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The making of Gatwick
A cottage, now demolished, which was on the site of the present Gatwick Airport.
A cottage, now demolished, which was on the site of the present Gatwick Airport.

By Chris Bennett
BBC Sussex

It was horse racing, rather than international travel, that first dominated the life of Gatwick.

A race course opened in 1891 and during the First World War it hosted the Grand National.

But the post war rise in air travel soon meant that planes, rather than thoroughbreds, began to become a key part of the local economy.

In 1930 Gatwick caught the eye of entrepeneur Ronald Waters - and a new future began.

Ronald Waters
Ronald Waters

Waters was an aviation enthusiast who realised that the Gatwick flatlands could offer a home to him and other members of the fledgling Surrey Aero Club.

He applied for and won a licence to open a airfield. Pleasure flights began on the same day that the licence was granted.

Morris Jackaman
Morris Jackaman

Waters' interest survived for just a few years.

He sold up, then in 1933 his successor was in turn bought out by a man who would lay the true foundation for the modern Gatwick airport - Morris Jackaman.

Working with his business partner Marcel Desoutter, Jackaman planned more than pleasure flights. Within a year he had gained a full commercial license for Gatwick.

The Beehive at Gatwick Airport
The Beehive at Gatwick Airport

A new railway station was opened in 1935 and in 1936 Gatwick's state of the art Beehive terminal opened.

It's now an Art Moderne curiosity, but in its day the Beehive was the latest in transport architecture. Later that year its first passengers embarked from Gatwick to Paris. By the end of the year four more destinations had been added.

In just three years, Jackaman and Desoutter had changed the course of Gatwick's future - and left a lasting impression on the life of Sussex.

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