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The Crumbles


Note: This map shows only the approximate position of THE CRUMBLES seaplane site and factory. If anybody can provide a more exact location, this will be much appreciated.


THE CRUMBLES: Civil manufacturers aerodrome and seaplane slipways

(aka the ‘Seaplane Sheds' or Seaplane Base)
 

Operated by: Eastbourne Aviation Co, Frank Hucks Waterplane Co

 

Manufacturing: Eastbourne Aviation Co
Note: The factory was situated at this site, away from the aerodrome at WILLINGDON LEVELS
 

Location: Just east of Eastbourne

Period of operation: 1913 to 1922 only?

 

NOTES: The Eastbourne Aviation Co was formed in February 1913 when Major Frederick B Fowler’s Eastbourne Aviation amalgamated with the Frank Hucks Waterplane Co. It appears that the factory had a turntable and rail track down a slipway to the high water mark. During 1913 the Admiralty showed great interest and subsidised expansion of the seaplane factory. Employing about forty people initially this enterprise expanded greatly with Admiralty and War Office work. It all became really quite famous and was visited by many notable aviators of the period and the Flying School especially became very successful. During the summer season of 1914 Frank Hucks embarked on a tour of coastal destinations in his Maurice-Farman ‘pusher’ seaplane. See NEW BRIGHTON in CHESHIRE.



WORLD WAR 1
After the outbreak of war in late 1914 the RNAS requisitioned the aerodrome, (on WILLINGDON LEVELS), and it is claimed it became the most important ab initio training base for the RNAS. Hmmmm….can this claim be proven today? The Eastbourne Aviation Company were certainly displaced from WILLINGDON LEVELS and THE CRUMBLES (or Seaplane Base) became their registered office from February 1916 according to Ron Smith in his British Built Aircraft Vol.3.

He claims that the company continued to build various types, including the Avro 504 (fifty 504A and 109 504K), the Farman S.11 Shorthorn (forty) and the BE2C (twelve).  According to one source aircraft production ceased in 1919, but Ron Smith points out that in 1920; “EAC were advertising as ‘Aeroplane constructors, contractors to the Admiralty.’ ”


THE 'JOY-RIDING' OPERATION
Ron Smith then explains, “Some work on Avro 504 seaplanes continued after the war with six Avro 504L (float-equipped Avro 504K) being built here." From further research it appears that the six Avro 504L seaplanes which, uniquely it seems had three cockpits, were G-EAFB, G-EAJH, G-EALO, G-EANS, G-EASD and G-EASE. The two four-seater Shorts 184 seaplanes (originally built by J. Samuel White & Co. Ltd) were G-EAJT (ex N2998) and G-EALC (ex N2986). It appears that these eight aircraft were employed for ‘joy-riding’ at other resort towns, and certainly along the south coast.


See EASTBOURNE for where I believe (?) the 'joy-riding' operations took place.


The Crumbles marina
The Crumbles marina
The slipway location?
The slipway location?
The Martello tower
The Martello tower









 


THE CRUMBLES IN 2015
A visit to 'The Crumbles' in September 2015 proved to be very interesting. What an incredible transformation from a rather bleak area of what can best be described as virtually a weed infested wasteland when cleared and used for aviation purposes some hundred years ago. An area, probably used for the aerodrome (?), later became a gravel pit and later still has been transformed into a marina with desirable apartments surrounding it and a lock installed to maintain water levels.

I wonder what the people of Eastbourne Aviation would make of this if they could see it today? The location, more or less, of their slipway has now been turned into a harbour entrance with substantial sea defences. Possibly, for those in 'the know', the position of the 'Martello tower' just west of THE CRUMBLES can help pinpoint both the factory, slipway and airfield?

 

 


 
 

Gavin Whippy

This comment was written on: 2021-01-22 19:37:32
 
The Eastbourne Seaplane Factory was located to the west of Sovereign Harbour, Eastbourne exactly where the Sovereign Centre Swimming Pool is situated between Princess Park and the seafront.
 

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