Croydon Airport: birthplace of Britain’s aviation industry

By 18th June 2015Places

By Ian Walker

Croydon Airport was the world’s first major international airport. In this blog Ian Walker, chair of the Croydon Airport Society, gives an overview of the history or the site and a taste of what’s on offer at the Visitor Centre. The Airport will open during Croydon Heritage Festival 2015 taking place Saturday 20th June to Sunday 28th June. 

croydon airport, whitgift, heritage festival, visit, 22 June

Croydon Airport is one of Britain’s most significant historic places.  It had a long and illustrious career serving Britain from its origins in World War I until closure in 1959.

The Croydon Airport Visitor Centre is situated in the magnificent Grade II listed Airport House. This fantastic building was opened in 1928 as London’s international airport. It was the biggest and most technologically advanced airport on the planet and brought together all the functions that we now experience at an airport. The Air Traffic Control tower is the world’s oldest and there is the opportunity to have a look around and see how Air Traffic Control was invented here.

Britain’s fledgling airline industry was launched here at Croydon with Imperial Airways formation in 1924. Imperial Airways, forebear of today’s British Airways, pioneered long range routes and by 1934 had established the world’s longest air route from Croydon to Brisbane, Australia. The Air Port of London, Croydon was the top international destination and saw flights from all over Europe from the likes of KLM, Air Union (now Air France), S.A.B.E.N.A (now Brussels Airlines) to name but a few.

Tours start in the former Booking Hall and lead you through the glamour days of air travel. The journey through history takes you from the beginnings of the airport in World War I, the years as the UK’s only international airport, the launch of Britain’s national airline and many record-breaking flights. Learn about Amy Johnson’s record flights from Croydon and how she became one of the most famous people on the planet.

The Croydon Airport Visitor Centre has a host of fascinating displays, images, artefacts and interactive displays. Situated over two floors in the old Air Traffic Control tower, it gives great insight in to how air travel started, the many record- breaking flights that took place and how the airport played its part in defending Britain through two World Wars.

No need to book- just turn up and enjoy the journey! Doors open at 11.00 with last entry at 15.30. It’s free but your donations really do help make a difference.

*Tours available for Croydon Heritage Festival 2015*

Croydon Airport Visitor Centre’s website can be viewed at: www.croydonairportsociety.org.uk