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Father of The Jet Age

by Ian Homer. Posted to category: General

Sir Frank Whittle - visit to Lutterworth

A visit by Trust supporters to the Lutterworth & District Museum, with museum manager Geoff Smith giving a fascinating presentation and talk on Sir Frank Whittle's life and career and his battle to make the authorities see the potential of his invention, which drastically delayed developments ahead of the outbreak of WWII.

If he had not lost the patent on his designs through lack of funds, drawings of his invention would not have leaked and a rival design in Germany would not have beaten him to flight. As it was, the German design was made of inferior metals and proved highly unreliable. 

Today, although as a country, Whittle is not lauded or recognised enough for his achievements, he is acknowlededged to be the real 'Father of The Jet Age' - inventor of the turbojet engine that has changed the world of travel as we know it today.

Our visit took in the unassuming trading estate in Lutterworth, Leicestershire, where Whittle set up his Power Jets company to develop the early prototypes and to refine improvements ahead of full-scale producton at his Whetstone factory, with support in development by the Rover Car company, then ultimately, as a trading division of Rolls-Royce.

The modern jet engine was finally born.

This metal post holds a vital clue to the former use of the trading estate. It was used to secure the trolley on which the original Whittle Units were assembled and test run. You can see it in the historic picture below.


A cut-away of an early WU (Whittle Unit) seen in the Lutterworth & District Museum on our visit. 

Other artefacts in the museum include original documents and the patent itself, together with drawings and models. The display case includes a bottle of Champagne that was opened on the ocassion of the first flight in 1941 - signed by Whittle and the rest of his team.  

A plaque placed at the front of newly built industrial units is the only major visible clue to the sites importance to engineering and world history.

The original works office still exists today - now a taxi-cab office. Whittle's office window was the upper one, next to the drain-pipe - roughly central in this image.

DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME!!  - An early Whittle Unit is started - Enjoy the sound in this short video.

Our thanks to all that attended. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.
A note of appreciation for the hard work of the local volunteers that made the day possible.  


We have more events, presentations and visits being organised throughout the year. Visit our events page regularly to see the latest available - CLICK HERE:


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