Croydon Airport.

Posted on 11/03/2018 By

Croydon Airport: The Commandant's Desk.

Croydon Airport.

It’s 1958. Bobby and his plane-spotting friends at Sutton Grammar School (tie blog) are just twenty minutes by bike to Croydon Airport. Long past its glory days (and heading for closure just a year later) there are still plenty of planes for the spotters. And a grapevine.

“Ere Trebor”… “there’s a Beech Bonanza at Croydon! “Coming with us to see it?”

So off they went on their bikes after school to the Purley Way running alongside Croydon Airport. Passed the front entrance and climbing up hill, they turned for the big dash. Rumour had it that the Bonanza was in the big hangar. Gathering speed they shot through the entrance to the airport hotly pursued by a ginger haired copper on a bike. Onto the apron passed the open hangar and there there it was. If only they had cameras. Not one between them. Couldn’t stop but shot out down the side of the hangar.

The actual Bonanza (a Beech G35) they saw at Croydon Airport in 1958. A rare aircraft with a “butterfly” tail.

The actual Bonanza (a Beech G35) they saw at Croydon Airport in 1958. A rare aircraft, with a “butterfly” tail.


Those boys, (there were no girl plane spotters) all had their assortment of plane spotting paraphernalia. Rare planes or military aircraft were not in any printed books, so you made your own. Which Bobby still has. Trebor one of many nicknames paying respect to his love of sweets. And Robert spelt backwards!

This story (and others) was related to the excellent guide, who took us on the museum tour of Croydon Airport last summer. A little older than Bobby, he still remembered the policeman’s name! And the Bonanza.

Today, there is little left of the once internationally famous aerodrome. What there is, however, is the control tower and small museum that has a wealth of information and interest from the glory days of early aviation. Open once a month, with a café and tours. We can recommend you go.

"Croydon Airport Becomes London's International Airport"

“Croydon Airport Becomes London’s International Airport”

Take a look at their website: www.croydonairport.org.uk.

The website gives you everything you need to know about the history of what was once Britain’s gateway to the world. Never forgetting that aviation was just for the rich then, as you will see in the photographs. It wasn’t until Freddie Laker and his contemporaries in the sixties that no frills airlines were introduced and changed air travel forever. Flying from Croydon between the wars, you would be brought by chauffeur driven car from a London Hotel to the airport. The Handley Page HP42, the most famous airliner of its day, (seen above) carried just 24 passengers. The routes were to Europe and the Empire. Not across the Atlantic. For that, the rich went on the great liners, like the Queen Mary. The rest of us went to Bognor… maybe. Or nowhere. Holidays for the working class were often days out by train. The French Riviera had been popular with the rich for a long time. Spain as yet undiscovered.

A Day Out with Anne at Croydon Airport.

Croydon Airport: Anne and Diddley after the “last Dakota’ flight.

Anne and Diddley after the “last Dakota’ flight.

Croydon Airport House. Now the Museum.

Airport House. Now the Museum.

Croydon: Outside the Airport.

Outside the Airport.

Croydon Airport: De Havilland Heron. The plane that flew the last service before the airport closed forever. Just 14 seats.

De Havilland Heron. The plane that flew the last service before the airport closed forever. Just 14 seats.

Croydon Airport: Control tower.

Control tower.

Croydon Airport: Control tower.

Control tower.

Croydon Airport: "Halt. Ensure that no Aircraft are landing or taking off before proceeding."

“Halt. Ensure that no Aircraft are landing or taking off before proceeding.”

Croydon Airport: The Commandant's Desk.

The Commandant’s Desk.

Croydon Airport: 1958 prices!

1958 prices!

Croydon Airport: Leaving London by chauffeur driven car for Croydon.

Leaving London by chauffeur driven car for Croydon.

Croydon Airport: Checking Luggage.

Checking Luggage.

Croydon Airport: Booking Hall.

Booking Hall.

Croydon Airport: Interior of the Booking Hall 1929.

Interior of the Booking Hall 1929.

Croydon Airport: HP42 Imperial Airways. "Helena".

HP42 Imperial Airways. “Helena”.

Croydon Airport: HP42 Imperial Airways. Exploded View.

HP42 Imperial Airways. Exploded View.

Croydon Airport: Interior of HP42. A little different to Ryanair. But very expensive and just 100 miles per hour.

Interior of HP42. A little different to Ryanair. But very expensive and just 100 miles per hour.

Croydon Airport: De Havilland Albatross. A later Imperial Airways airliner. 22 seats.

De Havilland Albatross. A later Imperial Airways airliner. 22 seats.

Croydon Airport: Pre war Croydon. Lufthansa looking ominous. Czechoslovak DC3.

Pre war Croydon. Lufthansa looking ominous. Czechoslovak DC3.

Croydon Airport: The very last airline flight out - September 1959.

The very last airline flight out – September 1959.

Croydon Airpot: An aerial photo of great interest. The Purley Way (A23) main road running diagonally through the middle.

An aerial photo of great interest. The Purley Way (A23) main road running diagonally through the middle.

Above Croydon Aerodrome. Below Purley Way Lido. This was a very popular and famous lido. Closed in 1979. It became a garden centre. The enormous concrete diving boards were declared a listed building and latterly still there advertising the garden centre. We loved that lido in hot weather.

Croydon Airport: Lovely museum café.

Lovely museum café.

Croydon Airport: Friendly staff.

Friendly staff.

Croydon Airport: Bookshop.

Bookshop.

Bobby’s Childhood Memories

Going back to Bobby’s time, the memories he has are of a very short period. New plane spotter 1957. Croydon closed 1959. He and his friends had plenty of scrapes. One evening they were caught in the main hangar inside an airliner. A DC3. In cherry red school uniform they were marched to the control tower and made to wait until that policeman arrived. They would be reported. “Who would you rather we write to. Your headmaster or your dad?” Time passed and they took no action but they succeeded in ensuring they never needed to catch them again. Croydon still had a few airline services. Once again, Bobby collected their sticky labels.

Croydon Airport: Morton Air Services.

Morton Air Services.

Croydon Airport: Olley Air Service.

Olley Air Service.

Croydon Airport: Olley Air Service - Racing Service.

Olley Air Service – Racing Service.

Croydon Airport: Jersey Airlines Regular Service.

Jersey Airlines Regular Service.

Looking at the airport site now, it’s hard to believe that Britain’s first international airport was there. Even in Bobby’s time, he saw airliners as big as DC3s coming in low over the Purley Way to land on a grass runway. And then home on his bike for tea.

Croydon Airport: Bobby's Book.

Bobby’s Book.

And here is that historical file that is Bobby’s most prized possession. His home-made book of all the aircraft he saw, civil and military, and where, that were not featured in any printed books. It will have its own blog one week, for what it contains over a period of 4 years is unbelievable. Not just to a plane-spotter. A list of numbers that hides so many stories. But for just a peak, here is that Beech Bonanza. When I write that blog, I will show you what else I have found about this aircraft last seen in 1958.

Beech Bonanza. Irish registration. No 2 code for Croydon Airport. 1957.

Beech Bonanza. Irish registration. No 2 code for Croydon Airport. 1957.

Appendix.

There follows a number of YouTubes that will give you an insight into the Croydon of long ago. Spot the swastika.

Last flight out.

In the 1930s.

Lufthansa.

.

Amy Johnson.

Also, some facts: www.londonist.com/2016/01/croydonairport

Lighting a Candle to Diddley.

No story of Croydon Airport is complete without Amy Johnson.

Croydon Airport. "I am an ordinary woman who did extraordinary things." Amy Johnson.

“I am an ordinary woman who did extraordinary things.” Amy Johnson.

Croydon Airport.Diddley did her own “Amy Johnson.” Celebrating her 50th Birthday flying in a 1930s Tiger Moth from Duxford. And making her own Certificate to prove it.

Croydon Airpot.

Croydon Airport: Lighting a candle for Diddley.– – – – – – – – – – –

Croydon Airport    


  1. Baby Ball says:

    Nice blog. I have very fond memories of the hotel at the old Croydon Airport. I once went to a wedding reception there. I only realised I was at the wrong wedding when the bride and groom made their entrance – by that point I’d already eaten, drunk champagne and made new friends around the table!

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