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PJH
26-08-2011, 18:00
I'm researching the Hewlett & Blondeau company who, for most of the First World War, were based at a factory at Leagrave near Luton. They were engaged in aircraft production - mainly the BE.2c, AW FK.3 & Avro 504. I have read that the factory had a small landing ground at the rear for shakedown flights and for the aircraft to make the short-ish hop to Hendon.

Can anyone confirm that such a landing ground existed and, if so, do you have any details?

Thanks

PETERTHEEATER
27-08-2011, 06:07
Do you have a specific location for the factory? Was it the Omnia Works?

Jenna
30-08-2011, 13:20
Yes your talking about the Omnia Works, it was on Oak road (now Oakley road) and was taken over by Electrolux. Majority of the site was demolished for houses about 10 years ago however a few of the later Electrolux buildings still exists.... nothing substantial of the original site is left.

flashearth link (http://www.flashearth.com/?lat=51.899768&lon=-0.462222&z=18.5&r=0&src=msl)

Back in the early 1900's Leagrave was a village of its own and the factory was built on farmland ( I suspect Smiths Farm), and consisted of 3 buildings and offices... the main 'hanger' can still be seen if you use the Google Earth history imaging for 2003 on the site as this was when the second stage of the site was built on and the hanger/workshops was just about to be demolished (its the biggest building on the southern side of the site). The only (possible) surviving original building is the now incorporated in to the main office block and was formally the gate house (southern side).

The location of the 'airfield' is hotly contested as there is no physical evidence and I am Yet to s a photo that really confirms its location, its true there were open 'fields' to the rear (west) of the site but there was also a known airstrip (WW1) at Lewsey which is only 1.1km to the west (adjacent to Lewsey Farm).

There are quite a few reference to the site on the internet (search for 'Omnia') and there is some information in the Luton Museum archive (Wardown Park), and BLARS local archive.

Jenna
30-08-2011, 13:51
I should point out that yesterday was the centenary of Hilda Hewlett ( aka Hewlett & Blondeau) being the very first British woman to receive a pilots licence from the RAC.... :-D

http://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/milestones-of-flight/images/raec-122.jpg

Paul Francis
30-08-2011, 15:53
Certificate # 122 Hilda B Hewlett 29-08-11 flying a Henry Farman at the Hewlett & Blondeau school, Brooklands

Ah just to clarify, that is 1911 not 2011 (100 years ago yesterday)

Peter Kirk
30-08-2011, 16:16
by the looks of it the photograph was taken just after the flight!

Jenna
30-08-2011, 16:26
lol its a great photo.... dont know what you mean!

If your ever looking for a book to read then 'Old Bird' tells her story and is an interesting read (... especially for DH enthusiasts).

PJH
30-08-2011, 18:40
Thanks everyone for the responses. It would make sense for them to use the 'fields at the back' for flight tests but I've never found any hard evidence. I'll keep digging.

It was actually a press item on Hilda Hewlett's certificate centenary that got me started, allied to a very grainy photo supplied many years ago by Barry Abraham purporting to be the factory. I can feel an Airfield Review article coming on.......

Peter Kirk
30-08-2011, 22:03
There must be a few "unrecorded" landing areas used by manufacturers, especially in the early days when a take off run required little more than a football pitch.

Jenna
31-08-2011, 16:56
The flight archive has a lot of photographs of the factory, and I'm sure there was H&B archive somewhere too.

Passed the site today by chance and I'm not sure if anything of the old site remains, even the gatehouse looks like a rehash of 1930 architecture.

Jenna
31-08-2011, 16:59
if you want to trawl the TNA the farm was 'Ponds Farm' and the field behind was 'Egg Field', there was defiantly some documentation in the Electrolux archive on the land purchase when I looked last.

PJH
02-09-2011, 18:56
Thanks for the tips Jenna. As you say, there are some interesting bits in old Flights including lots of interior photos. I'll check at TNA on my next visit.

T-21
04-03-2012, 11:25
Please note that Mary Duchess of Bedford completed her first solo at Leagrave 8.4.30 sent solo by Mr St.Barbe presumably in her Gipsy Moth 1 G-AAAO which she owned from Oct 1928 to July 1932.

Richard Flagg
04-04-2012, 17:40
Please note that Mary Duchess of Bedford completed her first solo at Leagrave 8.4.30 sent solo by Mr St.Barbe presumably in her Gipsy Moth 1 G-AAAO which she owned from Oct 1928 to July 1932.

There is a memorial to Mary Russell, Duchess of Bedford in the Church of St Mary at Woburn:
http://www.aviationmemorials.co.uk/woburn.html

Cheers

Rich

Ashflyer
17-10-2013, 09:27
Hi folks, not far from the Electrolux site there is a roundabout with a mc Donald's on, directly opposite there is a large nissen style hut sitting on it's own on the edge of the notorious Marsh farm estate. It's now some kind of community building but it's certainly a contender for part of the Leagrave site given it's geographic location and the fact it's stands out like a sore thumb. Anyone else know where I mean?

badjez
28-10-2013, 13:31
Further Luton snippets
a) the Nissan hut at the Fiveways roundabout is an old ACF hut I think.
b) Somewhere in the cobwebs of my mind I recall being told that prior to Luton Council opening Luton Airport on its current site (in 1938), the airfield was in Leagrave, on the site of the Luton & Dunstable Hospital.
c) Luton Hoo was occupied by the Army during WW2 and used as the HQ of Eastern Command.
d) Additionally, I believe Airspeed were based at Luton. The founder and co-owner of this company (responsible for the Airspeed Oxford etc) was Mr Neville S Norway, better known by his pen-name of Neville Shute.

Stephen.

baroudeur
01-01-2014, 19:23
Further Luton snippets
a) the Nissan hut at the Fiveways roundabout is an old ACF hut I think.
b) Somewhere in the cobwebs of my mind I recall being told that prior to Luton Council opening Luton Airport on its current site (in 1938), the airfield was in Leagrave, on the site of the Luton & Dunstable Hospital.
c) Luton Hoo was occupied by the Army during WW2 and used as the HQ of Eastern Command.
d) Additionally, I believe Airspeed were based at Luton. The founder and co-owner of this company (responsible for the Airspeed Oxford etc) was Mr Neville S Norway, better known by his pen-name of Neville Shute.

Stephen.

Hi, a new member posting for the first time. I was born and lived in the Leagrave area between 1938 and 1961 and still live locally.

The corrugated steel building at Leagrave marsh is an old ACF unit put up by Luton council next to the farm house at Marsh Farm which they had bought to use for a housing estate..

McDonalds is on the site of the Three Horseshoes public house and facing it on the other side of the road (no roundabout then) the river Lea had sand dumped to form a "beach" called the Blocker's seaside. Blockers referred to the people who made the blocks on which felt hats were formed by steam.

L & D hospital, opened in 1939, was built on open fields purchased from Electrolux in the late thirties. The B & H aircraft factory was built in 1914 and taken over by Elektrolux in 1926 so it seems fair to assume that those fields were part of the ground originally owned by B&H and used for flying.