It is with delight and great relief that the members of the Alcock and Brown Project Group are able to look back at the success of  the many events that took place during 2019.  In the April, the project was launched at Hall Place, and the exhibition opened there by Tony Alcock, who delivered a most interesting talk about his uncle John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown.

In the following months, well-attended talks were delivered at Hall Place and Central Library, the annual Rotary duck race was held in Cray Gardens on the anniversary of the Vimy: an exhibition of historic photographs was displayed at the Geoffrey Whitworth Theatre; and a performance of those 'Magnificent Men' was presented (free entry) at the Civic Offices.

There was also a free Celebration Day at Hall Place, with many activities all around the grounds.  Inside the house, the annual Local History Fair took place, kindly moved by Bexley Civic Society to coincide with the centenary.  Approximately 3,500 people attended on a beautiful sunny day on 21 July.

The main event was on 23 July when HRH The Duke of Kent visited Crayford to view new public artwork fixed to the walls of McDonald's and to unveil the splendid new *bench with life-size figures of Alcock and Brown.  The Royal Party then moved to Hall Place for a reception and tree planting, followed by a private lunch in the Great Chamber.

Many images can be found in the booklets produced,  which   are shown on the website              JH-G May 2020


In January 2016 a Group was formed to organise a celebration of the first trans-Atlantic flight made by Alcock and Brown on 14/15 June 1919. Why do we want to mark this centenary? Because the people of Crayford, yes, Crayford, played such an important role in the realization of that dream.  The flight, a journey of nearly 2,000 miles taking 16.5 hours, was made in extraordinarily difficult conditions in a Vickers Vimy, a plane which had an open cockpit and which had been developed at Vickers Crayford, where the first twelve of that type were produced.  Test flights had been made at the Joyce Green airfield.  Due to technical reasons production was moved to Weybridge where the specific plane, the 13th! was assembled and adapted for the flight.  It was probable, however, "that part of it - probably a substantial part - derived from the Crayford production line"*, ie stock moved to Weybridge (*Science Museum).  It must not be forgotten that the plane carried special mail bags loaded with letters, which would become the first trans-Atlantic airmail.

The Alcock and Brown Group have chosen Tuesday 23 July 2019 to mark that outstanding achievement.  Again, why? Because that July date is when The Princess Theatre was re-opened.  The Theatre had been built by Vickers for its large and growing workforce and was opened by two of Queen Victoria's daughters in March 1916.  Sadly, it was destroyed by fire a few months later but Vickers vowed to have it re-built.  Re-built it was, and on 23 July 1919 the Duke of York (later King George VI, the present Queen's father) came to re-open it.  Those people lucky to be in the audience were shown, among other entertainments, a short film about the amazing trans-Atlantic flight made just a month earlier.  As the lights came up, Sir Trevor Dawson, Chairman of Vickers, made an announcement, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Sir John Alcock and Sir Arthur Whitten Brown".  Yes, those 'Knights of the Air, were here, surprise guests, in Crayford!

On the 23 July 2019 we are aiming to hold the main event in the centre of Crayford but on Sunday 21 July 2019 there will be a day of events at Hall Place.  There will also be a small exhibition in the Halcot Gallery at Hall Place April-September 2019.  Additionally, we are seriously considering permanent artwork to be placed in the centre of Crayford.

All of these activities require funding, of course, quite a bit, which is why The Alcock and Brown Centenary Project Group are seeking funding from a variety of local and other sources.

The aim of our long-standing Crayford Manor House Historical Society is "the furtherance of historical studies".  I cannot think of a better way of furthering historical studies than to give this centenary of an event which has such a great local, national and international significance the prominence it deserves.  

I am pleased to report that it was agreed by the majority of members, who attended  our  Historical lecture, to support this project by donating £1000 on behalf of Crayford Manor House Historical Society.                                                                                                                             

                                                                                                                                                                                             Janet Hearn-Gillham


*Bench and Figures of Alcock & Brown - Crayford 2019

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