Situated on the opposite side of the road to the Fleet Air Arm Museum (FAAM) at RNAS Yeovilton, Cobham Hall houses the FAAM's extensive reserve collection of ex FAA aircraft. Unlike the museum itself, which is open throughout the year, Cobham Hall is only available for inspection on just a few pre-announced open days. These total around three per year. It was decided in the 1990s, to try and gather together all the aircraft attached to the FAAM, that were held at numerous locations around the country, in one dedicated place. Cobham Hall, as it was eventually named, cost £3 million to construct, with much of the money being granted by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It was completed in 2000 and is a totally purpose built building. It is divided into two sections each separated by a totally fire proof wall for added protection.
One side is for the aircraft the other smaller section is for offices and a vast collection of Royal Navy and FAA related artifacts and documents. Preserving and protecting the priceless exhibits is not easy, so air conditioning and a state-of-the-art fire detection and protection system has been installed. The walls are double thick and the windows double-glazed. The roof, which added significantly to the eventual cost, is much higher than the cost conscious architects would have preferred. This increased height allows the museum's crane to operate without restriction from within the building itself. This is important when aircraft are to be assembled or disassembled during restoration. The larger aircraft in particular no longer have to be towed outside before they can be worked upon.
In September 2003 the dispersed reserve collection of aircraft started to arrive. My latest visit some eighteen months after the opening still saw many of the aircraft in various states of restoration with some exhibits still not fully assembled.
During my visit the staff were very helpful indeed. They are all very enthusiastic about the project, dedicated to preserving the FAA's proud heritage. My guide was informative, also allowing me to move distracting information boards from in front of the aircraft, to make photography in the well lit hangar as easy as possible. But what is on show in this Aladdin's cave containing almost 40 complete aircraft?