- Aviation »
First British Powered Flight
This is where the first all British flight took place.
Under these arches here Alliott Verdon Roe assembled his Avro 1 triplane.
In July 1909 he made the first all-British powered flight from Walthamstow Marsh.
A plaque was unveiled here in 1983.
An Edwardian Inventor Alliott Verdon Roe developed his interest in aviation while he was a ships engineer. In 1902, he left the sea and attempted to make a living as a freelance inventor/engineer.
Amongst other things, he worked on designs for the motorcar industry, but the lure of designing and building flying machines must have been too great because, in 1906, he left the motor industry to take up the post as secretary of the Aeroclub. He must have had second thoughts however, because instead he joined forces with an American inventor, Mr Davidson, who was working on a design for a gyrocopter a type of helicopter. Roe even went to Colorado, U.S.A,. for about six months to work on the project. The strange creation with a weight of around 15,000 lbs, never left the ground and Roe returned to England, determined to support himself once again by freelance work.
In 1907 he entered a competition organised by the Daily Mail for the best lying machine models and picked up the 75 second prize. Spurred on by this comparative success, he decided to build a full size bi-plane, but his plane never really got airborne. He was forced to rethink his ideas, and after studying drawings, photographs and developing his own designs, built a triplane the first of several to be constructed.
He applied for permission to use Wormwood Scrubs and Wimbledon Common, but the authorities refused. Eventually, Roe moved from Brooklands to Lea Marshes (Walthamstow Marsh) in the early months of 1909. Parts for his machine were manufactured in Putney in May of that year and assembled in the two railway arches he had rented from the railway company.
In June 1909 Roe made a successful series of short flights up to 50 in length, which were hardly more than jumps. The small 9 horsepower motorcycle engine he was using had insufficient power for longer flights, but with further adjustments and modifications he managed to fly a distance of 100 feet, which he modestly described as a hop. On July 23rd 1909 he managed to fly the machine a distance of 900 feet at an average height of around 10 feet. Flying conditions must have been good that day, because he followed this by a further two flights of the same length. A.V. Roe had managed to become the first person to fly over British soil wit a British-designed machine and powered by a British engine. It was a landmark in the history of aviation, and in recognition of this, the Greater London Council have put a blue plaque on one of the railway arches to commemorate the occasion.
Roe most probably left Lea Marshes in October 1909 when he went to Blackpool with his planes for a flying meeting. From here he went on to Manchester, where his brother, H.V. Roe had a factory producing Bulls-Eye braces. By this time Roe had spent most of his savings, so it came as a much-needed financial boost when his brother decided to join up with him and provide the necessary capital for new planes and engines. This led to a story at the time that Roes planes were held up by braces. His brothers involvement and financial help began to pave the way to success, and in 1901 the famous AVRO Company was formed, eventually building such well-known planes as the Lancaster, Shackleton and Vulcan bombers.