CHERRY HINTON: Ad hoc Landing Ground (Aka MATTHEWS FIELD and ROCK MEADOWS)
Note: These four maps and pictures were kindly provided by Mr Michael T Holder
Location: N of Cherry Hinton Road, about 1.5nm SE of Cambridge city centre
Period of operation: From time to time, roughly 1914 to the 1920s
NOTES: Mike Holder also sent me several notes mostly obtained from the Cambridge Aviation Chronicle by Mike Petty. (www.mikepetty.org.uk)
It appears the first time this location was used was on the 19th May 1914 when Gustav Hamel arrived for a display of flying. In those days Gustav Hamel really was a super-star. It appears he either stayed for three days, or, perhaps more likely (?), came back on the 21st May. Or, quite as likely, there is some confusion about the exact dates.
"When Gustav Hamel came to Cambridge to perform aerial stunts such as looping the loop in his monoplane on 19th May 1914, canvas screens were erected along Cherry Hinton Road to obscure the view into Rock Meadows."
And/or: "Gustav Hamel monoplane - 6000 people assembled in the Rock meadow for a sensational exhibition of flying in a 80hp Moraine-Saulnier of compact build. He circled above the field, skimmed the ground and then looped the loop to the accompaniment of loud cheering. Opportunity was given to fly with Mr Hamel and the fee fixed was £5.5s. There were six bookings. Display was on the 21st May 1914."
It has to be remembered that in those days a typical weeks wages for a working man was around £1 a week. So perhaps a reasonable comparison in more modern times could be a supersonic champagne jolly in Concorde.
"The field was also used by a pilot of the Royal Flying Corps after the outbreak of war who was a nephew of Mr Neal of Cherry Hinton Hall. The pilot would park his plane on the field when visiting his uncle." Private visits such as this were not uncommon and a few other examples can be found in this 'Guide'.
It appears that in WW1 this field was also used as a make-do hospital for wounded soldiers. Heavens only knows how many survived the ordeal.
It also appears that two aircraft of the Southern Counties Aviation Company were operating here for a few weeks in 1926. They had operated from PORT MEADOW Oxford and later BROOKLANDS in SURREY. The fleet comprised in total, five Avro 504Ks, G-EAAY, G-EASG, G-EBAG, G-EBJE and G-EBKS. Plus, most unusually, two Sopwith Gnu types - G-EADB and G-EAGP.
It also appears that in 1926 they employed a female pilot, Mrs S C (Mary) Elliott-Lynn. This was four years before Amy Johnson became world famous in 1930 flying solo to Australia. So clearly a most forward thinking and enlightened company.
A PARACHUTE DESCENT
It also appears that on the 7th June 1926, a large crowd had assembled here, to see the daring leap by Mr Geoffrey V Peck. "The descent was made with a Guardian Angel parachute from an aeroplane travelling at nearly 100mph, (My note - why?), and 1,000 feet high. Crowds rushed to the adjacent field where Mr Peck had landed; he was surrounded by eager autograph hunters. This was also part of the Southern Counties Aviation Company endeavours to attract customers.
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