Wednesday 23 September 2015

Flying to the Past: This Saturday

A taster of two of the talks we have for Flying to the Past this Saturday:

Michael McCluskey (UCL), Croydon Calling: The Airport and Interwar Networks

Photograpg from Olley Expedition
A key player in the spread of communication, transportation, and information networks throughout the interwar period was the Croydon Airport. In this talk I explore the significance of Croydon as a pivotal site for the expansion air travel, economic development, and British influence around the world through a discussion of documentary films on flight from the 1930s. Croydon was the starting off point for what would become a ‘chain of aerodromes’ that supplanted the ‘old highways’ of land travel. Each aerodrome was intended not just as a launching and landing point but a force for economic development in the local area. Croydon was the familiar model for filmmakers to show off and help audiences to understand the airport itself as a complex network of social, commercial, and technological operations. It also served as a symbol of the image of modern Britain that public relations experts wanted to project: advanced, efficient, and on the move.

Michael McCluskey is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of English, University College London. His current research project looks at amateur films and home movies of the 1920s and 30s.

Amara Thornton (UCL), The Travelling Archaeologist

Photograph at Persepolis from Olley Expedition
To ‘planes, trains and automobiles’ add ships, camels and horses. These are the modes of transport archaeologists used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to take them to the ancient sites they aimed to explore. Drawing on archaeologists’ archives and published memoirs, I will reveal the archaeologist as traveller, taking a closer look at how transportation effected archaeology and the archaeological experience.

Travel was (and remains) one of the most routine and yet most intriguing elements of archaeological life. It’s been captured in fiction and non-fiction – in books, films and television. Focusing on British archaeologists heading to the East, I will examine the ways in which transport and the experience of transport changed over time, and how travel played an important role in enriching and expanding the archaeological network and cementing a particular vision of archaeologists in the public imagination.

Amara Thornton is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. Her research currently focuses on the history of popular publishing in archaeology, investigating how archaeologists captured and packaged their experience in print for a general readership.

Thursday 17 September 2015

U3A member Robin Dewell on a horrific crash at Croydon Airport:


KLM Liner Crashes in Fog a Mile from
Croydon Airport


     One of the worst disasters in the history of early aviation occurred on December 19 1936 when a K.L.M. Douglas DC-2 crashed into an empty semi-detached house in Hillcrest road, Purley, and burst into flames. Less than a mile from Croydon Airport the giant Liner had taken off just a few minutes earlier in mid-morning.

The dead included Senor de la Cierva (below left) the inventor and developer of the Autogiro.

The aeroplane's conventional engine and propeller would enable it to move forward and take off as normal. Air flowing past the rotor would turn it like the sails of of a windmill creating sufficient lift upon the wing-like rotor blades to raise the aircraft into the air and keep it there.

Whilst correct in theory, Cierva's early prototype (a five-bladed version) tended to turn over on its side due to uneven lift. To overcome this Cierva devised attaching the blades to the rotor head via “flapping hinges“ which varied the lift between advancing and trailing rotor blades.

The development of the autogyro was a very necessary step forward in the progress of helicopters.
The C.8L became the first rotorcraft to cross the English Channel between Croydon and Le Bourget, on September 18 1928.

Monday 14 September 2015

Living Near the Airport: Accidents

U3A member Peter Day continues his post on the sometimes dangerous consequences of living near Croydon Airport:

Nothing was more likely to raise a storm of complaint, though, than an aeroplane crashing close to the airport, especially if it collided with a nearby house - such events were not infrequent: 

Thursday 10 September 2015

Living near the Airport: The Aerodrome's Location

U3A member Peter Day writes on the disturbance caused by living near Croyon Airport:

In 1915 a small aerodrome was established at Beddington, one of a ring of such aerodromes built to protect London from Zeppelin raids. In 1918 another small airport, Waddon, was opened on the other side of Plough Lane to be used for test flights from the National Aircraft Factory No1. Plough Lane is the road running north from Russell Hill on this old map (on the left).

After the First World War these two aerodromes were combined (and Plough Lane eventually disappeared - though initially traffic was stopped to allow aircraft to arrive and depart) to become Croydon aerodrome, which opened in 1920. The buildings you can see now were part of a later development and the aerodrome entered a second phase in 1928.

Monday 7 September 2015

Gold Bullion Robbery: 1935 Part II

Robin Dewell continues his story of the Goild Bullion robbery at Croydon Airport in 1935 in the stye of the newspapers at the time:




“DANGEROUS MAN.” |           IN   CROYDON.


After a trial lasting three days and occupying seventeen hours, Cecil Swanland, a forty-seven years old artist, of no fixed abode, was sentenced to seven years' penal servitude by the Recorder of Croydon, when the jury found him guilty of complicity in the in the theft of bullion from the strong room at Croydon Aerodrome.

Two other men originally charged had been discharged at different stages of the trial.

Thursday 3 September 2015

£21,000 BULLION ROBBERY: 1935

A post from U3A member Robin Dewell written in the style of a 1930s newspaper:

''Little Harry'', Shonk and 'This is Gold'!
The hearing of evidence against three men charged with being concerned in the theft of £21,000 worth of gold bars, gold sovereigns and gold US dollars from 'The Strong Room' of Imperial Airways at Croydon Aerodrome continued at Croydon Borough Police Court on Tuesday March 21st. It was described as ''a very clever and carefully thought out crime''. An early morning taxicab ride from King's Cross to Purley Way, a wait, and then a drive back to North London with three heavy boxes, followed by a chimney set on fire by what was being burned in the grate in the lodgings of one of the accused. There was also a complaint that the landlady of the lodgings had been approached by a man ''If you take my advice you will have nothing to do with it''. The presiding magistrate then issued a stern warning against any further intimidation of witnesses.