Croydon Airport

From Academic Kids

Croydon Airport is in south London on the borders of the London Boroughs of Croydon and Sutton. It was once the main airport for London, before it was replaced by Northolt Aerodrome, London Heathrow Airport and London Gatwick Airport.

It originated as two adjacent World War I airfields. Beddington Aerodrome, one of a number of small airfields around London which had been created for protection against the Zeppelin raids in about May 1915, and Waddon Aerodrome of 1918, a test-flight aerodrome adjoining National Aircraft Factory No1.

At the end of that war, the two airfields were combined into London's official airport as the gateway for all international flights to and from the capital. Thus, Croydon Aerodrome, as it was then called, opened on 29 March 1920.

It stimulated a growth in regular scheduled flights carrying passengers, mail and freight, the first destinations being Paris, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. In 1923 Berlin flights were added. It was the operating base for Imperial Airways - remembered in the road name Imperial Way on the site today.

In the mid-1920s, the airfield was extended, some adjacent roads being permanently closed to allow heavier airliners to land and depart safely. A new complex of buildings was constructed adjoining Purley Way, including the first purpose-designed air terminal in the world, the Aerodrome Hotel and extensive hangars, all opening on 2 May 1928.

The terminal building, the booking hall within it with its gallery balustraded in the geometrical design typical of the period, and the Aerodrome hotel were all built in the Art Deco style of the 1920s and 1930s. A further item that caught the eye of visitor and traveller alike was the time zone tower in the booking hall with its dials depicting the times in different parts of the world.

The aerodrome was known the world over, its fame being spread by the many aviators and pioneers who touched down at Croydon.

Here is a list of them:

When war was declared in September 1939, Croydon Airport was closed to civil aviation. It played a vital role as a fighter station during the Battle of Britain and was attacked in the first major raid over the London area. Factories in its immediate vicinity were almost destroyed with the loss of six airmen and over 60 civilians. In 1944, Croydon became the base of RAF Transport Command, and in due course civil aircraft operations began again. In February 1946, the airport returned to civilian control.

Gradually it became clear that with technical advances, post-war airliners were going to be larger and the use of airports serving capital cities would intensify. Croydon, however, had no room for further expansion and would shortly be too small to meet evident travel demands. Heathrow was therefore designated as London's airport and a decision to close Croydon's airport was made in 1952. Blackbushe in Hampshire and Northolt Aerodrome in Middlesex also served airlines operating European scheduled flights during the 1950s. Croydon's last scheduled flight departed on 30 September 1959.

Missing image
The De Havilland Heron outside Airport House

The site may still be seen. Much of it has been built over, but some of the terminal buildings near the main road are still visible, clearly identifiable as to their former purpose, and a De Havilland Heron, a small (fewer than 20 seats) airliner of the 1950s, is currently (2002) displayed outside on struts flanking the entry path. A Tiger Moth in RAF training scheme livery is suspended within the preserved booking hall which functions as a dining room when required. A memorial to the Battle of Britain stands slightly to the south.

Although Croydon Airport has long ceased operation, the two ends of Plough Lane that had been divided have never been reunited, the area having been developed instead into parkland, playing fields and the Roundshaw residential estate with its roads aptly named after aviators and aircraft.

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