Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Heston Airport

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Heston Aerodrome, on the border of the Heston and Cranford areas of Hounslow

1929 The Airwork company opened Heston aerodrome for flying clubs and private aeroplane owners with some charter flying.

1930s Spartan Airways was the first airline to use Heston, with a twice-daily service to Cowes in the Isle of Wight. Other services and airlines followed.

1937 the airport was bought by the Air Ministry and developed to become almost as large as Croydon Aerodrome, making it London's second airport at that time. The government had decided that London would be served by 4 airports - Croydon, Heston and new airfields at Fairlop in Essex and Lullingstone, Kent.

1938 British Airways Ltd started to use Heston as an alternative to the waterlogged Gatwick Airport.

1938 the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, flew from Heston to Munich for talks with Adolf Hitler, and returned to Heston with the paper referred to in his later "peace in our time" speech from 10 Downing Street.

1939 An Act of Parliament authorised the compulsory purchase of land and road closures for the expansion. The work was planned to take three years, partly because it was intended to keep the existing facilities in uninterrupted use, and partly to allow the new ground to be prepared and substantial new buildings to be constructed. Improvements and extensions started at Heston with the intention of bringing it up to the most modern standards of airports elsewhere in Europe. New drainage was put in and trees near the flight path removed. Runway lighting and radio aids to landing were installed. Land and buildings around the site were bought up for expansion, including St Mary's Boys Orphanage in North Hyde which was demolished. The Air Ministry had intended to take over the site from Airwork in September 1939 but with the outbreak of war the plans were never implemented.

WWII Civil flying was suspended. Most of the services were transferred to Gatwick. During the war, RAF Spitfires and Hurricanes flew from Heston airport, followed by US Air Force Flying Fortress bombers.

Postwar: Heathrow had been chosen as the main London Airport, which would make flying from nearby Heston impossible

1946 31 May: Heathrow officially opened as the new London Airport to replace the old Croydon grass airfield.

Subsequently part of the site of the Heston airfield was used for the M4 motorway

See Also

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Sources of Information

  • Transport Heritage website [1]