Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Airspeed factory, York

In York a couple of summers ago I came across a large derelict building on Piccadilly near the centre of the city. I thought it might once have been a tram depot.

I was nearly right, but there is far more to its history than that.

Thanks to a post on the York Stories blog, which anyone interested in this wonderful city should read, I found this article in The Press:
This unlovely building was put up in 1921 to house York’s expanding trolleybus fleet. It closed ten years later when the new Fulford bus garage opened, in April 1931. 
Then, remarkably, the nondescript building became home to an aircraft factory. And not just any aircraft factory. 
Airspeed Ltd, as the company was known, was founded by Nevil Shute Norway – the deputy chief engineer to Barnes Wallis, who worked on the design of the R100 airship at Howden and later went on to achieve literary fame with A Town Like Alice as plain Nevil Shute. Also a partner in the fledgling aircraft company was a young Hull woman by the name of Amy Johnson. 
Airspeed rented part of the depot, and began building gliders and aircraft there.
In 1933 Airspeed wanted to expand, but no help was offered by York Corporation. So the company left for Portsmouth.

There is a plan to open an Airspeed museum in the building. But, judging by the most recent York Stories post about it, the scheme is likely to come to nothing.


Frank Little said...

I remember the Airspeed Ambassador - presumably produced in Hampshire. Details of the Dan Air version here.

Frank Little said...

Another thing I should have remembered was that the plane which was criminally allowed to take off on an unfit runway in Munich was an "Elizabethan" variation of the Ambassador. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Munich_air_disaster.