Last year 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



From Paul Tritton - Kent Archaeological Society - Searching for Ebony tells the story of life in a remote corner of Kent from Saxon times to present day - and features more than 150 photographs, most of which have not been published before.  Order a copy from the Kent Archaelogical Society c/o 2 Salts Avenue, Loose, Maidstone ME15 OAY, enclosing a cheque for £13.50 payable to Kent Archaeoligcal Society. Please allow 21 days for delivery. Or the book is on sale at Tenterden and District Museum - - and is also available by mail-order, price £13.50 inc. postage to any UK address. 


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