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The Tilly Shilling

This pub is named after the aeronautical engineer who carried out vital work on World War Two fighter planes at the Royal Aircraft Establishment.

Units 2–5, The Meads, Victoria Road, Farnborough, Hampshire, GU14 7PG

During the 1930s, Beatrice Shilling worked as an aeronautical engineer at the Royal Aircraft Establishment and was responsible for correcting a serious defect in the Merlin-engined RAF fighter planes during the Second World War. Tilly was also well known for racing motorbikes at Brooklands and was awarded the Gold Star for lapping the famous circuit at over 100mph. In 2009, Shilling topped the poll in the County Council’s online poll of historical Hampshire figures.

A plaque documenting the history of The Tilly Shilling.

The plaque reads: These licensed premises are named after the aeronautical engineer who carried out vital work on World War Two fighter planes at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough. Beatrice ‘Tilly’ Shilling was also well known for racing motorbikes. The premises stand on the site of five shops, next to Spooner’s forge, which opened in 1885, trading in Victoria Road for more than 75 years.

These premises were built by J D Wetherspoon in July 2011.

A photograph and text about Tilly Shilling.

The text reads: Beatrice (Tilly) Shilling was born on 8 March 1909 in Waterlooville, Hampshire. She began her working life as an apprentice electrical engineer in Devon. She was persuaded by her employer to undertake a degree in electrical engineering at Manchester University, and later completed a master’s degree in 1933.

Beatrice combined her academic success with a passion for motorcycles. She raced regularly at Brooklands during the 1930s, and was awarded the Gold Star for lapping the track at over 106 mph, faster than any other woman on two wheels.

Beatrice joined the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough in 1936, and soon became the leading specialist in aircraft carburettors. During the Second World War, she was assigned to solve a critical design defect with the Rolls Royce Merlin engines that powered the allied Hurricane and Spitfire fighters. The engines, unlike those of the German fighters, would misfire or cut out altogether when diving steeply. Beatrice’s solution was a small brass disc with a hole in the middle, which when fixed into the engine’s carburettor lessened fuel deprivation, and reduced engine cut outs. Very grateful, but slightly mischievous pilots, christened her device ‘Miss Shilling’s orifice’.

Text about the design of The Tilly Shilling.

The text reads: The 1930s, the age of grandeur for flying and an air of sophistication and opulence surrounds the pilot, who was seen as the rock star of the day and every child’s dream job. This was the period of time in which Beatrice Shilling worked as an aeronautical engineer; it is also the point of reference for the beginning of our design process.

Our aim has been to capture a little of the 30’s opulence mixed with the contemporary situation of the building, tied together with the warmth of a public house. Further inspiration was draw on from the importance of flight during the war and the secrecy and intimacy that surrounded RAF offices and headquarters.

Before one even enters the pub, the relationship with Beatrice is brought to our attention through the signage and more subtly the door handles, formed from Spitfire controls.

The interior is split into two areas, the first, a main large hall accommodating the bar to provide a lively atmosphere. Large feature ceiling beds utilise bronze textured surfaces to reflect warm light down from above. There are a variety of metal finishes used here, from the ceiling finishes and the lighting to the furniture and brass fretwork. These details draw the machine age of the time and particularly aircraft materials and styles, into the design. Refined metallic elements create reflections and shadows to break up the surfaces and the formality of the space. The fireplace situated at one end creates a separate area with an informal feel.

The second room is in contrast, a smaller intimate space, evoking the feel of a high ranking air marshal’s office. A feature ‘blueprint’ covers one wall, which is composed using scans of original Spitfire blue prints that can be found hanging on the walls in the pub. Here you will also find a full size Spitfire propeller adorning the wall. A row of reclaimed airplane seats have been individually tailored to the interior scheme and together with the feature tin ceiling, add to the unique intimate surroundings.

Within the building we have created a version of the strategy table, the hub of a control office where a group would congregate to plot defensive and offensive manoeuvres. This is partnered by what turned out to be one of the most important clocks of all time, The Sector Clock, attributed with the title ‘The clock that saved Britain’. Additional bespoke furniture includes the ‘flying jacket chair’ a design based on the leather flying jacket, contrasted with zips revealing lively bold colours. Cast metal furniture pieces around the pub combine engineering with traditional craftsmanship, a symbol of what was required to produce and manufacture the early airplanes.

Individual plane identification markings became an important aspect of supremacy in the air during the war and the influence of RAF and squadron colours is evident in the design of upholstery and wall colours throughout the pub. A feature rug based on the familiar RAF symbol can be seen inset in front of the fire place.

The artwork throughout the pub tells the story of this historic town. The places, people and events that put Farnborough on the map. Including the story of Beatrice Shilling. Winning the Second World War was obviously a team effort – but Beatrice certainly made a hefty contribution.

In her memory we commissioned the sculpture above the bar – which is a replica section of a high backed IX Spitfire fuselage. It shows how the frame of the plane was constructed and acts as a reminder of Beatrice’s contribution to the war effort.

Spitfire controls used for door handles.

Spitfire blueprints are a feature on the wall, along with reclaimed airplane seats.

A copy of a strategy table.

An illustration and text about the anatomy of a Spitfire.

The text reads: There are many fascinating items adorning the walls and ceilings of this venue. One of the most significant pieces is the original structural replica of a high backed Spitfire IX fuselage. This was specially commissioned by J D Wetherspoon for The Tilly Shilling from Charles Barrie of Aerosystems.

Also within the pub you will find other items associated with the famous single-seater fighter, including original blueprints, replica dashboards and a hand crafted Watt’s propeller, the type of which was installed on very early Spitfire prototypes.

A hand crafted copy of Watt’s propeller.

External photograph of the building – main entrance.

If you have information on the history of this pub, then we’d like you to share it with us. Please e-mail all information to: