Double Rigid Airship Shed
Vickers had been based
up near Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria for many years and had
already moved from their first airship shed, for the ill-fated
MayFly, to a more open shed for the later rigid airships.
The Company didnt
consider its recently completed shed on Walney Island
as suitable for further expansion, and it was agreed that
the existing shed could not be extended. It was also noted
that the landing ground accompanying the shed was not suitable
for larger rigid airships.
In the Spring of 1916,
Vickers were given the approval to construct a new shed
for the construction of rigid airships, and the new site
of Flookburgh, to the east of Barrow-in-Furness was selected.
The land was selected
on the very edge of Morecombe Bay, and the extensive mudflats
was seen as a suitable precautionary distance from any form
of shelling from German Submarines in the bay.
The latest regulations
for locating airship bases had meant that all new airship
works needed to be located near military camps or an existing
stations, where a large reserve of manpower could be available
at short notice, in the form of ground handling parties.
The area around Flookburgh was sparsely populated and so
as Shorts Brothers, and Beardmore before them, a model village
was planned for housing of additional workers.
Construction of the
the buildings began in Mach 1917 and the first residents
moved in at the end of the year. The houses were designed
and built but the design of the houses was not in keeping
with the local architecture. A small branch line was routed
off the mainline to help bring building materials via train
to the airfield.
The builders Sir William
Arrol & Co, whom had recently constructed the Inchinnan
shed near Glasgow, were chosen to construct the Flookborugh
shed. The shed was going to be larger than anything which
had previously been built in Britain, being some 900ft long
150ft high. Including the windbreaks the structure would
total some 2,700ft long.
Construction of the
shed began in July 1917, and by September the giant steel
framework had been assembled and the shed was beginning
to take shape. However work was halted due to steel shortages,
and it was decided by the Government, that the limited steel
reserves be diverted to the Navy for warships, rather than
some 10,000 tonnes of steel, for which 7,000 tonnes would
be used for the shed itself, and only 170 tonnes had been
delivered when the work was called to a halt. Issues had
also been raised with the foundations of the shed, in that
the shed was being built on damp ground. An alternative
plan was hastily drawn up, which planned to complete the
shed with only requiring some 3,000 tonnes of steel. The
decision was made by Vickers to stop the project. Some.
£792,000 had already been spent compared to the costs
of £230,000 which had been spent by Shorts Brothers
for the Cardington constructional facility.
The site remained incomplete
until the end of the war, and in 1920 an auction was held
by the Disposals Board, for the site buildings, huts and
works. The railway branch line was removed in 1922. Of the
planned 300 houses, only 120 had been completed, and the
settlement was renamed from Flookburgh West, to Ravenstown,
and later sold off in the later part of 1920s.
The houses are still
there today, and are the only evidence of the ambitious
plan for the largest airship shed in Britain.