Croydon Airport

The cradle of British civil aviation

Croydon Aerodrome was the cradle of British civil aviation and London's chief airport for twenty vital years between the World Wars.

It had its genesis in 1915, when a new Royal Flying Corps defence station was formed alongside Plough Lane, Beddington, on New Barn Farm, formerly part of the Carew Estates; and, in 1918, National Aircraft Factory No. 1 was built nearby with its own airfield. The future George VI gained his 'wings' here in 1919 with one of the training squadrons. The airfields were then known as Beddington and Waddon Aerodromes, respectively.

In March 1920 the twin aerodromes were chosen to become the Customs Airport of London (after Hounslow had performed this function for nine months on a temporary basis) and renamed after the nearby town of Croydon.

In 1924, Imperial Airways was formed from the independent British airline operators then using the aerodrome, and in 1928 new buildings were erected along the newly-built Purley Way. Before and after 1928, Croydon was the scene of the start, or finish, of many record-breaking, pioneering and historic flights. Among the highlights are Cobham's return from his five-month African trip in 1926; Lindbergh's visit fresh from the first Atlantic solo flight in 1927; and Amy Johnson's return from Australia in 1930. But, day by day, routine flying continued, building up Britain's air links with the world.

In 1959, after taking part in the air defence of London in the Second World War (Hurricane and Spitfire squadrons took part from here in the Battle of Britain), Croydon was closed, having become too small for major post-war traffic. The Roundshaw housing estate has now grown up on the old aerodrome, but names famous in aviation history have been used for its street names to keep alive the memory of Britain's first major airport.

On May 5th 1980, the Croydon Airport site was reopened for flying for one day when the London Borough of Sutton organised an Air show and a re-enactment of Amy Johnson's departure on her historic solo flight to Australia which began on that day 50 years earlier.

A second Air show was organised in 1988 to mark, in Australian Bicentennial year, the 60th anniversary of the first solo flight to Australia by Bert Hinkler, and the airport's many other Australian connections.

More information on Croydon Airport Society's website.