heyday © RAF Museum
By all accounts the office of British aviation pioneer and businessman Claude Graham-White was a traditional affair; full of wood panelling and heavy Jacobean furniture of the type you might expect to see in an English country manor house.

Situated on the first floor of the purpose-built watchtower of his new aerodrome and flying school at Hendon, it was from these sumptuous surrounds that the dashing pilot-entrepreneur oversaw his aviation company and developed his plans for British commercial and military aviation.

Grahame-White went on to become a pilot for the Royal Naval Air Service during the early days of the First World War before quitting to manage his business, which employed 1,000 staff to deal with wartime contracts for aircraft.

Now his sumptuous first floor office has been faithfully recreated by the Royal Air Force Museum after careful analysis of a single black and white photograph dating from 1915 - the only known photograph to survive - with the colour scheme meticulously developed by studying a painting.

a photo of a room with beamed ceilings, oaks panels and dressers and stone fireplace
The office restored© RAF Museum
The space opened to the public today (April 27 2015) as an integral part of the RAF’s exhibition telling the role of air warfare during the First World War, itself situated in the adjacent Graham-White Aircraft Factory.

The Watchtower was moved by brick-by-brick to the museum from a plot nearby as part of a careful restoration of the historic building, which opened to the public in 2010.

This latest instalment in the ongoing restoration of the interior saw materials drawn from across the world to evoke what the museum describes as a “time capsule feel” when visitors enter the room. Copies of historic documents that can be handled have been also been re-produced.

At the end of the war Grahame-White sold the land to the Air Ministry and emigrated to California. He eventually died in Nice in 1959 aged 79, having made a fortune in property.

“It’s wonderful to be opening up this room to our visitors and we have no doubt that it will appeal to a wide audience,” said John Waxman, the Assistant Director of the museum.

“The room is a replica of the office where Claude Grahame-White developed his plans for British Aviation which in turn impacted the world. I’m sure its charm will resonate with those who visit.”

A black and white photo of a man with short hair in a double breasted jacket and tie
Claude Graham White - aviation pioneer and builder of aircraft
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More on this story:

Aircraft of the First World War: A tour of the Grahame-White Factory at the RAF Museum London

RAF Museum hits all the right notes with new First World War in the Air gallery

Watchtower built by aviation pioneer Claude Grahame-White reopens at RAF Museum
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