The First British Flight Was Here…




A very interesting article in the Echo for historians:

South Fambridge was first British airfield

8:40pm Thursday 5th February 2009
By Tom King ?

Pemberton Field is a modern residential close in South Fambridge. You could walk through it, or fly over it, a thousand times and be unaware of its significance.

Only the name gives anything away. The ground beneath these homes and gardens is historic. It marks the site of what was almost certainly Britain?s earliest dedicated airfield.

This month sees the 100th anniversary of the first experimental flights beside the River Crouch meadows.

On February 19, the Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust will unveil a memorial to the airfield at South Fambridge. The granite block specially made and imported from Italy will be set up at the approach to the village. It?s a little late in the day, maybe, but Fambridge?s significance is finally to be acknowledged.

The honour of being the first aerodrome has traditionally been given to Leysdown on the Isle of Sheppey, but recent research by Hockley schoolmaster Ken Layzell suggests Leysdown may have been basking in false glory.

?It was a close-run thing, but the evidence from publications at the time suggests Fambridge was first,? he says.

The trusts director-general Ken Bannerman agrees: ?We can?t finally prove Fambridge was first, but it may have been.? ….

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  • There will be many “firsts” claimed in this anniversary year. And why not? Let’s celebrate them all!

    I believe it all depends on the exact claim being made. When I read your own claim, I consulted the expert on Sheppey’s historical role. This is what he said

    “What do you count as an airfield and Why?

    Leysdown was constructed (!) in January 1909. ie the 400 acre surface, which was a golf course, was re-contoured to make it into a flat plain to act as an airfield. The first aircraft was Moore Brabazon’s Voisin which was brought from France in mid-February. At the same time Shorts’ factory was under construction. There has been no argument that this was the first purpose-built airfield.

    There are other grounds that were used by the many, many would-be constructors of the period. eg Laffans plain, the army exercise ground. There was Brooklands etc etc

    Just to remind people there were well over 400 aircraft types constructed before the Great War, so there are bound to be some that claim the first but they were not the foundation of British Aviation”.

    I hope this will shed some light on the remarks you’ve made about Sheppey.

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