The Hovercraft Column site is pictured above left with evening light as it stood when the project began. The picture right shows the site cleaned and the foundation laid in 2008. It is opposite the Village Green just within the curtilage of the park surrounding Somerleyton Hall. The people of Somerleyton Village were consulted at the outset and the project was introduced by displaying our architect’s outline drawing in the Village Post Office. This was followed by an explanatory talk during the Open Forum before the Parish Council Meeting in February 2004. The Parish Council gave it their unanimous support to the extent that they allowed the Planning Application to go forward in their name.
Waveney District Council, also unanimously, gave planning consent on the 17th March 2004, a councillor commenting that they were pleased to see Sir Christopher’s work remembered locally in such a way. Formally the agenda says :-‘The site is part of open countryside adjoining the village and designated as a Special Landscape Area (ENV3), however, it is felt that this particular man made intrusion adds to the quality of the land and vista.’ The Column is seen as a community-enhancing project and the Planning Fees were refunded by grant, together with two other helpful grants from local councillor’s budgets. To get that far with such accord from both the public and the authorities is something of a triumph for the design. Historically columns have been raised to mark events of national triumph, Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square is perhaps the best known. It is not widely known that it was built by Sir Morton Peto’s building contracting company in 1843, the year he bought the Somerleyton Estate. See Press Release 1
Being in a Special Landscape Area and in a visually outstanding position, it was important that the design did not interfere with the transparency of the scene, particularly in a south-easterly direction from the village green. From this point of view a Column is a very good choice because while it does not intrude on horizontal sight-lines, it presents the bronze Prototype Model Hovercraft conspicuously at a height of six metres. It successfully rounds out the purpose of landmarking the site of a great invention while celebrating the life and work of Sir Christopher Cockerell, indeed the contribution of engineering to society.
The Somerleyton Estate has a long and distinguished past associated with self motivated men of science and industry, stretching back to the industrial revolution period that made Britain a great world power. Both Somerleyton Hall and its garden are Grade II* listed by English Heritage and are open to the public, please follow this link to www.somerleyton.co.uk . The pictures below show the view from the Hovercraft Column site towards Somerleyton Hall (right) and to the Village Green (left), such an important area of one of England’s finest model villages.
Over 20,000 visitors come to visit Somerleyton Hall every year by road and river. For walkers, Angles Way passes through Somerleyton village street and winds along close to the old Wherry Dyke at the boatyard. It was voted the best waterside walk in Britain by www.waterscape.com in 2003.