Aviation History of Woodford Aerodrome
Woodford Aerodrome opened in 1924 after aviation pioneer Alliott Verdon-Roe (A V Roe 26th April 1877 – 4th January 1958) bought farmland at New Hall farm, Woodford for his Avro aircraft company in order to relocate their aircraft assembly and test flying facilities from Alexandra Park Aerodrome in South Manchester.
Originally, Woodford airfield only had a small grass landing area with several temporary hangars. For a brief period, the Lancashire Aero Club also used the airfield in the 1920s, until they moved to the new Barton Aerodrome. At Woodford, they used a converted farm building as a clubhouse and a ‘Dutch barn’-style steel-framed hangar originally built for A V Roe around 1927. In the late 1930s, the airfield was upgraded with hardened runways and the main runway was also extended eastwards. In order to allow for the expected huge expansion of aircraft production, increased factory space was constructed, particularly at the northern edge of the airfield close to Woodford village.
During the Second World War, Woodford Aerodrome was the production site for the the Avro Lancaster bomber and the Avro Anson.
In 1945, Hawker-Siddeley bought Avro Canada. Avro continued to be used as the operating name at Woodford, but it had in fact become a subsidiary of the Hawker Siddeley Group. The Avro brand was used only for trading purposes. After the company was absorbed into Hawker Siddeley Aviation in July 1963, the Avro name was no longer used. On 29 April 1977, the Woodford plant and airfield were taken over by British Aerospace (BAe), which was formed as a result of the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Act. The Act meant that Hawker Siddeley Aviation and Dynamics was nationalised and merged with British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) and Scottish Aviation into the new company BAe.
Woodford became part of BAe Systems as a result of the merger between BAe and Marconi Electronic Systems (MES) in November 1999. The aerodrome and factory became known as BAe Systems Woodford.
Over the decades, Woodford had been the production site for 20,000 aircraft, many of them iconic British aviation designs such as:
- Avro Anson
- Avro Lancaster
- Avro Lincoln
- Avro Tudor
- Avro Shackleton
- Avro 707
- Avro Vulcan
- Avro Ashton
- Hawker Siddeley HS 748
- Hawker Siddeley (BAe) Nimrod
- BAe ATP
- BAe 146
In the early 21st century, it was envisaged that the plant and airfield would close after the completion of the Nimrod MRA4 project, then planned for 2012. However, the MRA4 project was cancelled in late 2010. Woodford Aerodrome was closed as an active airfield on 25 August 2011 and sold to Jo Bamford, the heir to the JCB fortune, in December 2011.
The site was then subsequently purchased by Harrow Estates and Woodford Aerodrome was to make room for the construction of some 920 houses and so demolition of the airfield began in January 2015. On the upside the splendid new Avro Heritage Museum opened in November 2015 on the site of the old fire station. Exhibits there include a Vulcan bomber and the museum also houses Avro Heritage Trust’s extensive catalogue of aviation history documents, memoribilia and artefacts. It serves as a lasting and fitting tribute to Woodford’s contribution to the aviation industry.
The magnificent Vulcan bomber was manufactured at Woodford in the 1950s early 1960s and it saw active service during the Falklands War. Its first flight was from Woodford aerodrome on the 31st of August 1952. The aircraft was flown by test-pilot Roly Falk and he displayed the Vulcan a week later at the Farnborough Air show. The last flying Vulcan XH558 which was assembled at Woodford made a final flypast before its retirement in October 2015 – a poignant moment for many. The picture at the top of this article is an XM603 which resides permanently at Woodford. All the Vulcan bombers were assembled here at Woodford.
Amazing video clip of the XH558’s last flight with the Red Arrows at Southport. We defy you not to be moved!
This is a recent clip from granada reports about the aerodrome.