A specially selected piece of Lakeland Elterwater green natural stone from the UK’s leading producer, Cumbria-based Burlington, has been used to create a Roundel Memorial to commemorate the testing of the world’s first Hovercraft that took place some 50 years ago in Suffolk.

Marking the achievement of the Hovercraft’s inventor, Cambridge-born engineer, the late Sir Christopher Cockerell CBE FRS, the Roundel has been fittingly cited within the Pergola Lawn of Suffolk’s Somerleyton Hall, the venue of some of the earliest test flights of his first amphibious Hovercraft prototype.

Originating from an idea of ARIBA Consultant Architect, James Airy who sought to create a fitting memorial to an event of unprecedented international significance, the commission to create the Roundel was bestowed upon The Cardozo Kindersley Workshop in Cambridge – world famous for carving fine lettering.

A gift of Sally and Douglas Rushmer - Doug being the creator of many of the experimental parts of the embryonic Hovercraft and managing director of the Ripplecraft Boatyard where the Hovercraft story began - the Roundel was officially unveiled by Sir Christopher’s daughter, Frances Cockerell (Mrs F. K Airy).

Lida Cardozo Kindersley’s inspiration for the Roundel design emanated from original cine film footage showing the first testing of the Hovercraft prototype back in 1956. As she comments: “The film footage showed the 2ft 6in hovercraft model circling round and round a central point, and it was this that inspired me to create a circular stone, the design of which uses concentric rings of carved lettering cut by hand that gradually reduce in size.”

Unusually for the Cardozo Kindersley Workshop, the Elterwater stone Roundel bears its name carved round the edge in recognition of the links between the Cockrell and Kindersley families in pursuing the tradition of fine lettering. Described as a champion of the craft of letter-cutting, Lida Cardozo Kindersley has successfully created what can best be described as a beautiful piece of work that is entirely in keeping with both its subject and setting.

Sir Christopher Cockrell was born in Cambridge in 1910, one of three children of artist Florence Kate Kingsford and Sir Sydney Cockerell, the Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum. Sir Christopher studied at Peterhouse before joining Marconi. His first experiments to devise the Hovercraft took place when he moved to the village of Somerleyton to design boats after leaving Marconi. It was through Lord Somerleyton – who gave Sir Christopher permission to use the seclusion of the Pergola Lawn to further his work – that the Hovercraft design first attracted the attention of the then First Sea Lord, Lord Louis Mountbatten. Over the ensuing 50-year period, the Hovercraft industry has developed into a multi-billion pound international industry.

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