Early international airport and production centre for Handley Page aircraft
Period of construction:
1900 - 1949
Transport Trust plaque:
220 The Vale, Cricklewood, London NW11 8SR
Handley Page Ltd was the first British public company to build aircraft. Founded in 1909, Frederick Handley Page constructed a number of experimental aircraft, initially at premises in Barking Creek, Woolwich and Fambridge. The company moved to Cricklewood in 1912 where it established both a factory and airfield.
With the outbreak of war, the company began to specialise in heavy bombers for the Royal Naval Air Service. The Handley Page H.P. 11 was a biplane with a wingspan of 30 m (100 ft) which first flew in December 1915. At the time, it was the largest aircraft that had been built in the UK and one of the largest in the world. A version with uprated engines, the H.P.12, appeared in early 1918. In total, 600 of the aircraft were built and stayed in service until 1921. War-surplus aircraft were converted for civilian use, nine being used by Handley Page's own airline.
The first British registered airline company was Aircraft Transport and Travel Ltd, formed in October 1916. It is believed that they made the world's first scheduled commercial flight - from Hounslow to Paris on 25 August 1919 in a DH4A carrying one passenger and a small load of freight. The second British airline was Handley Page Transport, registered on 14 June 1919, offering servcies from Cricklewood; initially, only Hounslow aerodrome had Customs for outbound aircraft, so, until March 1920 they had to colect their passengers from Hounslow.
Handley Page had produced a four-engine bomber, the V/1500 (63 built), shortly before the end of the war. Capable of reaching Berlin from air bases in East Anglia, a number of its features were integrated into a revised H.P. 12, re-launched for passenger service as the H.P. W8 (25 built) and capable of carrying 15 passengers in an enclosed cabin. It was the first aircraft designed with an on-board lavatory.
In 1923 the government accepted the advice of the Hambling Committee, that exisiting air service providers should be merged to produce a company strong enough to robustly develop international air routes. A sweetner was a Â£1 million subsidy over ten years, a considerable sum at the time. In 1924 Handley Page Transport (three aircraft) merged with Daimler Airway (five aircraft) and British Marine Air Navigation Company (three flying boats) to form Britain's first national airline, Imperial Airways.
Commercial flying ceased at Cricklewood, with Imperial's land operations moving to Croydon Aerodrome. Imperial operated routes to Europe and the Empire until 1939. Handley Page continued to developed large biplane airliners, including the luxurious Handley Page H.P. 42 for use on Imperial's long haul Empire routes.
Cricklewood airfield closed in 1929 and a new one was constructed at Radlett, where most Handley Page aircraft would be built until the comapany went into liquidation in 1970. Construction of aircraft continued at Cricklewood until 1964, when the premises were sold to become the Cricklewood Trading Estate. The former airfield is now largely covered by housing.
Two elements remain. The former Handley Page reception building is complete and currently houses a firm of accountants. Next door stands a former generator building for the factory.
Barnes, C. H., Handley Page Aircraft Since 1907, Putnam, ISBN-10: 0370000307 (1976)
Bluffield, Robert, Imperial Airways: The Birth of the British Airline Industry 1914-1940, Classic Publications, ISBN-10: 1906537070 (2009)
Bowyer, Chaz, Handley Page Bombers of the First World War, Aston Publications, ISBN-10: 0946627681 (1991)
Clayton, D. C., Handley Page: An Aircraft Album Handley Page: An Aircraft Album, Ian Allan, ISBN-10: 0711000948 (1970)
Colloms, M. & Weindling, D., Kilburn and Cricklewood, The History Press, ISBN-10: 0752424491 (2001)
Dowsett, Alan, Handley Page: A History, The History Press, ISBN-10: 0752427822 (2003)
Handley Page, Handley Page Ltd - Forty Years on 1909-1949, Handley Page, ASIN: B0025AMV1O (1949)
Ord-Hume, Arthur W. J. G., Imperial Airways - From Early Days to BOAC, Stenlake Publishing, ISBN-10: 1840335149 (2010)
Stroud, John, The Imperial Airways Fleet, NPI Media Group, ISBN-10: 0752429973 (2004)
Former Reception permanently viewable but now in private use
How To Find:
By road: Off A41
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