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Croydon Airport including Purley Way West Croydon

Croydon Airport including Purley Way West

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Purley Way West is on the edge of a large open area that was the site of Croydon Airport; some of the former taxiing area remains visible. The first Croydon Aerodrome was formed from two earlier airfields, and has now largely been built over. A second complex was built to the east in 1926 and Croydon Airport was opened on 2 May 1928. It served as London's main civic international airport but finally closed in 1959. A number of the airport buildings remain to the north of Purley Way West and the airport land is now parkland, playing fields and the Roundshaw Estate in Sutton. In 1991 a memorial to the Battle of Britain was erected next to Purley Way.
Previous / Other name:
Site location: Purley Way, Croydon
Postcode: CR0 0XZ
Type of site: Private Open Land 
Date(s): 1916-28
Listed structures: LBII: Airport House, Former Lodge to Croydon Airport, Terminal
Borough: Croydon
Site ownership: private
Site management: private
Open to public? Occasionally
Opening times: Visitor Centre open first Sunday each month 11am-4pm; special visits for groups can be arranged at other times
Special conditions:
Facilities: Croydon Airport Visitor Centre in Airport House
Public transport: Rail: East Croydon then bus. Bus: 119, 289
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/12/2008
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Fuller information:

The first Croydon Aerodrome officially opened on 29 March 1920 formed from two earlier airfields, Beddington Royal Flying Corps Aerodrome, established in 1916 and used for defence of London in WWI, and Waddon Aerodrome, which was attached to the National Aircraft Factory No. 1 that opened in 1918 and was used for test flying. After the end of WWI the two airfields were combined as the London Terminal Aerodrome and became London's main civil international airport with responsibilities for Customs. Initially the British airline companies were private, but in 1924 the Government subsidised the first national airline, set up as Imperial Airways and formed from various private enterprises. Early aircraft were 2 or 4-seater converted light bombers and passengers were given flying suits to wear over their clothes, the flights being noisy and cold. Croydon Aerodrome witnessed a number of important aviation events: Charles Lindbergh landed here in 1927 after completing the first 33 hours solo flight across the Atlantic. In 1921 an airship mooring mast was built here but removed within a year when airships proved unsuccessful. The international distress signal 'Mayday' (from the French 'help me' - m'aidez) was invented by the Croydon-based Marconi Company.

The original airport layout was bisected by a public road, Plough Lane, which was later closed when the airfield was extended in the 1920s. It was decided to build a new airport facility to the east, including a modern terminal, hangars and Aerodrome Hotel. In 1928 the new Croydon Airport complex was completed and served by the new Purley Way built in 1924. It was opened on 2 May 1928 by Lady Maud Hoare, wife of the Secretary of State for Air. In 1928 the first solo flight from Croydon to Australia was accomplished by Bert Hinkler in 15 days. Amy Johnson was the first woman to make the solo flight to Australia from Croydon in 1930 in her Gypsy Moth bi-plane; the airport was temporarily re-opened in 1980 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of her journey. During WWII from 1939-1946 it was taken over as Royal Air Force Station Croydon. Although the airport re-opened for civil aviation in 1946 it was increasingly evident that it was becoming too small a site for modern aircraft, and a number of the major airlines were relocated to Northolt and Heathrow. Croydon remained open until 1959 but by then it was only used by smaller independent airlines and by private flying clubs, and for short-haul flights.

The terminal building, Airport House, remains and now houses Croydon Airport Visitor Centre on two floors of the former Control Tower; it is owned by the owner of Addington Palace. The car park behind Airport House was once airside, where passengers embarked and disembarked from aircraft. The airport land is now parkland, playing fields and the Roundshaw Estate, which has roads named after aircraft and aviators. Part of the aircraft taxiing area is also visible on Purley Way West. Croydon Airport Society was set up in 1978 to perpetuate the history and traditions of Croydon Airport. In 1991 a memorial to the Battle of Britain was erected next to Purley Way.

Sources consulted:

Bob Learmonth, Joanna Nash, Douglas Cluett (ed), 'The First Croydon Airport 1915-1928', (Sutton Libraries and Arts Services), 1977. Croydon Airport Society has extensive archives. See and; LB Croydon, 'Local List of Historic Parks & Gardens', December 2008
Grid ref: TQ311635
Size in hectares: 8.4 (Purley Way West)
On EH National Register : No
EH grade :
Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:
Registered common or village green
on Commons Registration Act 1965:
Protected under London Squares
Preservation Act 1931:
The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.
On Local List: Yes
In Conservation Area: No
Conservation Area name:
Tree Preservation Order: Not known
Nature Conservation Area: Yes
Green Belt: No
Metropolitan Open Land: Yes
Special Policy Area: Yes - Archaeological Priority Zone (part)
Other LA designation:

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