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Page last updated at 11:42 GMT, Wednesday, 16 September 2009 12:42 UK
City's aviation history at an end

Roe 1 Triplane takes to the air in 1909
The Roe 1 triplane made its maiden flight in 1909

News that BAE Systems is to shut its Woodford plant for good brings to an end a century of aircraft production in Greater Manchester.

It's produced the Lancaster, the Vulcan and the Nimrod - some of the world's most famous aircraft. But now, Manchester's aviation industry is on its final approach.

It's a tradition that goes back to 1910 when a young man called Edwin Alliott Verdon Roe was inspired to set up his own aircraft business under the name of A.V. Roe & Company.

A mere seven years after the Wright brothers had made the world's first successful powered flight, this was pioneering stuff indeed.

From a basement workshop at Brownsfield Mill in Ancoats, A.V. Roe spent three years building planes eventually producing the Avro 504 biplane which was used extensively in the First World War.

It proved a big success and A.V. Roe was on its way to becoming one of the most important names in British aviation history.

Dam Busters

In its early years, the company used Hough End playing fields in South Manchester for test flights. But in 1925, having outgrown its city centre base, Avro - as it was then known - moved to Woodford on the edge of Stockport.

Lancaster Bomber in flight
1910: A.V. Roe sets up first aircraft business in Ancoats
1925: Avro moves to new site in Woodford
1939: Lancaster Bomber built in Chadderton, Failsworth, Miles Platting and Newton Heath
1949: Prototype Avro Shackleton takes first flight at Woodford
1956: Production of delta-winged Vulcan bomber begins
2009: Nimrod MRA4 makes maiden flight
2012: BAE Systems to shut Woodford site for good

One of Avro's most famous sons was Roy Chadwick, the designer of the Lancaster Bomber.

A replacement for the Manchester Bomber, the Lancaster was the most successful bomber of WWII with more than 4,000 planes built at Avro factories in Chadderton, Failsworth, Miles Platting and Newton Heath.

It was the Lancaster that famously carried out the Dam Buster raids that inflicted such a massive blow to Germany's war effort.

George Jenks, Manager of the Avro Heritage Centre at Woodford said that World War Two meant a massive expansion of Avro.

"At its peak, there were about 30,000 people in the Greater Manchester area employed directly or indirectly in Lancaster production," he said.

Adding: "Woodford was the assembly plant, and there were around about 2,500 at Woodford assembling both the Avro-built Lancasters and the Metrovick [Metropolitan Vickers] ones from Trafford Park.

"Their maximum output was 56 planes in one week!"


The post-War years saw the production of other famous aircraft at Woodford such as the Shackleton and the Vulcan delta-winged bomber, a stalwart of the Cold War.

Nimrod in production at Woodford
The contract to build the Nimrod MRA4 ends in 2012

But the world - and the British aircraft industry - was about to change.

The company was eventually absorbed into Hawker Siddeley Aviation in 1963 and the Avro name was dropped.

Aircraft production continued at Woodford in the 1980s and 90s under British Aerospace. However, uncertainty has surrounded the future of the Woodford site for years.

The plant was given a lifeline in 2006 when it was awarded the contract to build 12 Nimrod MRA4 spy planes for the Royal Air Force, securing 700 jobs.

On 11 September 2009, the first Nimrod MRA4 took off from Woodford, normally cause for celebration at the factory.

But by then, staff there already knew it was probably all over. When it finally came, the announcement by BAE Systems that the Woodford plant would shut in 2012 was not entirely unexpected.

Was it a hop or not for A V Roe?
09 Jun 09 |  History
Resignation to BAE factory news
16 Sep 09 |  Manchester
BAE Systems plans 1,116 job cuts
15 Sep 09 |  Business



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