first ship to come out of the Cardington airship facility
was the R31. The ship was commissioned only 5 days before
the Armistice on 11th November 1918, and exactly two years
and two months from the time that Claude Lipscomb had set
up in Bedford. The shed was an impressive construction and
design project, admirable even in retrospect in a time of
high powered computers and modern communication. Today it
is easy to forget that it was hand designed and hand built.
Cardington became one of the World's best airship facilities.
Due to the economic depression of the post war years, the
Airship station was closed in 1921 after the construction
of the R38 and the scrapping of the R37. However the station
was reopened in 1924 following the announcement of the Imperial
Airship Service and the undertaking of the construction of,
amongst others, the R101. For communications, a wireless station
and Cardington control tower was constructed in 1928 behind
the Administration block.
huge airship mast was constructed for the civil programme
in 1926. 202 feet high and 70 feet in diameter at the base,
the tower was the first ever cantilever mooring mast to
be built. It was demolished in 1943 to help the war effort.
in Parliament following the crash of the R101 in October
1930 led to the Committee on National Expenditure's final
decision to dismantle the R100 in shed no.2. In 1931, the
Station was nearly closed, with only a skeleton maintenance
staff of some 44 people remaining. However work soon resumed
with resurrection of the old WW1 national defense system
of barage balloons as a deterrent to the German Bombers.
the threat of war looming at the end of the 1930s Cardington
was back in business with the development and creation off
thousands of kite balloons. It sounded simple but every
balloon had to be large enough to carry a couple of miles
of steel cable and required a trained crew who could monitor
the balloon 24 hours a day. Also required for each was a
winch and motor transport. Preparation for meeting this
demand started in November 1936 when the station became
known as Royal Airforce Station Cardington. At its peak
Cardington was producing some 26 balloons a week. Simultaneously
the station was a training centre and by 1943 some 10,000
balloon operators and a further 12,000 driver/operators
had been trained
It's all still here. With the
exception of the windbreaks and the addition of many more
houses in Shortstown and the impressive second shed from
Pulham, the whole site is complete as it was constructed
and planned back in 1916. It is also intended that airship
activity of a kind will return
Airships have also returned to Cardington in the form of
ATG Group who are developing the AT 10 airship and the huge
SKYCAT. The prototype SKYKITTEN can be seen on occasion
flying from shed number 1 where the R101 was constructed.
visit of the first Zeppelin in 80 years was commemorated
by the visit of the Zeppelin NT as part of it's 2008 tour.
is ever changing and shed 2 has been leased out to a film
company and is enjoying a second life as a "sound stage".
Shed 1 has come under the ownership of Fosbern Hangers,
and the company is undertaking the restoration of the shed,
which is planned for completion by the end of 2012. Currently,
the rear of Shed 1 is having its roof restored and it is
hopes that the restoration of the whole shed will follow.
The original construction buildings and workshops which
were situated behind the Administration Block (also known
Shorts Building) were demolished as part of the RAF
selling the site in 1999 and 2000. The site was left as
bare land but later developed in the latter part of 2007
with the expansion and re-development of the site. A new
village was created opposite the original Shortstown village
which was created in 1917 on the site of the workshops.
This new housing development was named New Cardington. Further
development of the old site is being considered and proposed,
however is being subject to acceptance and review by the
Bedfordshire planning authorities. Also under review is
the development of the north and eastern side of the flying
Inside the Shed, it has also housed limited airship and
lighter than air activities, of which a Goodyear
Lightship was constructed, and launched from shed 1 in 2011
information on the activities in the sheds can be found
here and on our links
permission has been granted to the area surrounding the
north side of the shed, and around the original 1917 administration
The Shorts Building
The original Shorts Building, constructed in 1917, which
housed the design and administration block, and later the
control tower during World War 2, has been restored and
utilised. This is seen as the imposing building on the A600
road between Shortstown village and the village of Cotton
End. Today the town of New Cardington is being developed
and the Administration Block is still a prominent building
in part of the new development, containing community services
such as a crèche, doctors surgery, and apartments.
The AHT has been fundamental in ensuring that the communal
areas open to visitors have pictures of the work which was
carried out at the site, and of the R101 and construction,
to ensure that the importance and history of the building
is known to it's visitors and tenants.
More pictures can be found
You Know... Both the RMS Mauritania and the RMS Lusitania
could comfortably fit in each shed with the doors closed
and the RMS Titanic would have almost fitted with only 40ft
of her bow sticking out of the open doors. Also, did you
know that the size of an airship is dependent only on the
size of the shed she is built in!