It’s hard to believe that not far from the hustle and bustle of Ikea, the Purley Way and Valley Park shopping in the London Borough of Croydon lies Britain’s first International airport. 

With the onset of WW1 what was Royal Flying Corps Beddington Aerodrome was rapidly expanded to defend London from German airship and bomber attack. Waddon airport was built just next door in 1918 to help support RAF training and support the mass production of aircraft. In 1920 the two neighbouring aerodromes were joined to become Britain’s first international airport. 

It is rumoured that Croydon chosen over its neighbouring Hounslow Heath (later to become Heathrow] due to is closer proximity to Paris. 

There are a number of significant events that took place in the early days of Croydon airport. Amy Johnson, the first female pilot began her solo flight to Australia from Croydon. The volume of flights from Croydon on Imperial Airways (later to become British Airways) was so high that the safety of passengers and aircraft on take off, landing and in the air became a huge priority. Significant developments in safely and organisation were needed which became the forerunner to the traffic controls we know today. 

Post war as aircraft travel continued to grow Heathrow soon took over the mantel of London’s biggest airport. Airline traffic from Croydon declined and the last flight left Croydon airport in 1959. The Art Deco buildings of the terminus building remain and just a small stretch of the original runway now exists. It is rumoured to be haunted by the ghost of a WW2 pilot who sadly never returned from his mission. Mr Gerald Phillips who has lived in the roads opposite the old airport site since before it closed told me, “still to this day I remember planes flying over me and looking up and being fascinated by the sounds and how it all worked”. 

In celebration of its centenary Croydon Airport is opening its doors on Sunday 29th March to visitors who can enjoy free guided tours, Marching Bands and see full size Spitfire and Hurrican aircraft plus lots more. 


Chloe Shields