Barton(Beds) Aerodrome

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14 years 9 months

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Jenna - the photo I posted of the Wikner/Marendaz was taken by Geoffrey Wikner himself, it is not a "Flight" photograph. I agree that it is very probably taken inside the Maidenhead premises previously used for car manufacture, this would have been taken in early 1936 before Geoffrey stopped work. I note that Marendaz had several law suits filed against him at the time so it may be that the money dried up and Geoffrey walked!

G-AFGG was registered as the "Marendaz Mk III" and bore c/n 2. All published sources state that c/n 1 was destroyed by fire before completion - the question is was c/n 1 the aircraft shown in Geoffrey's photo or was there another aircraft built? Odd that fire seems to keep coming up in connection with both Marendaz and Luton Aircraft ... was it the same fire and AJJ just assumed it was at Maidenhead?

Another conundrum is if the Wikner aircraft was the "Mk I" and G-AFGG was the "Mk III" what was the "Mk II" ?

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11 years

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Yes I appreciate that the picture you posted was not that of the Flight Archive, it was more to show that the information in the Flight Archive page is highly likely referring to your image (or no'2) and the airframe built by Geoffrey Wikner... which we think was probably at Cornwallis.

The image of G-AFGG needs to be credited to the Flight Archive.

Back on the Martin.... from Ultralights by Richard Riding
... 'it (the cheetah) was acquired by Flying Officer Richard Hopkinson in May 1936 and was sent to Luton Aircraft at Gerrods Cross for rebuilding'..
Although the hangers still had some Luton Aircraft use by May 36 they were defiantly mainly working from Hollybush Lane.

The fires are all a bit of mystery as I have several reports of them, at least 4 different places between Marendaz and Luton Aircraft so far, but the only one I can 100% say existed and can be backed up is the one that happened at Holleybush lane Gerrods Cross, this one though was not the result of action (or inaction) of Luton Aircraft but the company that was also working on the site producing aircraft parts from magnesium castings!.

Marendaz seems to be a real character and all honesty I would not put a spot of arson for insurance purposes past him ( very much reminds me of a certain motorsport employer in the past, Steve sure you can guess who I mean!!)... the time between Luton Aircraft leaving Barton and the RAF/ATA use is still very much a mystery.. so much so is suspicious!!

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Nigel Ponsford purchased a pair of Luton Minor wings off the Midland Air Museum (which evolved out of the Midland Aircraft Preservation Society) some years ago.
I had been on a "wrecks and relics" trip with Bob Ogden (camping, travelling in his Mini Cooper S) around North England/South-Mid Scotland (c. 1970)when we found a pair of Luton Minor wings in the roof of a barn on a farm in the Edinburgh area (working from memory here). Not a million miles from Anstruther we thought they could be from G-AEPD. We negotiated acquisition for the MAPS and, a few weeks later, I drove the Society's J4 van up from Coventry to get them down and transport (on the roof). They had many years of dust/cr*p on them. Painted dark blue there was no evidence of any markings on them (photos of G-AEPD I think show the registration under the wings) but we still thought they could be from the prototype. We were told that the aeroplane had been run into by a car and only the wings saved and stored in the roof. The MAPS registered them as a rebuild project and acquired the registration G-BAPC (BAPC = British Aviation Preservation Council) but nothing towards a rebuild was actually done.

As I said they were eventually disposed of to Nigel Ponsford who has/had quite an interest in Luton Minors. I don't know Nigel myself - but I know a man who does :-) Will try and get contact details (unless anyone else comes up with them).

Roger Smith.

I am now fairly sure that G-AEPD was at Penston Farm/Macmerry Airfield AKA Tranent and H.M.S. Nighthawk II, when it was damaged by a reversing car and then broke up for parts!... she would have been in the mono wing set up but still with the 'short' under carriage.

The airfield was used by North Eastern Airways for scheduled flights and was the unofficial home of the Edinburgh Flying Club in the '30s. The site was taken over by the RAF in 1941 which ties in as I have one reference to F/O A.J. Cook. the site was re used by Edinburgh Flying Club from 1946 and released from the military in 1953 and closing. The site is now a farm and industrial estate...

the farm using the RAF hangers...
http://i133.photobucket.com/albums/q51/norwichpaul/RAF%20Macmerry/mac11.jpg

sadly the airfield seams to be the last resting place of quite a few aircraft!

http://www.eastlothianatwar.co.uk/galleries/images/macmerry/Macmerry6(2).jpg

more images of Macmerry

more background on Penston Farm and Macmerry

http://www.raidxtreme.eu/webpics/mac1.jpg

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The wing on the Luton Minor LA3 G-AEPD was a one piece wing, according to the book British light aeroplanes by Arthur Ord-Hume. In fact G-AFIR the oldest Luton Minor surviving was built with a one piece wing. Only after is rebuild by Arther Ord-Hume did he make it into a two piece wing. As my minor has. So i doubt if the wings in the photograph are from G-AEPD, unless they where modified at some time.

Dave

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11 years

Posts: 114

yes your right but i had wondered if it was sold off with one of the Pou spec wings as in the Aeroplane article it says the wing section used in the protype was not that used in the subsiquent minors... I will dig it out and post the exact text. I guess I could also get some idea if the 'unknown' wings are possibles by the wingspan, colour (should have been a dark blue) etc

somewhere I do have the wing dimensions.

this is how it was sold... wouldnt know if thats a single piece or two piece?
http://www.raidxtreme.eu/webpics/aepd5.jpg
cannot date or place location of picture (although the hills in the background are very much like Barton), the magister much like G-AEPD lived down south and in Scotland...grrr

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G-ADCF is a Miles M.2H Hawk Major which was registered to Shell Mex & BP at Heston all its life .

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11 years

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umm I did find a reference also for Carlisle and Fife?... that said Heston was where the LA3 made its 'official' maiden flight!

could somebody from Heston (BP or who ever owned the Miles) flown to Barton? :rolleyes:

Sorry T-21, I recognized it as a Miles (from the ATA pics) and never checked.. slapped wrists. :mad:

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umm I did find a reference also for Carlisle and Fife?... that said Heston was where the LA3 made its 'official' maiden flight!

could somebody from Heston (BP or who ever owned the Miles) flown to Barton? :rolleyes:

Sorry T-21, I recognized it as a Miles (from the ATA pics) and never checked.. slapped wrists. :mad:

The Martin Monoplane was test flown from Heston after it was rebuilt with the new spruce & ply fuselage in 1937.

The anonymous Minor wings are dark blue - but there was no trace of a registration on either of them.

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11 years

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this is a bit ironic, reading an article in Aeroplane...

it would appear that the Buzzard Mk2 was first flown at the RAS Great West Aerodrome party in 1938 (May 8th)... the pilot was surprisingly Robert Kronefeld, before the display was finished the Foster Wilkner Wicko was given clearance to take off causing Kronefeld to touch ground with a wing tip in avoidence... one badly damaged Buzzard!

bet Marendaz had a smile over that!

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The Luton LA2 Minor (the tandem wing) did some test flying of short duration at Barton according to C.H.Latimer-Needhan . A.Ord-Hume says it was only hopped. The wing section was Clark YH modified, later it was intended to change the front wing to probably Gottingen 387 section. Later LA4 Minors have a RAF48 modified wing section.

Dave

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As promised photos of Dunstable factory Grice and Young at Albion street this also i think was Scott aircraft factory. The flats are where the main workshop was in Matthew street and a photo Dart Aircraft factory back of the high street

Dave

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11 years

Posts: 114

Still working on this project and new information is turning up day by day. I will post an update soon; I am just waiting for a few key emails to confirm one or two things....

In the mean time.

The current owners of the airfield (industrial estate) have been over the last 10 years modernizing the site, many buildings have been refurbished and one or two removed like that of the Bedford School of Flying for new buildings.

The site has recently had planning permission granted for a section at the northern end to be demolished and rebuilt with new buildings/parking, this is not of much concern as the only impact on previous historical use is the car park will cover over the location of one of the 5 type 22 pill boxes'... however this one was robbed out in the 70's so it’s not an issue.

The other main planning consent granted is for the demolition of what’s listed as 'storage' buildings due to structural damage/decay. Although this building in the past was not of great concern as it never had any connection to any historical use this may have just changed! Yesterday I managed to gain access to most the buildings on the site (both unused and occupied!) and it’s made the water a little muddy to say the least.

Some time ago I came across a picture of the MK1 Buzzard being built in 1935 in 'the' Luton Aircraft hanger, it’s a widely used picture (flight and several books) and all credit the date/location and aircraft the same.

http://www.bartonleclay.org/buildings2thumb.jpg

The roof structure is quite distinct with its truss pattern and supports! well until now this has always been 'assumed' it was taken in one of the 3 'hangers' behind the Bedford School of Flying buildings on what was the northern edge of the site, the 1938 ariel pic if the site as published in Flight clearly shows these buildings and bar the flying school sectional buildings to the south no other buildings are there (in 1938)... BUT the roof in these 'hangers' is defiantly NOT the one in the picture!

Whats more bizarre is the roof matches that of a building located behind what was the flying school and does not appear on any maps pre 1948!.... and more, the old hangers total 1250sq/ft which is less than the then quoted 1400sq/ft of the Luton Aircraft hangers but correct size for this 'new' location?...

http://www.bartonleclay.org/buildings1thumb.jpg

From the plan above the building that ties up with Luton Aircraft hangers is bordered in purple, the older thought location is aqua (that yuck washed out blue!).

What’s concerned me is that the building being demolished (as I type this!) is identical to the building that has the correct roof for Luton Aircraft!... its the one with the red border in the above plan!

I managed to take these pictures with my phone yesterday as the contractors were ripping it down, does this style/type of structure look familiar to anyone?.. is it typical to the ATA or any other airfields???...

http://www.bartonleclay.org/buildings3thumb.jpg

http://www.bartonleclay.org/buildings4.jpg http://www.bartonleclay.org/buildings5.jpg

Although its already been removed the roof looked the same as this building (the one I suspect the Buzzard photo was taken in)... the red line is where there is evidence in the steel work of probably 'hanger type' doors.

Jenna

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11 years

Posts: 114

just few more images of the inside of hangers with the early Minor.

the LA3 prototype Minor.. it never left Barton (in one piece!) so this must be taken at Barton....

http://www.bartonleclay.org/aepd2.jpg

http://www.bartonleclay.org/aepd3a.jpg

although I couldnt see the end of the building described above (purple hanger) as it has offices in that part, these pics do not match up with roof in the aqua hanger. the Windows seen at the back of the pics though do too a large extent match those in the purple hanger.

and G-AEPD as the LA4... could this be Denham???

http://www.bartonleclay.org/aepd6.jpg

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I have just been given these photo's by a friend. They show Zander and Weyl Ltd later Dunstable Aircraft Ltd workshop. Which I think is Luton road Dunstable. The aircraft are a Lilienthal Glider for the 1936 film 'The Conquest of the Air and a Grunau Baby fuselage. Note the tree through the middle of the workshop!

Dave

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10 years 7 months

Posts: 3

I've only rather belatedly picked up on this fascinating thread. Many years ago (around 1972) I used to be involved at a very junior level with the audit of what was then the HC Janes building group. If I remember correctly the company whose audit that I used to go to on the Faldo IE was a subsidiary of this group (can't remember the name of the subsidiary though). I used to notice a control tower type building and remember someone telling me that there used to be an aerodrome there....many years later and I'm reading this thread!
One minor problem that I may be able to help with:
Landlords often charge rent on the area of a building as measured externally, as opposed to internally (they charge more rent that way..)
On my reckoning 1250 sq ft internally equates to c1400 sq ft externally (assuming c 1 foot thick walls) Does this help?

Spex

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11 years

Posts: 114

Firstly i need to apologize for not posting for a while, the last 6 months are my busy time and combined with the current economic issues most of my time has been tied up chasing working.

Many thanks to all those that have helped with this, research is still going on and I have moved on a little.

I managed to track down the current land owner of the airfield field earlier this year, although he never owned the site during the flying years he is aware of its past history (hard not to be with all the pill boxes scattered round his fields!)....

I also followed up on the info linking the Greentiles Nursery site at Denham to the factory that was used by Luton Aircraft after its move from Barton(Beds).. its current owners had no idea about this and we could find no evidence to support it on the ground, however Rob the owner did know the name CH Latimer-Needham and though it was connected to the nearby Martin-Baker factory which was established in 1935 (coincidental date?), I will look more into this.

I have made a little headway into the sites buildings and now have some images of the building known as the control tower (demolished in 2000) thanks to its last occupants before demolition.. i will post them up asap

Information on the ATA is still proving hard to get, however i do have the names of some of staff, its also confirmed that the head honcho on site was MR Woods... more to follow

Many thanks to the people who took the time to get in touch, if have not contacted you back please just poke me again as the list was long!

I have more news on Marendaz, i can also confirm that the lost Marendaz AFGG was built by Marandaz under one of his 'company' names at Maidstone.

Research continues into the Luton Aircraft investors, Blundell Bros were prominent in the area at the time with a major high street store in Luton, they also set up what became Blundell Rules Limited... this is a story in own right.

More information on the early days of Bill Manuel is coming to light, we now know that he was at Tottenhoe but not on the LGC site... his workshop was a modified lorry body in an adjacent field. Also on the lines of Bill Manuel I have more information on the two Wren/Kestrels being restored in Austrailia... one of which I am sure was built from the plans taken by his apprentice from Tottenhoe to Australia after they parted company and Bill moved to Hockcliffe to for Luton Aircraft.

I am looking to get in contact with the DH Moth Club with the aim of establishing the airfield for one day next, I now have dates that would allow it coincide with other centenary events the village is planning in 2010.

Jenna

Member for

11 years

Posts: 114

I've only rather belatedly picked up on this fascinating thread. Many years ago (around 1972) I used to be involved at a very junior level with the audit of what was then the HC Janes building group. If I remember correctly the company whose audit that I used to go to on the Faldo IE was a subsidiary of this group (can't remember the name of the subsidiary though). I used to notice a control tower type building and remember someone telling me that there used to be an aerodrome there....many years later and I'm reading this thread!
One minor problem that I may be able to help with:
Landlords often charge rent on the area of a building as measured externally, as opposed to internally (they charge more rent that way..)
On my reckoning 1250 sq ft internally equates to c1400 sq ft externally (assuming c 1 foot thick walls) Does this help?

Spex

I have managed to dig up some of the paperwork from Janes, also some is held on the Bedford and Luton Archive, I now also have copies of all the planning applications dating back to the 50's for the site when i get it organised your welcome to have a look and see if anything rings any bells..... the control tower/watch tower would have been over the car park to the main building... I will dig out the pics of it.

Your info on the way the plot is calculated is helpful thanks.

http://www.bartonleclay.org/controltower1.jpg

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10 years 7 months

Posts: 3

You're welcome.

HC Janes builders were, of course, taken over by Barretts. Their HO used to be in Jansel House on the roundabout at Stopsley, named after two directors Messrs Janes and Sel.

Spex

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11 years

Posts: 114

lol i guess your local!....

I remember when Barratts took over as kid, I also remember the helicopter :) :) :) :) :)

Have to say i'm a big heli fan (not fussy anything from an apache to eurocopter :)), and i think some of that came from seeing the heli land here. For those that are interested she was an Augusta 109 (G-hely) piloted for the ads by Martin Burgen, after her fame with Barratts in 1977 she went on to work for Castle Air and was used for filming* on Treasure Hunt in 1979... in '92 she jumped the pond to be rebuilt and live on as N109WH in USA.

http://www.building.co.uk/Pictures/316xAny/u/v/d/HELICOPTER2.jpg

*the two main helis used were Castle Airs JetRangers, G-bhxu & G-spey.. the TV helis pilot was Castle Air boss Keith Thompson and Geoff Newman in the comms heli. (sad arent I!)

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10 years 7 months

Posts: 3

Yes - born at the L & D :o

I'd (temporarily) forgotten about the Barratt helicoptor ads...

Spex