'Sentinel' – Birmingham, England - Atlas Obscura


This eye-catching roundabout sculpture commemorates one of England's best World War II-era "shadow factories." 


On a traffic roundabout known as “Spitfire Island,” you’ll find a massive sculpture that’s sure to catch your eye. The abstract artwork depicts three half-size Supermarine Spitfires with dramatic frameworks that represent vapor trails.

Called Sentinel, the sculpture was designed by Tim Tolkien, the great-nephew of writer J. R. R. Tolkien. The monumental artwork was created to commemorate the old Castle Bromwich factory, which was where most of the United Kingdom’s wartime Spitfires had been made.

Between 1940 and 1945, the aircraft factory at Castle Bromwich manufactured almost 12,000 Vickers Supermarine Spitfire fighters. It was built as a “shadow aircraft factory” under the instruction of Canadian press magnate Max Aitken (Lord Beaverbrook), then the Minister of Aircraft Production.

Lord Beaverbrook’s shadow factories were started as a backup in case the main Spitfire production site at Southampton was destroyed by bombing. Though the Castle Bromwich was a shadow factory, it contributed significantly to aircraft production in its own right and eventually became the largest Spitfire factory in the United Kingdom, building both Spitfire fighters and Lancaster Bombers.

Alex Henshaw, the former Chief Test Pilot at Castle Bromwich unveiled the sculpture in October 2000. The magnificent sculpture is as much a tribute to Beaverbrook as to the Spitfire itself.

Know Before You Go

The roundabout is near junction 5 of the M6 Motorway and the present day Jaguar car plant, which occupies the Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory site.

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October 15, 2018

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