Cricklewood - UK Airfield Guide

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CRICKLEWOOD: Civil aerodrome and later Air Port


Clitterhouse Playing Fields 2016
Clitterhouse Playing Fields 2016

Picture note: I cannot be entirely certain about this, and would welcome advice. However, in the meantime I feel fairly certain that this was once the northern half of the Handley Page airfield which later became an airport.

Operated by: Handley Page (From 1917 to 1929)
Note: The Handley Page factory continued production on this site until at least the 1960s?

Local map
Local map
Aerial photo
Aerial photo
Later map
Later map
Google Earth © detail
Google Earth © detail


Note: These maps and pictures were kindly provided by Mr Michael T Holder

Airline operator: Handley Page Transport  (After WW1)

Flying School: Beatty School of Flying

Pleasure flights: Handley Page Transport


Manufacturing: Beatty Aviation Co (1916)       Handley Page (from 1917 to 1960s?)

Location: S of the A.406 at Brent Cross, E of the A.5 Edgeware Road, W of the A.41 Hendon Way and N of Cricklwood  town centre.Approx 3nm SSE of RAF HENDON

Period of operation: 1917 to 1929

Runways:  Probably an 'All-over' grass airfield - operations into wind?


NOTES: In about 1951, when living in ‘pre-fabs’ just south of Brent Cross I was sent to an infants school on Claremont Road up to age 7, ‘up the hill’ and within spitting distance of the Handley Page factory. I still have vague memories of the ‘Queen Mary’ low-loader lorries passing by the school and near our home, with large aircraft parts, (wings and/or fuselage sections?), presumably heading for RADLETT?

But, nothing was taught in school or mentioned by my parents, (both of whom were in the RAF in WW2), concerning any of this, let alone the history attached. Thinking back, when the Coronation celebrations were held on the playing fields, we were without much doubt probably standing on the previous CRICKLEWOOD aerodrome.

Which after WW1 this site became the very first international Customs approved Air Port. in the UK.

I’ve since found accounts saying Handley Page moved here in 1912 and set up a factory after operating from BARKING CREEK, (where he produced his first aircraft), and other sites in or around London such as WOOLWICH and FAMBRIDGE in ESSEX. The FAMBRIDGE fable seems to endure but as the years go on I have found no ‘respectable’ evidence that Handley Page ever went there (?), except perhaps in person.

It would seem that from contemporary records the Beatty Aviation Co along with their School of Flying, were forced out of HENDON by the Army RFC (Royal Flying Corps) occupation during WW1 in 1915/1916 and first established the aerodrome in CRICKLEWOOD LANE near to Clitterhouse Farm. Next to the Handley Page factory!

I have discovered from other records that Handley Page apparently used HENDON for assembly and flight testing his aircraft from 1908, (Obviously wrong (?) but probably from 1912?), until, presumably (?), his CRICKLEWOOD factory took control of the aerodrome in 1917? In other words the CRICKLEWOOD LANE aerodrome of 160 acres reputed to be founded by the Beatty Aviation Co later became the enlarged CRICKLEWOOD aerodrome, (later Air Port) operated by Handley Page and the associated Handley Page Transport airline after WW1.

In his excellent book, British Aviation - The Pioneer Years, (first published in 1967), Harald Penrose tells us this relating to 1913: "On the strength if his government contract for five B.E.2a's, Frederick Handley Page decided to remove his business from its inaccessible location at Barking, and on the fringe of the open countryside of North London managed to obtain an empty riding school at 110 Cricklewood Lane adjacent to a farm. With 20,000 square feet of roofed area, the new premises were twice the size of the of the corrugated-iron sheds he was leaving - and not far away was Hendon Aerodrome, where he had two large hangars and accommodated the Yellow Peril."

This account clearly supports the idea that the aerodrome at CRICKLEWOOD did not exist before 1913.  

But perhaps there is another plausible answer? Perhaps the Beatty Aviation Co approached Handley Page to co-exist and develop this airfield on the adjacent land? Photographs taken during that time do seem to support such a theory?

A Handley Page 0/400 converted bomber?
A Handley Page 0/400 converted bomber?

Note: I took this picture of a photograph in the Science Museum, London. I only suspect the photo was taken here? If anybody can kindly offer advice this will be most welcome.


Over Easter weekend, (17th to 22nd April 1919), three converted Handley Page 0/400s carried around 800 joy-riders for half hour flights, presumably mostly over central London?

On the 1st of May 1919 Lt. Col. W F Shotto Douglas flew a Handley Page 0/400 of the Handley Page Transport Co to ALEXANDRA PARK near Manchester (CHESHIRE) with ten passengers. This was probably the first ‘proper’ scheduled passenger flight in the UK, or indeed the first civil commercial flight. The military had been conducting ostensibly 'civil flights' into Belgium and France after WW1 from KENLEY, LYMPNE and DOVER using light bomber types hastily converted to carry light cargo and/or passengers using RAF pilots.

After this flight it appears that Handley Page Transport conducted a range of services across the UK carrying passengers and newspapers, but at some locations the newspapers were parachuted down saving time. It now seems nigh on impossible to determine where their airliners actually landed so here is a list of some of the UK destinations they served (?):

Aberdeen, Bournemouth, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Carlisle, Cromer, Dundee, Eastbourne, Edinburgh, Hastings, Lichfield, Manchester, Montrose, Northampton, Norwich, Nottingham, Preston, Ryde (IoW), Southend, Southampton, Swansea and Yarmouth.

Passengers embarking
Passengers embarking
The Handley Page 0/10
The Handley Page 0/10
G-EATN taking-off
G-EATN taking-off


Note:  In October 2021 Mike Holder, a great friend of this 'Guide', came across these pictures published in Flight magazine on the 26th May 1921. These feature the departure of the Handley Page 0/10 G-EATN on a Paris service. This aircraft crashed near Senlis in France on the 14th January 1922.


In Feb 1920 CRICKLEWOOD was appointed as an Air Port with a Customs Office and Civil Aviation Transport officer, one month before CROYDON became the main London Customs Air Port. I found a picture of a Handley Page W.8 captioned, ‘G-EAPJ “Newcastle” warming up at CRICKLEWOOD for its first service flight to Paris 21.10.21’.

This picture was probably taken at CROYDON as it seems CRICKLEWOOD ceased commercial airline operations in May 1921, then moving to CROYDON.

As mentioned elsewhere, after HOUNSLOW HEATH was designated an international Customs Air Port in either July or August 1919, albiet on a temporary basis, in the following months CRICKLEWOOD, LYMPNE and DOVER in KENT and HADLEIGH in SUFFOLK were also given international Customs Air Port status. However, it appears that HADLEIGH was never used and developed.

Despite the main factory activities being taken over later by RADLETT and much later WOODLEY of course, Handley Page retained a design Office and factory here until around 1967? The CRICKLEWOOD airfield closed in early July 1930, more or less coinciding with the opening of RADLETT on the 7th of July 1930.




Christopher Jenkins

This comment was written on: 2021-02-16 16:31:52
Hello, I've only just found your site. Until the mid-sixties I lived in Somerton Road, practically opposite the main 'Exit' gate. I had no idea about the existence of Cricklewood Airport, no-one ever spoke of it although I remember The Vale being mentioned as a possible runway for Handley-Page test flights. Congratulations on your fascinating research. Chris Jenkins

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