Croydon Airport, also known as London Terminal Aerodrome or London
Airport (ICAO: EGCR[a]) was the UK's major international airport
during the interwar period, located in South London, England. At
the launch of the first international air services after World War
One, it was developed as Britain's main airport. After World War Two,
it was replaced by Northolt Aerodrome,
London Heathrow Airport
London Heathrow Airport and
Gatwick Airport. In 1978, the terminal building and Gate Lodge were
granted protection as Grade II listed buildings. On 5 May 2017,
Historic England raised the
Listed building status of the former
terminal building to Grade II*(two star). Due to disrepair, the
Gate Lodge is now classified as Heritage at Risk by Historic
1.3 Events and Celebrities
1.4 Battle of Britain
1.5 Post-war developments and final closure
2 The area today
3 The buildings
4 Aviators, pioneers and aircraft
5 Accidents and incidents
6 Immigration and Customs
7 Medical provision
8 Literary references
12 External links
Croydon Airport as it was in the 1920s or 1930s
In December 1915,
Beddington Aerodrome was established – one of a
number of small airfields around London that were created for
Zeppelin airship raids during the First World War.
In January 1916, the first two aircraft, B.E 2C's, arrived at the
aerodrome as part of Home Defence.
Waddon Aerodrome opened in 1918 as
part of the adjoining National Aircraft Factory No. 1, to serve
aircraft test flights. The two airfields were on each side of Plough
Lane (the lane running north from Russell Hill near Purley, in the
accompanying old map).
Beddington Aerodrome became a large Reserve Aircraft and Training
aerodrome for the Royal Flying Corps. At the end of
World War One
World War One the
aerodrome continued to be an important training airfield for the newly
formed Royal Air Force. During 1919, HRH Prince Albert (later George
VI) gained his "wings" here with No.29 Training Squadron, the first
member of the Royal Family to learn to fly. His elder brother, HRH
Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII), also received flying training
with No.29 Training squadron at
Beddington during 1919.
The two aerodromes were combined following the end of the First World
War to become
Croydon Aerodrome, the gateway for all international
flights to and from London. The new aerodrome opened on 29 March 1920
replacing the temporary civil aerodrome at a Cavalry ground on
Hounslow Heath. Plough Lane remained a public road crossing the
site, and road traffic was halted when necessary, first by a man with
a red flag and later by a gate. The aerodrome stimulated a growth
in regular scheduled flights carrying passengers, mail and freight,
the first destinations being Paris,
Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Two
flights daily from Paris were scheduled for ease of communication with
London during the Paris Peace Conference.In 1923, flights to Berlin
Tempelhof Airport began.
Penshurst Airfield was an alternative destination for airliners when
Croydon was closed due to fog. One such diversion was on 24 September
1921, when a de Havilland DH.18 aircraft was diverted to Penshurst.
This situation lasted until Penshurst closed on 28 July 1936.
Croydon was the first airport in the world to introduce air traffic
control, a Control Tower and radio position-fixing
With the formation of Britain's first national airline, Imperial
Airways, on 31 March 1924, it became the new airline's operating base.
Imperial Airways was the British Government’s “chosen
instrument” to develop connections with the U.K.’s extensive
overseas interest. It was from
Imperial Airways operating base at
Croydon Airport that Britain first developed its European and
longhaul routes to India, Africa, the Middle and Far East, Asia,
Australia (in conjunction with Qantas).
Imperial Airways de Havilland DH.34 crash of December
1924, Britain's worst air disaster at the time, conditions at Croydon
were criticised by the subsequent public inquiry. The public
inquiry was Britain's first inquiry into an aviation accident which
led to an Act of Parliament, the
Croydon Aerodrome Extension Act 1925.
Croydon Aerodrome Extension Act led to large scale expansion,
redevelopment and construction of an improved new airport with airport
buildings constructed adjacent to the Purley Way, Croydon.
Aerial view of
Croydon Airport in 1925
Due to the
Croydon Aerodrome Extension Act 1925, the airport was
greatly enlarged between 1926 -1928, with a new complex of buildings
constructed adjoining Purley Way, including the first purpose-designed
airport terminal and Air Traffic Control Tower, along with the world's
first airport hotel and extensive hangars. The development cost
£267,000 (£14.8 million in today's prices) . Plough Lane
was closed permanently to let heavier airliners land and depart
safely. The airport's terminal building and control tower were
completed in 1928; the old wooden air traffic control and Customs
building was demolished. The new buildings and layout began
operations on 20 January 1928, and were officially opened on 2 May
1928 by Lady Maud Hoare.
Croydon was where regular international passenger services began,
initially using converted wartime bombers, and the Croydon-Le Bourget
route soon became the busiest in the world. Air Traffic Control was
first developed here, as was the distress call ‘Mayday Mayday
Amy Johnson took off from
Croydon on 5 May 1930 for her
record-breaking flight to Australia. In 1927, Charles Lindbergh
arrived in Spirit of St. Louis, to be greeted by an enthusiastic crowd
of over 100,000 people.
Winston Churchill also took flying
On the morning of 11 July 1936, Major Hugh Pollard, and Cecil Bebb
Croydon Airport for the
Canary Islands in a de Havilland Dragon
Rapide aircraft, where they picked up General Francisco Franco, taking
him to Spanish Morocco and thereby helping to trigger the outbreak of
the Spanish Civil War.
Imperial Airways used the
Handley Page HP42/HP45 four-engined biplanes
from Croydon, and the Armstrong Whitworth Atalanta, which was the
first monoplane airliner used by the airline, intended for use on the
African routes. In March 1937
British Airways Ltd
British Airways Ltd operated from
Croydon, moving to
Heston Aerodrome in May 1938. Imperial Airways,
serving routes in the British Empire, and British Airways Ltd, serving
European routes, were merged by the Chamberlain government in November
1938 to become
British Overseas Airways Corporation
British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC). Larger
Armstrong Whitworth Ensign
Armstrong Whitworth Ensign series (G-ADSR)
came into service that year.
The airport also hosted a much-publicised visit by Gertrud
Scholtz-Klink, leader of the National Socialist Women’s League
(NS-Frauenschaft) and rumoured to be a spy; historians have speculated
that she landed in Britain to cultivate Germans spies living here, in
the run-up to WWII.
Second World War
Second World War started in September 1939,
was closed to civil aviation but played a vital role as a fighter
station during the Battle of Britain. No. 92 Squadron flew Supermarine
Spitfires from RAF
Croydon during the early part of the Second World
War and the Battle of Britain.
Events and Celebrities
1929 - Preparing to fly in an Armstrong Whitworth Argosy, from Croydon
Douglas Fairbanks and
Mary Pickford met Edwina Mountbatten,
Countess Mountbatten of Burma in 1929 .
Amy Johnson leaves
Croydon 5 May 1930 with a few people to see
her off. She returns from
Australia to be greeted by crowds of
Battle of Britain
On 15 August 1940,
Croydon Airport was attacked in the first major air
raid on the London area. At around 6.20 pm 22
Bf 110 and Bf 109
fighter-bombers of Erpr.Gr.210 mounted a final raid of the day,
RAF Kenley nearby, but attacked
Croydon (four miles
further north) in error. The armoury was destroyed, the civilian
airport terminal building was badly damaged, and a hangar was damaged
by cannon fire and blast. Another hangar and about forty training
aircraft in it went up in flames. Six airfield personnel died (four
airmen from No. 111 Squadron, an Officer of 1 (RCAF), and a female
telephonist from Station HQ). Factories next to
Croydon Airport took
the worst of the bombing. The British NSF factory (making electrical
components) was almost entirely destroyed, and the Bourjois perfume
factory gutted. The Rollason Aircraft factory also received bomb hits
and accounted for many of the 62 civilians (including five women)
killed and 192 injured. Of the raiders, eight aircraft were downed by
the Hurricanes of 32 and 111 Squadrons.
Croydon became the base of
RAF Transport Command
RAF Transport Command in 1944.
Post-war developments and final closure
Aerial photograph of
Croydon Airport in 1945
Following the end of the war it was realised that post-war airliners
and cargo aircraft would be larger and air traffic would intensify.
Urban spread of south London, and surrounding villages growing into
towns, had enclosed
Croydon Airport and left it no room for expansion.
Heathrow was therefore designated as London's airport.
Croydon returned to civil control in February 1946; a diagram in the
issue of Flight dated 11 April shows 1,250 yards (1,140 m) ground
run in the 170–350 direction, 1,150 yards (1,050 m) 060-240 and
1,100 yards (1,000 m) 120–300 (the numbers are degrees
clockwise from north). Northolt opened to the airlines soon after
that, cutting Croydon's traffic, but the September 1946 ABC Guide
shows 218 departures a week to Belfast, Dublin, Liverpool, Manchester,
Glasgow (Renfrew), Jersey, Guernsey, and several continental airports.
A year later there were 56 departures a week, mostly BEA de Havilland
Dragon Rapides that weeks later left
Croydon for good.
It was decided in 1952 that the airport would eventually be closed, as
Blackbushe Airport in
Hampshire and Northolt Aerodrome in Middlesex
could accommodate European flights during the 1950s. The last
scheduled flight from
Croydon departed at 6:15pm on 30 September
1959, followed by the last aircraft (a private flight), at
7:45pm; the airfield officially closed at 10:20pm.
On 27 September 2009, to mark the 50th anniversary of the closing of
the airport, eleven light aircraft, including eight biplanes, staged a
flypast. A gold laurel leaf tribute was laid in the control
tower to mark the anniversary.
The area today
The de Havilland Heron outside Airport House
Battle of Britain
Battle of Britain memorial
Much of the site has been built over, but some of the terminal
Purley Way (the A23 road) are still visible, clearly
identifiable as to their former purpose. The former terminal building
is called Airport House, and the former control tower houses a
A de Havilland Heron (a small propeller-driven British airliner of the
1950s), is displayed outside Airport House on struts flanking the
entry path (as of November 2009). The Heron is painted to represent an
example registered G-AOXL of Morton Air Services, the aircraft that
flew the last passenger flight from
Croydon on 30 September 1959. A
memorial to those lost in the
Battle of Britain
Battle of Britain stands slightly to the
Croydon has long ceased operation, the two cut ends of Plough
Lane have never been reunited, but the area between has been developed
instead into parkland, playing fields, and the
estate with its roads aptly named after aviators and aircraft. All
that remains of the runways is a small area of tarmac about 400 feet
(120 m) long each way in
Roundshaw Park just west of Purley Way,
which is a remnant of the WNW-ESE runway due south of the control
buildings; it can be seen at 51°21′04″N 0°07′03″W /
51.351067°N 0.117449°W / 51.351067; -0.117449; the "arm" may
be a remnant of a taxiway to Hangar B. The area is used primarily
by walkers, model aircraft enthusiasts, locals playing football and
Croydon Pirates baseball team.
The church on the
Roundshaw estate has a cross on its outside wall
that was made from the cut down propeller of a Spitfire based at
Croydon during the Second World War.
The area is still known as
Croydon Airport for transport purposes and
was the location for
Croydon Water Palace.
In recognition of the historical significance of the aerodrome, two
local schools (
Waddon Infants School and Duppas Junior School) merged
in September 2010 and became The Aerodrome School.
The Aerodrome Hotel and the terminal building including its grand
booking hall were built in the neo-classical geometrical design
typical of the early 20th Century. A further item that would have
caught the eye of visitor and traveller alike was the time zone tower
(now lost) in the booking hall with its dials depicting the times in
different parts of the world.
Croydon Airport's Aerodrome Hotel is
Croydon Vision 2020 regeneration plan.
World with Wings Symbol, still on wall in Booking Hall
The Airport Hotel survives as the independent Hallmark Hotel.
Aviators, pioneers and aircraft
The aerodrome was known the world over, its fame being spread by the
many aviators and pioneers who touched down at Croydon, such as:
Alan Cobham, who flew from
Cape Town and back in 1925-6;
Charles Lindbergh, who flew into
Croydon in 1927 shortly after
completing the first solo trans-Atlantic flight;
Bert Hinkler, who made the first flight from
Croydon to Darwin,
Australia in 1928;
Mary, Lady Heath, the first pilot, male or female, to fly a small
open-cockpit aircraft from
Cape Town to London,
Charles Kingsford Smith, who beat Hinkler's record;
Amy Johnson, the first woman to fly from
Croydon to Australia, later
to return to
Croydon to a jubilant welcome.
Winston Churchill, who took extensive flying lessons at
was nearly killed during a crash at take-off in 1919.
Tom Campbell Black, who with
C. W. A. Scott
C. W. A. Scott won the MacRobertson
London to Melbourne Air Race in 1934;
Juan de la Cierva, the Spanish inventor of the autogyro, who died in
an aviation accident on 9 December 1936.
Accidents and incidents
On 15 March 1923,
Farman F.60 Goliath
Farman F.60 Goliath F-AEIE of Compagnie des
Messageries Aériennes overran the runway on landing and collided with
a building. The aircraft was later repaired and returned to
On 22 January 1924, Goliath F-GEAO of
Air Union was destroyed by fire
following an accident when landing.
On 24 December 1924 (1924
Imperial Airways de Havilland DH.34 crash),
Imperial Airways de Havilland DH.34 G-EBBX crashed and caught fire
shortly after takeoff from Croydon, killing the pilot and all seven
On 6 November 1929, the
Deutsche Lufthansa Junkers G 24bi
Oberschlesien (registration D-903) crashed after striking trees on a
bill in Marden Park, Surrey, while attempting to return to
thick fog after taking off for a flight to
Amsterdam in the
Netherlands. Three of the four crew members and four of the five
On 19 May 1934, a
Wibault 280 of
Air France crash-landed on a cricket
pitch adjacent to
Croydon Airport due to running out of fuel. Only one
of the ten people on board was injured.
On 31 May 1934 an
Air France aircraft carrying newspapers to Paris
crashed after hitting the mast of an aircraft radio navigation beacon
that had been erected off the end of the white-line takeoff path,
killing the two crew.
On 9 December 1936 (1936
Croydon accident), a
KLM Douglas DC-2
crashed on take off at
Croydon Airport on a flight to Amsterdam. The
accident killed 15 out of 17 on the DC-2, including Juan de la
Cierva and Arvid Lindman.
On 25 January 1947 (1947
Croydon Dakota accident), a Spencer Airways
Douglas Dakota failed to get airborne on a flight to Rhodesia. The
aircraft struck another parked and empty aircraft, killing 11
passengers and the pilot.
Immigration and Customs
The Chief Immigration Officer of the shipping port of Port of Dover,
Mr P.L.Hartley, took over in 1936
A medical officer, Dr John Robert Draper, M.B., B.Ch., was employed by
Croydon Council to take over medical duties at the airport from 1
January 1931. He was answerable to Croydon's Medical Officer of
Croydon Airport featured in the detective novels, Freeman Wills
Crofts' The 12.30 from
Croydon (1934);Agatha Christie's Death in the
Clouds (1935). Evelyn Waugh's "Labels: A Mediterranean Journey"
(1930), Elizabeth Bowen's "To the North" (1932) and Winston
Churchill’s “Thoughts and Adventures” (1932).
^ a b ICAO code has been reassigned
^ [permanent dead link]
Croydon Airport The cradle of British civil aviation".
^ "Listed Buildings Online: Former Lodge To
Croydon Airport Terminal".
Historic England. Retrieved 30 May 2010.
^ Basing, Tavis. "Historic Airport Historic
Croydonairport.org.uk. Retrieved 2017-11-23.
^ England, Historic. "Heritage at Risk 2017 Historic England".
historicengland.org.uk. Retrieved 2017-12-26.
^ "prince prince albert rome 1919 0473 Flight Archive".
Flightglobal.com. Retrieved 2017-12-27.
^ a b c d e Millard, Neil (3 September 2009). "Fly past to mark 50th
Croydon Airport". The
Croydon Post (online and in
print). Northcliffe Media. Retrieved 14 September 2009.
^ "Online communities". 22 January 2016.
^ "London Terminal Aerodrome". Flight. No. 29 September 1921.
^ "Penshurst Closed". Flight. No. 30 July 1936.
^ a b c Basing, Tavis. "Historic
Croydonairport.org.uk. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
^ "AIR CONFERENCE AT WADDON : The Vickers " Viking III "
Amphibian" (PDF). Flightglobal.com. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
^ "WIRELESS POSITION-FINDING FOR AIRCRAFT" (PDF). Flightglobal.com.
Retrieved 3 February 2018.
^ a b "
Croydon Air Accident. Court of Enquiry's Report". The Times
(43883). London. 11 February 1925. col A, B, C, D, p. 17.
^ "The Royal Aero Club and Christmas" (PDF). Flightglobal.com.
Retrieved 3 February 2018.
Retail Price Index
Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from
Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for
Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 6
Croydon Airport & RAF
^ "RandomPottins". randompottins.blogspot.com.
^ "When Hitler's perfect woman came to call". History Extra. Retrieved
^ "MK1 Supermarine Spitfire to be sold to benefit RAF Veterans and
Wildlife Charity". Cambridge Military History.
^ Cluett, Douglas. The First the Fastest and the Famous. London
Borough of Sutton Libraries and Arts Services. p. 223.
^ Cluett, Douglas (1985). The First the Fastest and the Famous. London
Borough of Sutton Libraries and Arts Services. p. 36.
^ Ramsay, "After the Battle"
^ a b c d e Austen, Ian (7 October 2009). "Airport milestone marked by
Croydon Post. Croydon, UK: Northcliffe Media.
access-date= requires url= (help)
^ "Thursday 15th August 1940 – Battle of Britain". War and peace and
the price of cat-fish.
^ Charlton, Jo (7 August 2009). "Work begins on new primary school in
Croydon Advertiser. Croydon, UK: Northcliffe Media.
Retrieved 8 October 2009.
^ "Schools amalgamation means lift off for Aerodrome School". London
Borough of Croydon. 6 August 2009. Archived from the original on 5
June 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2009.
^ "Hallmark Hotel Croydon, Croydon, Near Gatwick".
^ Gilbert, Martin; Churchill, Randolph (1975). Winston S. Churchill
– Volume IV 1917–1922. London: Heinemann. p. 208.
^ "Tom Campbell Black". 24 July 2008. Archived from the original on 24
^ a b "FRENCH PRE-WAR REGISTER Version 120211" (PDF). Air Britain.
Retrieved 8 March 2011.
^ "Air Disaster at Croydon". Flight. No. 1 January 1925.
^ Harro Ranter (6 November 1929). "ASN Aircraft accident Junkers
G.24bi D-903 Godstone, Surrey". aviation-safety.net.
^ "Mishap to French Air Liner". The Times (46759). London. 21 May
1934. col F, p. 7.
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 15 July 2011.
Retrieved 16 July 2010.
^ Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
^ "Dover Express". 25 December 1936.
^ Draper, John Robert (7 January 1939). "Medical Supervision at
Croydon Aerodrome". British Medical Journal (supplement). 1 (4070):
^ Wagstaff, Vanessa; Poole, Stephen (2004). Agatha Christie: a
reader's companion (2nd ed.). London: Aurum Press.
Gordon, Alistair (2004). Naked Airport: A Cultural History of the
World's Most Revolutionary Structure. University of Chicago Press.
ISBN 978 0 226 30456 4.
Bluffield, Robert (2009). Imperial Airways: The Birth of the British
Airline Industry 1914-1940. Ian Allan Publishing. ISBN 978 1
906537 07 4.
Learmonth, Bob; Nash, Joanna; Cluett, Douglas (1977). The First
Croydon Airport 1915–1928. Sutton: London Borough of Sutton
Libraries and Arts Services. ISBN 0-9503224-3-1.
Cluett, Douglas; Nash, Joanna; Learmonth, Bob (1980).
The Great Days 1928–1939. Sutton: London Borough of Sutton Libraries
and Arts Services. ISBN 0-9503224-8-2.
Dickson, Charles C. (1983).
Croydon Airport Remembered. Sutton: London
Borough of Sutton Libraries and Arts Services.
Cluett, Douglas; Bogle (Nash), Joanna; Learmonth, Bob (1984). Croydon
Airport and The Battle for Britain 1939–1940. Sutton: London Borough
of Sutton Libraries and Arts Services. ISBN 0-907335-11-X.
Gillies, Midge (2003). Amy Johnson:Queen of the Air. Weidenfeld and
Nicolson. ISBN 0 75381 770 5.
Stroud, John (1987). Railway Air Services. Ian Allan Ltd. ISBN 0
7110 1743 3.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to
Old Ordnance Survey map of the area as in the 1920s: see the word
"Aerodrome" between the two roads going north-northwest from Purley;
the westerly of those two roads is Plough Lane.
Croydon Airport web site from
Croydon Airport Society
Croydon Airport web page from
Various photos from Control Towers website
Croydon Airport from The Air Pilot, published by Air
Ministry, London, 1934.
Croydon Control Tower
Croydon Airport – Sunday 27 September 2009 on YouTube
Croydon Airport 50th Anniversary Flypast photos
Google Earth ground view of
Croydon Airport from the
A23 road (Purley
Article about MK1 Spitfires from No. 92 Squadron which flew from RAF
Croydon at cambridgemilitaryhistory.com weblog
Defunct airports and airfields in the United Kingdom
Great West Aerodrome
London Air Park
London Borough of Croydon
Norwood New Town
David Lean Cinema
Museum of Croydon
Croydon Central Library
Croydon Farmers Market
Surrey Street Market
Addiscombe Railway Park
Addiscombe Recreation Ground
Apsley Road Playground
Ashburton Playing Fields
Great North Wood
South Norwood Country Park
South Norwood Lake and Grounds
South Norwood Recreation Ground
Streatham Vale Park
and tram stops
King Henry's Drive
Therapia Lane (in LB of Sutton)
Art and architecture
Croydon Vision 2020
Grade I and II* listed buildings
Tallest buildings and structures
Coat of arms
Buildings and structures in Croydon
100 George Street
Cherry Orchard Road
Cherry Orchard Road Towers
Croydon transmitting station
Croydon Vocational Tower
Direct Line House
No. 1 Croydon
Christ Church, Croydon
Croydon Clocktower (David Lean Cinema
Museum of Croydon
Croydon Central Library)
Cane Hill Hospital
John Ruskin College
Croydon University Hospital
St Andrew's, Croydon
St John the Evangelist, Upper Norwood
St Michael and All Angels, Croydon
St Peter's, Croydon
Trinity School of John Whitgift
Major railway stations
Ashburton Learning Village
Colonnades Leisure Park
St George's Walk
Valley Park Retail Area
Croydon Sports Arena
Croydon Water Palace
Architecture of Croydon
Croydon Vision 2020
List of tallest buildings and str