Frank Wootton, C1996
Dimensions: 72cm x 103cm
Material: Oil on Canvas
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This oil painting shows the front of the Mansion House at RAF Bentley Priory. The painting is approximately half a meter high by a meter wide and is surrounded by a plain gold frame. The grand Mansion House is shown in its entirety, with its light yellow façade which contrasts against the dark grey of the roof tiles. It is three storeys high and its classical columns, large sash windows and stone balustrades all signify the Georgian architectural style. On the right hand side of the Mansion House is a tall clock tower.
The painting is of Bentley Priory under RAF occupancy. In the blue sky above the Mansion House are two aircraft: a Spitfire and a Hurricane, flying overhead, from left to right. Flying on a flag pole in front of the Mansion House is the light blue RAF Ensign, the official flag of the RAF. The RAF roundel is in the centre and the Union flag is in the top left corner. From the Mansion House’s covered porch, in the centre right of the picture, are two cars discharging guests.
In the foreground is the sweeping concrete drive and grassy lawn with a large cedar tree and to-scale Spitfire and Hurricane gate guardian on either side, with their noses facing up towards the sky and pointing towards the Mansion House.
The Air Ministry bought Bentley Priory, including the Mansion House and part of the surrounding land, in 1926. Due to the expansion of the RAF, the Air Defence of Great Britain was restructured and RAF Bentley Priory became Headquarters Fighter Command in 1936 under Sir Hugh Dowding. At the height of operations in 1945 there were over 3500 people working at RAF Bentley Priory. The RAF left in 2008.
The painting was produced by aviation artist, Frank Wootton.
There is a brass plaque on the frame which reads, ‘Presented by Boeing Defence and Space Group, British Aerospace Defence Limited, GEC-Marconi Limited and Rolls Royce Military Aero Engines Limited, to the Officers’ Mess Royal Air Force Bentley Priory on the occasion of the dinner held on 29th March 1996 to mark the end of the No 11 Group era’.