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                                     Chadderton's Proud Heritage

  by Harry Holmes 

The Chadderton factory history can be traced back

to the earliest days of aviation when one of the

pioneers, Alliott Verdon Roe became the first

Englishman to make a powered flight.

This historic event took place at the Brooklands

motor racing track on the 8th June 1908

when Roe's flimsy machine lifted off the ground

to fly just 75 feet.

* * * * * 

After many encouraging flights he decided to form his own aeroplane manufacturing company and with financial help from his brother Humphrey, A.V. Roe & Company was formed on 1st January 1910. The firm, which adopted Avro as the trade name, became a Limited Company in 1913.

It was not until the commencement of the First World War that Avro saw any significant expansion, as manufacturing had been a small company in the Manchester area. The Company's growth had been small, but the introduction of the Avro 504 training aeroplane proved to be a great success and the type became the standard trainer for the Royal Training Corps and later the fledging Royal Air Force. The great demand for aircraft required Avro to seek new premises, and a new purpose-designed aeroplane works at Newton Heath was built for the Company.

The Newton Heath Factory served Avro well throughout the 1920's and 1930's producing many famous aircraft with names like Avian. Cadet, Tutor and the ubiquitous Anson, but in 1938, with war clouds gathering, it was announced by the government that Avro would build a large new factory. The site chosen was alongside Greengate in Chadderton near Oldham and Avro's dynamic duo Roy Dobson, Managing Director and Roy Chadwick, Chief Designer, decreed that the plant should be twice the size of other aircraft factories.

Employees from Newton Heath began moving into the new works in the Spring of 1939 with the site now becoming Avro Headquarters.

Lancaster Production at Chadderton in June 1944. 

Aircraft production commenced soon afterwards although not with an Avro Design , but with the Bristol Blenheim light bomber which the Company built under licence. This type was soon followed by the Avro Manchester twin engined bomber, but trouble with the engines forced Roy Chadwick to search for alternative power plants. The answer came with the excellent Rolls-Royce Merlin which powered the famous Spitfire and Hurricane fighters. With four of these engines installed in a modified Manchester, the Avro Lancaster, the most famous bomber to emerge from the second World War, was born
The war time production of the Lancaster was over 7,000 with almost half of these being built at Chadderton while the remainder were manufactured at other Avro sites or under licence by a number of aircraft companies.
               Avro Lancasters of No.44 Squadron. R.A.F in 1942.
Chadderton's design team continued to introduce many aircraft including the York, Lincoln, Lancastrian, Tudor and a host of others,
but the most famous were the Avro Shackleton maritime reconnaisance aircraft which served with the Royal Air Force for over 40 years and the
mighty Vulcan delta-winged jet bomber which became the backbone of Britain's nuclear deterrent force.

                 In the post war years the factory's Avro title was absorbed into Hawker Siddeley Aviation with the industry's rationalisation in 1963, and further           

                  changes  in 1977 saw the Chadderton plant become part of British Aerospace.In 1999 a further name change was made to BAE SYSTEMS.

                 The aircraft produced at Chadderton in recent years, the Avro 748 and ATP Advanced Turboprop airliners and components for the BAe 146 and RJ

                 Regional Jet Avroliner, may not be as familiar as their predecessors, but are no less significant in the world's air transport industry. Chadderton         

                 also produces major components for all the series of the highly successful European Airbus and a large order book has kept the factory busy.

            Re-produced by kind permission of Harry Holmes (AVRO Historian). 


Unveiling the Blue Plaque 17th October, 1997 for

Roy Chadwick,

Fred Aughton, the General Manager, accompanies the Mayor of Oldham,

             During the last two years, since BAE's took over the site at Chadderton, PROJECT Quasar (the change programme) has been filling the        

             order books, and keeping the organisation as the second largest employer in the Oldham area. This means that the Chadderton Site, although it

             has changed names and ownership several times, is still a major contributor to the Oldham economy and still the centre of Chadderton life, as

             it was for our parents and grandparents. 

            This site is by no means complete and is only intended as an introduction to the History of this famous aircraft factory. Further information

            can be obtained by reading the book by Harry Holmes, 'AVRO, THE HISTORY OF AN AIRCRAFT COMPANY', published by

            Airlife Publishing Ltd.

 Visitors to the site, or their families, who worked at the Chadderton factory before the fire in October,1959,
when most of the records were destroyed, may have photographs or memorabilia in their possession
         which could be very useful.
                      Please email; with any information.

         For further information Avro now has its own website at

The Society has much pleasure in quoting below an article by Harry Holmes,the AVRO Historian who has written many books and articles about AVRO, its history and the aircraft designed by the Company, before the many changes which have taken place in the last few years

END OF AN ERA by Harry Holmes
In recent years a dramatic restructuring of Britain's aircraft industry has seen the closure of many famous manufacturing sites and aerodromes including de Havilland's Hatfield, Hawker's Kingston and a host of others, but now the axe is to fall on Chadderton. Although the site will still be connected wi th aviation through the Tanker Transport and Reconnaissance Operations (TTRO) located in the main office block of the BAE SYSTEMS site to provide support for all of those types in the Royal Air Force, the aircraft manufacturing role has now ended.

The Greengate site gave the aviation world some of the finest aircraft including the Second World War's greatest bomber, the Avro Lancaster and also another world-beater, the Avro Vulcan, which provided the country with a nuclear deterrent against the Soviet Union for over 30 years.

War clouds were gathering in August 1938 when the Air Minister Sir Kingsley Wood flew into the Avro airfield at Woodford for a visit to the Company's works at Newton Heath. He was welcomed on his arrival by Roy (later Sir Roy) Dobson, General Manager for A&V. Roe & Company Limited and it was during the visit that plans were announced for the building of a new aircraft factory.

Fields alongside Greengate were chosen for the site and work proceeded at a fast pace for by March 1939 employees from Newton Heath were already starting to move in. As with the Newton Heath facility, the new plant, now known as Chadderton, was to manufacture the main aircraft components which would be transported by road to Woodford for final assembly, test flying and delivery. The plant would also house a massive Design office with over 500 draughtsmen at its peak.

It seemed strange that the first aircraft jigs into Chadderton were not for Avro aircraft, but for the Bristol Blenheim twin-engined light bomber. With surplus floor space at both Newton Heath and the Ivy Mill, Pailsworth facility, Avro was awarded a contract to build 250 Blenheim Mk.I and with this completed a further contract was negotiated to produce the later Blenheim Mk.IV.

The Avro Anson was-already in production and serving with the RAF and a number of other countries after pre-war deliveries was soon alongside the Blenheim, but the Company was pinning its hopes on the new Avro Manchester bomber. The prototype Manchester had made its first flight from Ringway on July 25 1939 and A.V. Roe & Co., was awarded and initial order for 299 aircraft. Unfortunately, the aircraft was plagued by engine problems by the very advanced but complexed Rolls-Royce Vulture and although a number did see service in RAF Bomber Command more were lost through engine failure than by enemy action. However, out of this failure came the magnificent Avro Lancaster for, after Rolls-Royce had been ordered to cease producing the Vulture, it left Avro with an excellent aeroplane but with no other suitable engine for the twin-engined bomber. Chief designer Roy Chadwick modified the drawings to take four Merlin engines which were proving to be excellent in the Spitfires and Hurricanes during the Battle of Britain.

A Manchester airframe was modified in record time and with the four Merlin engines fitted the aircraft, now known as the Lancaster, made its maiden flight from Ringway on January 9 1941 and with flight trials being a complete success the Lancaster was ordered into mass production at Chadderton and the rest is history.

In 1942 with Lancaster production well underwayr work commenced in the experimental department at Chadderton on a transport aircraft to be named the Avro York. In less than six months the prototype was completed with the type going on to be used in many theatres of war as well as serving as VIP transports for Winston Churchill, Lord Mountbatten, Field Marsbal.Smuts and other war leaders.

By the beginning of 1943 the original Chadderton floor area of 750,000 sq.ft. had-been increased to over one million and the production rate for Lancasters alone had reached an incredible 150 per month. The wartime peak labour force at Chadderton was 11,267 with 7,887 on day shift while 3,380 were on nights. Semi-skilled labour accounted for 40.7 percent of the work force with 22.2 percent being women.

The great success of the Lancaster required that it be manufactured at other plants including production in Canada, but out of the total of 7,377 Chadderton had contributed no less than 3,050.

During 1943 Roy Chadwick and the Avro draughtsmen Introduced plans for a larger improved version of the Lancaster which would become available for the war against Japan. This aircraft, the Avro Lincoln, had all the qualities of the Lancaster and more but as production was being planned the Atomic bombs on Japan effectIvely brought the Second World War to an end resulting in orders for the new bomber to be drastically reduced.

Even before the war had ended a civil airliner capable of crossing the Atlantic had emerged from the drawing boards at Chadderton which was named the Avro Tudor. However, it was rated as a failure and this could be down to a number of causes with the main one being the insistance of the Ministry of Supply that---many Lincoln parts and sections be used in the new aircraft. This prevented Roy Chadwick completing the design of an airliner to his own specifications.

Tragically it was in a Tudor that Chadwick one of the world's great aircraft designers, lost his life when one of these aircraft crashed at Woodford on August 23 1947. It was no fault of the design but faulty rigging of the wing ailerons which caused the accident and it was sad that he did not see his Tudor design vindicated in the following years when the aei:bplane did sterling work in the Berlin Air Lift.

Before he died Chadwick had instigated the design of two aircraft which would eventually become famous in the annals of the Royal Air Force ---- the Shackleton and the delta-winged Vulcan.

In post-war years, besides the Tudor, Lancastrianst Yorks and, the still going strong Anson, continued to roll off the Chadderton production lines with other types such as the Athena, Ashton, Avro 707, Shackleton and Vulcan beginning to appear. Not since the Bristol Blenheim had Chadderton built aircraft other than Avro designs, but in 1951 the Company was requested to manufacture,a batch of Canberra twin-jet bombers with 75 being completed.

In 1967 the Defence White Paper forecast that no more manned aircraft would be designed and built for the RAF (Note; 50 years later we are still flying piloted Tornadoes, Harriers, Jaguars and even the new Typhoon Eurofighter!) and it,was decided that A.V. Roe & Company would re-enter the civil aircraft market. A number of designs were studied with the Company eventually giving the go-ahead to the production of an aircraft to replace the multitude of Dakotas operating around the world which became the Avro 748 twin-turboprop transport.

It was in the 1959-1960 period that Chadderton was hit by a series of fires in various parts of the factory. The first of these and the most serious occurred on October 3 1959 when a massive blaze destroyed large sections of the production and office areas. It was a formidable task to return things to normal but the main Vulcan and 748 lines escaped serious damage. In less than twelve months the plant was rocked by more fires with the main one destroying the Experimental Department.

With the fires behind them Chadderton's personnel settled down once more to serious production with the aircraft production lines now joined by a high-walled compound complete with Security Guards. This housed the production of the highly secret`.W.100 Blue Steel stand-off missile which was developed by Avro for use by the RAF's V-bomber force.

On July 1 1963 the famous Avro name disappeared as it was grouped with Armstrong Whitworth, de Havilland, Hawker and the like to become Hawker Siddeley Aviation Limited.

During the 1960s the 748 continued to sell steadily and with the last of the 136 Vulcans delivered a new military aircraft was already being developed by Chadderton's designers. This was the Hawker Siddeley HS.801, soon to become known as the Nimrod.

In December 1969 work commenced on manufacture of wing components for the European Airbus series of airliners. This work was greatly expanded until well into the 1990s when it represented the largest proportion of Chadderton's business.

The 748, which by that time was known as the Hawker Siddeley 748, but still 'E1 Avro' in most Latin countries, was proving to be an excellent aeroplane with a fine reputation for its versatility, reliability and above all safety even when operating in the roughest areas and extreme temperatures. Manufacture of the main components at Chadderton was increased as the order book steadily grew.

When production of the 748 finally ended in 1989 almost 400 had been manufactured, sold to 81 operators in 51 countries throughout the world and it had been used as the personal transport of no less than sixteen Heads of State including The Queen. The introduction of more advanced turboprop engines with excellent fuel efficiency spelled the end for the 40 years old Rolls-Royce Dart powerplant for the 748.

In 1977 the British aircraft industry had been Nationalised so the nameplate above the Chadderton entrance was changed once again, this time to British Aerospace.

The production of the rear fuselage for the BAe 146 four-jet airliner was allocated to Chadderton in November 1979 which continued until the closure of the Hatfleld site meant that the production of the whole aircraft was transferred to Woodford.

As the 748 was reaching the end of its production 1&fe approval was given for manufacture of the Advanced Turboprop ATE airliner with Chadderton supplying fuselage, wings and other major components to Woodford in the same process as when the Greengate plant opened in 1939. The ATP's maiden flight was made on August 6 1986 with the Chadderton employees enjoying the event by a large screen erected in the factory with the live pictures beame'd 'directly from Woodford.

Components for the ATP, BAe 146 and its later Regional Jet RJ airliner continued at Chadderton, but British Aerospace decided to opt out of the civil airliner market. As this decision began to take effect, a change of name to BAE SYSTEMS signalled a massive expansion into many and diverse markets, but it also proved to be the death knell for aeroplane manufacturing at Chadderton. The aviation connection lives on with the TTRO unit and long may it continue.

It is interesting to note that the top two executives in BAE SYSTEMS Mike Turner, chief executive and Chris Geoghegan, chief operations officer, plus board member Sir Charles Masefield all 'cut their teeth' at Chadderton!

Chadderton has a proud aviation heritage with the AVRO name being up there along with other famous aircraft manufacturers who were builders of some of the world's greatest aeroplanes. No matter what the future holds for the site it is hoped that the Blue Heritage Plaque dedicated to Roy Chadwick placed on the wall outside his office on Greengate where he designed the Avro Lancaster will be retained as a permanent reminder of the site's great achievements.

 * * * * * * * *
                           B.a.e. Closing Ceremony Friday 2nd March 2012


The Society was privileged to be involved in the ceremony on Friday 2nd March, to mark the final closure of B.A.E. Systems,
Chadderton, and the cessation of aircraft manufacture. Past workers assembled in impressive numbers outside the huge factory
as the last 150 workers passed through the security gates to be met by a lone piper, a former employee, whose tunes included,
quite understandably, Olde Lang Syne. The faces of both the leaving staff and those outside, many of whom participated in the
traditional ‘Banging Out’ ceremony for leavers - by banging hammers, etc. on available metal surfaces, were clearly marked
with great emotion.

In the unavoidable absence of the Town Crier, the Secretary of the Society, in his role as Standard Bearer of Chadderton,
made the official Proclamation. In this he alluded to the closure of ‘a remarkable aircraft factory after an illustrious history
spanning nearly three-quarters of a century’.
The factory opened in 1939 as A. V. Roe and on the site Roy Chadwick designed the famous Lancaster bomber, over 3,000
of which were built in Chadderton, and whose role was so crucial in the Second World War. At its height the factory
employed 10,000 people making it the largest manufacturing site in the world. Successively known as Hawker Siddeley Aviation,
British Aerospace, and ultimately B.A.E. Systems, the production lines produced many notable military and commercial aircraft
including the mighty Vulcan bomber with its distinctive triangular wings, the Tornado and ATP (advanced turboprop airliner).

The Lancaster                                                                             The Vulcan

                                     The site on Greengate was much more than a factory. It was home to a wonderful family of proud and dedicated workers,
                                     whose fond memories will be shared for many years to come. The impressive size of the site will long remain a reminder
                                     of its unique contribution to local life and the local economy, whilst the blue eagle, which surmounts the Chadderton coat-of-arms,
                                     will remind future generations that one of Chadderton’s greatest assets, was once to be seen soaring high in the skies above.
                                     B.A.E. Systems, Chadderton, and all your workers past and present, we thank and salute you!



Last Modified:10/08/2015 Copyright Chadderton Historical Society 1991-2016