Ryde Social Heritage Group research the social history of the citizens of Ryde, Isle of Wight. Documenting their lives, businesses and burial transcriptions.
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Ryde Airport

Ryde Airport

In June 1932 the I.W. Aviation Ltd., put in a request to the Traffic Commissioners for the Southern Area, to run stage carriages between Ryde Esplanade and Ryde Airport (Barnsley), but their application was refused.  Perhaps it was thought that the successful application by C. A. Coffen to operate stage carriages between Ryde and Elmfield was sufficient at that time.

In June 1934 The Portsmouth, Southsea, and I.W. Aviation Ltd., wrote inquiring whether the   Council would favourably consider using the north-eastern portion of the Ryde Airport as a refuse tip to fill in the depression at the corner, which represented an obstacle to planning the passenger station which they eventually hoped to erect.  It appeared that the site was quite suitable and would be available for at least two years.  The committee recommended that the request should be acceded to, and was carried.

It was announced that on Sunday 1 July 1934 fifteen foreign aviators were flying to the Ryde Airport from Heston.  They were expected to land at about 11.30 am., and the flyers were to be entertained to lunch at Bembridge by Mlle. Susie Lippens, the French air-woman.  The aeroplanes were coming from Germany, France, and Belgium.

Regular flights during the summer of 1934 between Victoria Air Terminal London, were advertised by Spartan Air Lines Ltd. at reduced fares, London to the Isle of Wight in 1½ hours, by Swift and Comfortable Air Liners – Daily (Sundays included). Free conveyance by road in the Island between the Aerodrome and Ryde, Bembridge, Seaview, Cowes, Shanklin and Sandown.

The prices were very comparable with those of Portsmouth, Southsea and I.W. Aviation Ltd., who were also conveying passengers in the company cars to their point of destination in the Island. Their other Air Services included regular flights to Bournemouth, Brighton, Bristol, Portsmouth, and Shanklin.  A special Air Service was operating during Goodwood Race Week, departing at 12 noon, the fare being 15/- Single, and 30/- Return. Passengers to be conveyed from the landing ground to the racecourse free by car.

Ryde Airport Buildings

By September 1937 great improvements had been made and a long list of pleasure flights for the discerning holidaymaker was available at 4/6 and 7/6, round the Island coastline at 19/6, a novel excursion to Southampton and return by Sea Coach at 10/6.  These were all apart from the regular scheduled flights.  The Airport was equipped with a café, fully licensed Bar (popular prices), Waiting Room, Free Car Park, and a Public Enclosure.  It was a popular venue to have lunch or tea and watch the flying.

Ryde Airport had a very good safety record, but on Sunday 16th July 1939, a machine with four passengers aboard just after taking off struck a hedge and was forced down in an adjoining field.  The passengers escaped uninjured and were conveyed to their destination in another machine.  The aeroplane was only slightly damaged.

The Airport was not only used for commercial flights. On Monday and Tuesday 14th and 15th August 1939, about 180 men of the Royal Ulster Rifles, stationed at Parkhurst, were flown in troop carrier planes from Ryde Airport to Wiltshire to join the 9th Infantry Brigade for the annual brigade training at Marlborough.  Two Bristol-Bombay bomber transport machines made three journeys, each machine accommodated 22 men.  The journey by air was part of the training of the modern soldier to enable him to become air-minded.

On 30th April 1950 the Mayor (Mr. H. V. Taylor) and the Mayoress of Ryde, officially reopened Ryde Airport, which had been closed since 1939 for the duration of WW2 and beyond.  The ceremony was attended by 300 guests of the company which had taken over the conduct of the aerodrome. On the airfield were about 30 machines including those of the South Coast aero clubs.  The Mayor thanked those responsible for its reopening. They were happy that once again Ryde would be placed on the map so far as civil flying was concerned.  The improvements to the buildings would prove an asset and would be the means of attracting a large number of visitors to the town. Afterwards the Mayor and Mayoress went for the first flight in a De Havilland Rapide, captained by Captain Tom Gunn, which will be used on the Ryde-Croydon service.

The Airport buildings (photo upper left) were later to become a nightclub called La Babalu Club with live bands and disco entertainment. Free entry to Annual Members and 60p Non Members.

Sources: IW County Press
Images: RSHG Archive & Roy Brinton Collection
Article: Ann Barrett