Wednesday, 19 August 2009

RNLI Depot, Borehamwood


This fabulous art deco building is, as shown by the caption, the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) Depot at Borehamwood, Hertfordshire. For those who do not know, since 1824 the RNLI has operated Lifeboat Stations around the coast of the United Kingdom and Ireland to rescue those from the sea (and in the last two decades, inland waters such as the River Thames and Loch Ness). The description on the back of the card, one of 50 from the Wills’ ‘The Story of the Life-Boat’ series tells us;


In July 1939, the Royal National Life-boat Institution opened a depot outside London to take the place of the storeyard which it had at Poplar from 1882 to 1939. The site at Boreham Wood was chosen because of its excellent facilities for road transport. The depot has workshops and stores covering a floor area of nearly one-and-a-quarter acres, and it is here that the equipment and rigging of life-boats are made and the life-boat engines repaired and tested. At the depot also there is a storeroom for the Institution’s supplies for appealing to the public; it contains 40,000 collecting boxes in the form of life-boats, and the 11,000,000 paper emblems which the Institution uses each year on Life-boat flag days.

The end of the descriptive text mentions the RNLI appealing to the public – the RNLI is a charity, and relies on voluntary donations to continue to exist and save lives, and receives no Government funding like other emergency services, a very worthwhile cause. The RNLI depot was used until 1976, when the depot moved from Stirling Way, Borehamwood, to Poole, Dorset, where it remains to this day. Despite being hit by incendiary bombs in the Second World War, the depot exists to this day, and this article from the Oxford Mail dated 15th August 2001 mentions it being refurbished ‘to offer self-storage units and offices’.

For a recent photo of the building, taken in 2007, click here

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Flying Wing


The concept of an aircraft as a 'flying wing', with the fuselage integrated with the wing and sometimes even without a tail, has been a design feature tried and tested for many years, and currently in service with some military aircraft such as the Rockwell B2 Stealth Bomber. During the 1930's, when aircraft designers were trying to think of how to push the barrier of aircraft development, the flying wing was experimented with many times.

This particular example, from the 'Aeroplanes' series of Cigarette Cards by Gallaher Ltd, shows the Cunliffe-Owen OA1. Cunliffe-Owen was founded in 1937 but their flying wing aircraft is actually a licence built American aircraft originally produced by Vincent Burnelli, who was one of the pioneers of flying wing designs, this particular design being a copy of the Burnelli UB-14, of which three were built by Burnelli.

This particular aircraft was powered by two Bristol Perseus radial engines, and the description from the back of the Cigarette Card says;


The tendency in monoplane design of the last few years has been to increase the size and thickness of the wing relative to the fuselage, storing petrol, luggage, etc. inside the wings. The logical development of htis is the Flying Wing, which has no fuselage, the tail unit being carried on two booms. The machine shown here is the first product of Messrs. Cunliffe-Owen Aircraft Ltd., and accommodates fifteen passengers, the two engines being Bristol Perseus XIIC's, developing 900 h.p. each.


The Cunliffe-Owen OA1 shown, G-AFMB, was the only one built, and became known as the 'Clyde Clipper'. The Second World War halted any further development and G-AFMB was pressed into Royal Air Force service, eventually serving in Africa with the Free French. Unfortunately, it appears the Clyde Clipper met its end as part of a bonfire to celebrate VJ Day in 1945.

For more pictures of the Cunliffe-Owen OA1, including the great advert used by the company, click here

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Gatwick Airport


This Cigarette Card, one of the Flying series of 48 produced by Senior Services Cigarettes in 1938, shows 'A Modern Airport', in this case Gatwick. The centre of the photo shows the terminal building, known as 'The Beehive', built in Art Deco style and opened in 1936. The description of the airport, from the back of the Cigarette Card, says;


Gatwick Airport, Surrey, is arranged on a plan permitting the Airport building to handle the maximum of passengers and aircraft without congestion. Telescoping covered passage ways, like spokes of a wheel, permit six aeroplanes to be loaded or unloaded at once. The Airport Railway Station is close alongside and an underground passage connects it with the Airport building. The concrete runways extending towards the field prevent ploughing of the surface near the buildings by heavy air traffic.


British Airways (the first one, which was later amalgamated with Imperial Airways, based at Croydon, to form the British Overseas Airways Corporation, or BOAC, in November 1939, which in turn was merged into British Airways in 1974) was based at Gatwick, and one of the images shows the aircraft hangars with BRITISH AIRWAYS Ltd painted on the sides and roof, with a Trimotor aircraft, probably a Fokker F.VII.


The modern Airport site is to the north of The Beehive, which fortunately still exists as offices, although the telescoping passageways are now long gone. For more information on The Beehive, see the Wikipedia page here

Saturday, 8 August 2009

A Lap of the Nurburgring in a 1937 Mercedes

My first deviation from UK Art Deco - this YouTube video, taken from the Shell History of Motor Racing Video, features a lap of the Nurburgring Circuit in Germany in a 1937 Mercedes Grand Prix Race Car, one of the famous 'Silver Arrows', the state sponsored Grand Prix race cars made by Auto Union and Mercedes

Friday, 7 August 2009

Thompson Aircraft Refueller

Sat outside on my very wet and windy visit to Brooklands over two years ago was this 1937 Thompson Brothers 'Mobile Refuelling Unit Mk III', driven by the two rear wheels with a capacity of 500 gallons of petrol and oil, although i'm not sure if this is two seperate compartments or one or the other - I presume the former seeming as aircraft need both at the same time!
The Thompson Brothers went on to improve the design and this later type was widely used by the Royal Air Force - examples of the Second World War type, known as the Thompson P505, are preserved at the RAF Museum Hendon, Imperial War Museum Duxford and the South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum, Doncaster. For a photograph of the Thompson P505 at IWM Duxford, click here
If you'd like a 1/72 scale model of the Thompson P505, although known as the TB3 on the website, click here
According to 'The Observer's Army Vehicles Directory to 1940' by Bart H Vanderveen, the Thompson Aircraft Refueller was first introduced in 1935 and used at the Royal Air Force Training College at Desford, Leicestershire

1935 Singer Airstream

Ideally this post would have had photographs taken by myself, but unfortunately the UK Museum which houses a dark blue unrestored 1935 Singer Airstream does not allow photography, rigorously enforced by staff meaning you're never out of sight, especially as they follow you around. The Singer Airstream was one of the first streamlined vehicles, and the only streamlined production car made in the UK that I know of before the Second World War. As well as the streamlined body design, the body is also pillarless, so the rear passenger doors open 'suicide' style. I wasn't aware of this vehicle before I saw the one mentioned in a museum this week - if there's any more in the UK i'd be interested in any photographs etc. The photos used in this post were taken from here and here.

Thursday, 6 August 2009


The first 'proper' post is of a place that's always captivated me and many others - Brooklands. Opened in 1907 near Weybridge, Surrey, by Hugh Locke-King, the 2.75 mile concrete banked oval circuit was the first purpose built motor racing circuit in the world. Although racing stopped during the First World War, it re-opened afterwards and kept going up until the start of the Second World War - expansion of the Vickers aircraft company on site meant the circuit was unable to re-open after the war. Although parts of the circuit remain, it has mostly been swallowed up by industrial buildings, and Mercedes-Benz now has a large display building called 'Mercedes-Benz World' with a small circuit near the museum. The museum is well worth a visit, displaying many interesting vehicles and aircraft - the aviation side of Brooklands started within the circuit in 1908.

Of interest is that the circuit was never actually completed - it was originally envisioned for it to be tarmacked to make the ride smoother for cars. These two photographs show the remaining part of the circuit nearest the museum, facing the direction the cars would have raced in. The website for the museum is I'll post a couple more interesting exhibits at Brooklands over the next few days, but i'll leave it to you to visit and see the rest of them for yourself.

Art Deco in the UK

My blog is about anything and everything related to the Art Deco era (1910-39) that can, or could be, seen in the UK, with occasional postings either out of the date mentioned or outside of the UK but still related to the Art Deco era.