Blackpool Aviation Week
Blackpool, UK, October 18th - 24th 1909

The Blackpool airfield

This photo shows the two pylons that were placed very close to the Golf Club House. It was hardly ideal from a safety point of view with a building so close to the course, but everybody managed to miss it. Immediately outside the course there were still bunkers and earth walls. (1)
Rougier flying in front of the grandstands. (2)
After visiting several sites, the Blackpool Corporation and the Aero Club decided to build the airfield between Squires Gate and St. Annes-on-Sea, around three kilometres south of Blackpool. Part of the field was used as a golf course, which was of course not ideal, since bunkers had to be filled and hedges and earth banks removed. However, these obstacles, together with telephone poles and trees would be removed "regardless of expense".

The field was situated along the Great Western Railway, less than a kilometre away from the sea, but the organizers optimistically stated that October was the calmest month of the year, and that the field would be protected from the prevailing westerly wind by the sand dunes and the 10-15 metre high railway bank. It was also claimed that due to the light, rapidly drying sandy nature of the soil there would be no risk for a repeat of the Reims mud problems.

Plans for the laying out of the ground were drawn up by the Borough Surveyor, Mr Brodie, and tenders for grand stands, fences and sheds were invited. The main stand was to seat 3,500 people and a special stand another 1,500, while there would be an additional 15,000 seats as well as practically unlimited space in the "one shilling" public area. The Royal Agricultural Society offered the use of its members' stand, which had covered seating accommodation for nearly 2,000 people. The trams ran all the way to the northern gates of the airfield, so it would be convenient for visitors. It was estimated that the field could accept around 150,000 people at the same time.

The official caterer of the meeting was Mr Brayshay of Leeds, whose eleven large marquees and three bars were manned by 600 staff and could serve 3,400 people at the same time. In order to satisfy the needs of the hungry and thirsty visitors they brought, among other things, 500 hogsheads and 36,000 bottles of Bass, 600 cases of whiskey, 40,000 bottles of Schweppes assorted minerals, 500 sheep "with beef in proportion" (whatever that means?), 1,000 hams and 3,000 sandwich loaves.

For the 1910 Flying Carnival only the northern part of the 1909 field was used, and the length of the rectangular marked course was reduced to one mile (1,609 m). The grandstands and hangars were completely rearranged in a much smaller area. It was hoped to establish it as a permanent airfield, with permanent hangars and grandstands, but after the huge losses of the Carnival these plans came to nothing.

In 1911 the Clifton Park racecourse opened on the site. It went bankrupt in 1915 and the site was requisitioned for a military hospital, the Lancashire Military Convalescent Home. This closed in 1924, and afterwards the field was occasionally used for flying, and from 1933 for greyhound racing. Scheduled flights from the field started in 1933, in competition with the Stanley Park airfield east of Blackpool, which had opened in 1928. The airfield was expanded and used by minor airlines until 1937, when it was taken over by the Air Ministry and civilian operations moved to Stanley Park. It was further expanded and became RAF Squires Gate, which was used by several squadrons and training units during WW2. Some 2,500 Vickers Wellington bombers were produced in a Ministry of Aircraft Production factory at the northeast corner of the field. Some airlines started using the field in 1946 and the airfield became civilian again in 1949. It was renamed Blackpool Airport and used by several airlines. After a series of ownership changes commercial flights ceased in 2014. The terminal building was demolished in 2016, and the airfield is now mainly used by flying clubs and by offshore helicopter and executive flight operators.

The map of the airfield from the race program. The course was flown clockwise. North is at one o'clock.

  1. Reserved grand stand
  2. Reserved stand, boxes and press gallery
  3. Unreserved stands
  4. Private stands
  5. Refreshment buffet
  6. Post office
  7. Telephone office
  8. Ticket bureau
  9. Ladies retiring rooms
  10. Gentlemen's conveniences
  11. Aeroplane sheds
  12. Judges' box
  13. Towers
  14. Main entrance
  15. Other entrances
  16. Private entrances, for aviators only
  17. Petrol stores
  18. Ambulance
  19. Fire brigade
  20. Special motor cars enclosure
  21. General motor car enclosure
  22. Ten shillings enclosure
  23. Two shillings enclosure
  24. One shilling enclosure
Another map of the airfield, this time with north at seven o'clock. (3)
An artists' view of the airfield, with the the town and the Blackpool Tower in the background. It's not a true perspective view, the near (southern) end of the airfield has been narrowed in order to be able to show more of the far end.
Click here for a high-resolution version! (4)

A. V. Roe's triplane in front of the hangars. (5)

Too see more details, open the map in Google Maps by clicking the "full screen" symbol at the top right of the menu bar!
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