Fairlop was second choice as an aerodrome for use by the Royal Navy Air Service (RNAS) in the Ilford area. Nearby Hainault Farm had been earmarked as a Day Landing Ground in October 1914, handing the site over to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in February 1915.
Why Fairlop was not first choice is something of a mystery. Handley Page, (*) a Barking based company used Fairlop as a flying ground from July 1911 until the company moved to Cricklewood a year later.
(*) Handley Page Limited was founded by Frederick Handley page in 1909 as England’s first aircraft manufacturing company. It went into liquidation and ceased to exist in 1970.
Handley Page E/50 (HP5) ‘Yellow Peril’ had its maiden flight from Fairlop in 1911.
Artwork drawn by David Martin
Unlike its nearby counterpart, Hainault Farm, the ground at Fairlop was well drained, an idea spot for an aircraft designer to conduct test flight of his type D Monoplane.
The fact that the two aerodromes were only 400 yards apart, has led to confusion for some people over the passage of time. (Some are also unable to distinguish between Fairlop in WW1 with its WW2 counterpart RAF Station Fairlop, which occupied a much larger site on the other side of Forest Road). In spite of the close proximity there are no recorded incidents of mid air collisions. The collisions that occurred were confined to aircraft from the same aerodrome.
Fairlop (Forest Farm) in 1949. Sites on both sides of Forest Farm
(Aerofilms Limited HAS/IK/49/213 96)
19 July 1916. Accident at Fairlop. Ernest Ashmole, who lived at 1 Thorold Road, Ilford, a civilian carpenter and joiner, suffered serious injuries when a hangar he was assisting to erect, collapsed. Four other men working with him escaped serious injury. Ernest died in the Emergency Hospital Ilford, on 16 August 1916 age 43.
His grave in St Mary the Virgin Churchyard, Ilford, Essex, is not in good condition. He is buried with his parents Henry and Sarah, whose names are not readable. The wording suggests there may have been another child who died before Henry, but the wording is confusing, made worse by missing lead letters.
A Bessonneau Hangar was a light timber frame structure covered with canvas. They were made in four sizes of which the 20 x 24 metre type was used by the RFC and the RAF. The size and lightness of the structure made them very liable to storm damage and the canvas doors curtains had to be kept shut as much as possible in windy weather. When shut, heavy cross ropes were used to brace the front. Snow had to be swept off the roof before any weight accumulated. With sloping walls and based on permanent picket anchorages with a concreted floor, their colour was faded mid green with off-white window patches. There were nine Bessonneau Hangars at Fairlop.