I’m taking to the skies as part of the celebration of the torch relay route today. My husband has worked in the aircraft industry for many years, and when I said I was covering this part of the country today, I lost him to a happy hour surfing the nearby Broughton aircraft factory! It’s located at Hawarden airport, and named for the local village of Broughton, only four miles from Chester. Hubby’s been several times, and taken the Sons with him – I’ve been once and wasn’t quite as invested as he was in the visit! – but it’s both a fascinating and sobering testament to our heritage and mastery of the skies.
Yes, I think his enthusiasm is catching on, all over again, just in time for summer visits 🙂
The factory (called Hawarden) was established early in the second world war as a shadow factory for Vickers-Armstrongs Limited. It produced 5,540 Vickers Wellingtons (left) and 235 Avro Lancasters. Post-war the factory was used by Vickers to build 28,000 aluminium prefab bungalows.
The RAF’s No.48 Maintenance Unit was formed at Hawarden in September 1939 and until July 1957 stored, maintained and scrapped many thousands of military aircraft, including the Handley Page Halifax, Wellingtons, Horsa gliders and DH Mosquitos. No.3 Ferry Pilots Pool/Ferry Pool, Air Transport Auxiliary, was based at Hawarden between November 1940 and November 1945, when its veteran pilots ferried thousands of military aircraft from the maintenance facilities at Hawarden to and from RAF and Naval squadrons throughout the UK.
On 1 July 1948 The de Havilland Aircraft Company took over the Vickers factory and over the years built many famoous aircraft including the de Havilland Mosquito (right) and Hornet and Sea Hornet. The company became part of Hawker Siddeley Aviation in the 1960s and the production of the Hawker Siddeley HS125 business jet, designed by de Havilland as the DH.125, became the main aircraft type produced by the factory for nearly forty years. Since the early 1970s the Broughton factory has been part of British Aerospace operations. It is now owned and operated by Airbus, and has continued to be the centre of wing production for all models of Airbus aircraft.
Maybe more of a historical than a geographical visit today! But a poignant one for us, as Hubby worked at British Aerospace for many years. There’s less manufacture in our (London-way) part of the country nowadays, but we still live in a house by an estate known informally as “Hawker’s”, even though the old factory was knocked down for housing many years ago.
And while we’re in the area, let’s take a look at the awesome city of Chester. Founded by the Romans in AD79, Chester still bears signs of its past with its Roman Amphitheatre, historic City Walls and Chester Castle all remaining intact. The City Walls were built back in Roman days and give Chester one of its nicknames as The Walled City. They have a rich history having been altered and extended during both the Saxon and Medieval eras. They circle the city and it’s free to walk the 2 mile (3km) track – I’m proud to say I’ve done it!
The Roman Amphitheatre is also free to view, located near to the River Dee. Only the Northern half is exhumed, with the Southern covered by Dee House and the County Court. Historic walking tours of the city are available – and ghost tours at night – while the Grosvenor Museum provides an in-depth look-back in to the history of the area.
Some facts about Chester:
**Chester was the last city in England to fall to William the Conqueror’s army- a full three years after the Battle of Hastings. In around 1086, the city was visited by William’s commissioners for assessment as part of the great Domesday Survey.
**Researchers exploring the legend of Britain’s most famous Knight believe his stronghold of Camelot was built on the site of a recently discovered Roman amphitheatre in Chester. Legend has it that his Knights would gather before battle at a round table where they would receive instructions from their King. But rather than it being a piece of furniture, historians believe it would have been a vast wood and stone structure which would have allowed more than 1,000 of his followers to gather.
(*hmmmm* I rush to say there’s no strongly held evidence of that theory)
**Daniel Craig was born there ^_^
And, adds Clare quite shamelessly, there’s some great shopping! Though I doubt that’ll turn the heads of the torch procession…
I have no specific fiction to share with you today, apart from some poems – not mine!
This one is inscribed on the back of an old clock in Chester Cathedral:
When as a child I laughed and wept- time crept.
When as a youth I dremed and telked- time walked.
When I became a full grown man- time ran.
And later as I older grew- time flew.
Soon I shall find while travelling on- time gone.
Will Christ have saved my soul by then?- Amen.
And this is brief, terse and to the point:
The church and clergy here, no doubt, Are very near akin,
Both weather-beaten are without, And mould’ring are within.
By renowned author and Dean of Dublin Cathedral Jonathan Swift, after having been ‘stood up’ for a dinner date by Chester Cathedral clergy 🙂
It’s been a treat to revisit this part of the country, albeit virtually.