Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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November 1932.
May 1935. 45 hp motor cruiser.
May 1935.
October 1936. Standard Cruisers.
October 1937. Motor Yachts and Standard Cruisers.
February 1943.
April 1943.
May 1943
April 1951. Saunders-Roe-Leyland coach.
April 1951.
August 1951.
Sept 1956.
1958. Electronics Division.
1959. Saunders-Roe "Black Knight".

Saunders-Roe Limited of East Cowes, Isle of Wight was a British aircraft manufacturing company.

1929 The name Saunders-Roe was adopted after Alliott Verdon-Roe and John Lord took a controlling interest in the boat and aircraft-builders S. E. Saunders.

1931 Whitehall Securities, a large shareholder in Spartan Aircraft, wanted to merge that company with Saunders-Roe[1]. This was finally agreed after Whitehall bought out the owner Oliver Simmonds.

Saunders-Roe continued using the Spartan name, and built 13 Arrows, a small two seat biplane. They then designed the Mailplane, a plane for mail-carrying services. Only the prototype was built, as it was developed into the Cruiser, a passenger-carrying aircraft. Fifteen were built, and sold as far away as Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Egypt and India, but the majority were kept by Saunders-Roe.

1933 Designers and constructors of flying boards, seaplanes and aeroplanes. Works: Cowes, Isle of Wight. Head Office: Bush House, Aldwych, London, W.C.2.[2]

1933 S. E. Saunders died. In the 4 years since the change of name, the company had constructed 12 further life boats for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution[3].

1933 Established air-travel company, Spartan Airways, from Somerton Airfield

By the end of 1933 Spartan Airways had proved so successful that it became part of Southern Railways and the Railways Air Services network, with flights to Ryde, Isle of Wight, as well as services to London and Birmingham as well as a stop-over at Bembridge Airport, Isle of Wight. The last Spartan design was the Clipper, but only one of those was built.

1935 Spartan Airways merged with United Airways which, in 1936, became Allied British Airways, then British Airways, which in 1939 became part of British Overseas Airways Corporation, which later became the British Airways of today.

1937 Aircraft flying boats. "Saro" Flying Boats and Amphibians[4]

Saunders-Roe, commonly abbreviated Saro, concentrated on producing flying-boats, but none were produced in very large quantities - the longest run being 31 Londons. They also produced hulls for the Blackburn Bluebird, and during the Second World War manufactured Supermarine Walrus and de Havilland Sea Otters.

Somerton remained open throughout the war for the use of Saunders-Roe.

1942 Three hangars were destroyed in air raids, including the last Spartan aircraft.

1951 Saunders-Roe took over the interests of the Cierva Autogiro Co whose helicopter design was developed to be the Skeeter helicopter.

1952 The prototype of the Princess flew but the age of the flying-boat was over and no more were produced at Cowes.

1958 The last fixed-wing aircraft the company built was the experimental SR53 mixed-power interceptor.

1959 the company demonstrated the first practical hovercraft, the Saunders-Roe SR-N1.

1959 S. Pearson and Son sold the company to Westland Aircraft[5], who continued the Skeeter family with the Scout and Wasp.

1964 All the hovercraft businesses under Westland were merged with Vickers Supermarine to form the British Hovercraft Corporation. This in turn was taken over by Westland and was renamed Westland Aerospace in 1985, and hovercraft production ceased.

The company produced component parts for the aircraft industry, especially engine nacelles for many aircraft including the DeHavilland Canada 'Dash 8', the Shorts 330, the Lockheed Hercules, the British Aerospace Jetstream and parts for the McDonnell-Douglas MD-11. By the mid 1990s, over 60% of the world's production of turboprop nacelles took place in the East Cowes works.

1994 Westland was taken over by GKN; when GKN sold its shares in Westland to form AgustaWestland, it retained the East Cowes works, where it continued aircraft component design and production, and more recently manufactured blades for wind turbines.

Anglesey Factory

WWII Saunders-Roe established a factory at Beaumaris for handling flying boats in a safe location

The factory continued to be used after the War despite its location because of its established facilities and the urgent need for production resources. It was known for its work on bus bodywork (see Saunders-Roe (Anglesey)).

1955 An integral bus was built for Maidstone and District. This model had a Gardner 5HLW horizontal engine.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, 22 January 1931
  2. 1933 Who's Who in British Aviation
  3. The Times, 19 December 1933
  4. 1937 The Aeroplane Directory of the Aviation and Allied Industries
  5. The Times, 11 August 1969
  • [1] Wikipedia
  • Ian Allan - British Buses Since 1900 - Aldridge and Morris

See also A Short History of Saunders-Row by J. W. R. Taylor