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Thread: Walsall / Aldridge

  1. #1
    Senior Member Sparky67's Avatar
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    Default Walsall / Aldridge

    Decided to go for a stroll in the unexpected sunshine today across the former Walsall Airport. Here are some photos from the site - taken on a bright day in February 2010. It struck me that what passed as a Municipal Airport in the 1930's is very different to what you see today...!

    Although Walsall and Aldridge are now in the West Midlands, when the airfield was active they were both part of Staffordshire.

    The airfield is HERE

    This airfield was opened for public use on 6th July 1935, with gliding, flying training, taxi/charter work, aerial photograpy and air shows taking place at the site. The Midland Gliding Club operated from the field, and several flying clubs ran businesses there. In 1938 Helliwells Ltd operated from a factory at the west side of the field building aircraft components - including cockpit frames and fuel tanks. During WW2 Helliwells used the facility for the repair of numerous aircraft including Harvards, Ansons, Bostons and Seafires. There is a report of Handley Page Harrow K6982 carrying out a forced landing on the field, over-running the runway and stopping in the bottom hedge, and another aircraft which was unable to stop, left the airfield and hit a passing lorry on the main Walsall Road, fatally injuring its driver. A report has also been seen of a Mosquito on the scrap heap behind a hangar (no, it's not still there...).

    Post-WW2 the Swallow Coachbuilding Company operated from the factory, building, amongst other things, the Swallow Doretti sports car between 1954 and 1955.

    The airfield had serious competition as a viable passenger-carrying air port (sic) from the larger Elmdon (Birmingham) and Wolverhampton aerodromes nearby, flying from the field tailed off and and it was closed to flying in the late 1940s or early 1950s.

    Not too clear in the photos is the height difference between the east and west end of the field. The run from the west is uphill to a boundary enclosed by trees, which must have been interesting on a hot summer's day if the grass hadn't been cut recently. The trees caught several aircraft which failed to gain sufficient height, including Fox Moth G-ACEY, in 1938. The downhill run to the west was into open countryside on the far side of Walsall Road and Longwood Lane.

    Not much remains of what must have been a busy airfield before and during WW2 - the original hangars, Helliwells factory and the 'bottom hangar' plus the clubhouse have gone. The 'top hangar' - about 200m beyond and slightly to the right of the gap in the trees in the first photo below - is now in use by the counytryside rangers, and the compass-swinging platform can still be made out in the grass.

    The airfield is now a public open space owned by Walsall MBC, flying still takes place in the form of Greenacres Model Aero Club. Considering the recent rainfall the grass at the bottom of the slope was surprisingly dry. The area around the trees at the top of the slope is a clay soil, and was very, very wet.

    I would be interested to see both ground and aerial photos from the 1930s or WW2 era.


    View uphill looking ~east.




    View looking ~west from close to the top hangar




    The 'Top Hangar' (Experimental Hangar)




    The compass-swinging platform (compass base). The Helliwells factory and hangars were where the large steel-clad building now stands. The private flying club hangar and clubhouse were adjacent to where the brick building (in the distance, just right of centre) now stands.




    Possibly the remains of a lookout / defensive position ?

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    Last edited by Sparky67; 01-03-2014 at 10:36.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Sparky67's Avatar
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    Default Re: Walsall Municipal Airport, Aldridge

    View from in front of the Top Hanger - some idea of the slope can be obtained between the trees...




    Sign City !!

    Last edited by Sparky67; 16-02-2010 at 20:40.

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    SuperMod Peter Kirk's Avatar
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    Default Re: Walsall Municipal Airport, Aldridge

    Early post war. Poor quality but it gives an idea
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    Administrator AiXAdmin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Walsall Municipal Airport, Aldridge

    Sparky - You mentioned Helliwells' association with Walsall Airport.

    Helliwells were an interesting company on many counts but their racy patriotic 'ads of the late thirties were quite famous.

    Here's a link to the Helliwells section on my Website .... one in particular has a good view of Walsall Airport.

    I'll locate the hi res version and post the airfield view when I get a chance....

    http://www.aviationancestry.com/Engineering/Helliwells/

    Cheers
    Dave

  5. #5
    Senior Member Sparky67's Avatar
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    Default Re: Walsall Municipal Airport, Aldridge

    Thanks guys. The runway on ~330 is a surprise - the current layout gives no hint that it ran across the track. And the 090 run avoids the trees which caught at least one aircraft.

    I had seen one Helliwells advert featuring the girl. Not sure they would get away with that these days...

    The Helliwells factory has completely gone, replaced with a steel-clad building and a Peugeot/Fiat dealership.

    I have taken the liberty of editing the photo taken from the 1939 Helliwells' advert to give an impression of the pre-war hangars. Was trying to identify the aircraft parked outside...



    These were located where the large white steel-clad building now is in the photos above.


    And here is the 1931 Helliwell's plan for the airfield...




    Sparky67
    Last edited by Sparky67; 24-06-2010 at 16:22. Reason: Photo added

  6. #6

    Default Re: Walsall Municipal Airport, Aldridge

    Out of curiosity, who was the lady in the Helliwells advertisements?

  7. #7
    OTBC Paul Francis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Walsall Municipal Airport, Aldridge

    I trust the clubhouse has gone too? I rember the hangar on the right of the two in the old pic but not the one on the left.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Sparky67's Avatar
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    Default Re: Walsall Municipal Airport, Aldridge

    'fraid so. Apart from the 'Top Hangar' (marked Experimental Hangar on the plan) and the compass base all evidence of the original airfield buildings has gone. Looking on GE the civil hangar was demolished sometime between 2003 and 2005 - that area is now a car park. Where the club house/flying control and signals square were situated there is now a new, busy outdoor activities centre.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Walsall Municipal Airport, Aldridge

    I have received this email via the forum and thought it should be posted here.

    Hi,
    i saw a thread on Aldridge airport, and i grew up around it as a child. When i was a child there used to be a company called ' TI' that occupied factory buildings by walsall road during the 1980's. If my memory serves me well they were the original Buildings as shown in one of the photos on the thread. They were knocked down and replaced with all the current factorys.
    Also the road layout was changed. Originally Longwood road ended right by the canal bridge, but they changed the road layout to come a roundabout. Some of the original road still exists behind bushes and trees.

    On the field there used to be a building from the war. I think it was a gunning post. you used to be able to step down into it, but it was bulldosered in sometime in the late 1980's. If you were near the top hanger, you walked along the tree line at the top of the field heading down towards walsall rounghly about 40 paces or more from the driveway.
    In the wooded aread near the top hanger there is foundations for what appears to be barracks.
    For years as a child there used to be an abandoned black Austin A30? ( two door thing) chassis rotting away in the middle of a swappy bit.
    In the wooded area further down towards the car park is a rusty fenced off section, which i never quite understood why - maybe endangered plant, or unsafe grounds?
    I always wandered about myths about underground depo's and what was oringally built in the wood ' Cuckoo's Nook' Which has a Concrete Cross ( maybe some sort of mast foundation?).
    Judging from the thread it appears the airport didnt have such a predominant roll in the war, as there is no mention of Huricanes. But in saying that If there was aircraft components being built at the airport,i was told amunition was being made and stored in under ground bunker near or in linley woods just on Redhouse industrial est.

  10. #10
    SuperMod Carnaby's Avatar
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    Default Re: Walsall Municipal Airport, Aldridge

    Re:
    I always wandered about myths about underground depo's and what was oringally built in the wood ' Cuckoo's Nook' Which has a Concrete Cross ( maybe some sort of mast foundation?).
    Judging from the thread it appears the airport didnt have such a predominant roll in the war, as there is no mention of Huricanes. But in saying that If there was aircraft components being built at the airport,i was told ammunition was being made and stored in under ground bunker near or in linley woods just on Redhouse industrial est
    .
    68MU Linley (Caverns) was proposed in early 1941 as a main underground depot for 20 kilotons of High Explosives, plus 5 kilotons of incendiary, with a turnover of 500 ‑ 600 tons per day, staffed by 500 ‑ 700 men. After 1M had been spent it was still in a very unsafe condition and was mothballed. It then became 21MSU under Fauld. A derisory offer to the US 8th AF failed (they chose Wortley), and it was finally used for storing small obsolete weapons. The medical site at least was located on Helliwells Aerodrome.

    Graham
    Last edited by Carnaby; 15-04-2010 at 14:13.

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