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AV Roe & Company

The Roe Triplane was the first all British 'first flight' in the United Kingdom.
Edwin Alliott Verdon-Roe (AV) was already known in the early part of the 20th century for his aeroplane experiments at Brooklands and at Lee Marshes, where he finally achieved his first controlled successful flight in July 1909.  
On 1st January 1910, along with his brother Humphrey, he established one of the world’s first aircraft manufacturers, A.V. Roe & Company on the basement floor of the Everards Elastic Webbing Company at Brownsfield Mill in Manchester.   At the same time a shed was rented at Brooklands Flying Grounds to which Alliott moved his flyable machines which he then offered for sale at £450. Design and development work continued at a pace in Manchester and by the end of 1912 the business had proved itself to be such a viable concern that on 11th January 1913 it became a full limited company.
Avro Female workers at Brownsfield Avro Female workers at Brownsfield

The first 'AVRO' type to be built in any real quantity was the Avro E (or Avro 500) of which 18 were manufactured and saw service with No.3, No.4 and No.5 Squadrons of the Royal Flying Corps in 1913.

The Avro 504 was developed from the Avro 500, which appeared in September 1913 and was clearly an advanced design.  At the Official Trials at Farnborough it gave such an impressive demonstration that the governement placed orders in November of the same year.  Orders for machines were such that larger premises were needed and on 17th March 1913 all of the materials and 75 personnel were moved to Clifton Street, Miles Platting, Manchester.

In 1914, having totally outgrown the Clifton Street site, Avro 504’s were produced in an extension to the Mather & Platt works at Newton Heath and although some adjacent land was also acquired, the full development of the facility was not completed until 1919.

The Avro 504 was to keep the company busy throughout the First World War and beyond primarily as a trainer.  The 504 was an instant success with the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service and nearly 9,000 aircraft were built. 

In November 1914, the RNAS used 504’s to carry out a successful raid over the Zeppelin Works on the shores of Lake Constance.

With production escalating and with a general lack of flying facilities close to the Manchester factories, AV Roe selected The Hamble on the South Coast near Portsmoth as a suitable site for the creation of a new ‘Garden City’, a place where both aeroplanes and flying boats could be built with employees living locally in 450 newly-built houses. 

Although the project faltered when wartime shortages halted the development of the 300 acre site, the attraction of the South Coast was to prove instrumental in A.V. Roe’s future.

 Roy Chadwick Roy Chadwick

In 1924, Alexandra Park closed and their operation moved to New Hall Farm, Woodford, Cheshire which was later to become the Woodford Aerodrome.  Meanwhile production continued at Newton Heath with final assembly and testing carried out at Woodford.

Avro Manufacturing Avro Manufacturing at Woodfood

During 1928 Alliott Verdon-Roe sold his shares in the company and with the proceeds purchased The S.E. Saunders Company and created Saunders-Roe Limited (SARO) based at the Hamble. 

With the sale of his shares to JD Siddeley, A.V. Roe & Company became part of the Armstrong Siddeley Development Company, a sister company of Armstrong Whitworth.   With AV's departure from the company, his 'Personal Assistant' Roy Chadwick returned to Newton Heath to take on the role of Chief Designer.

In 1935, J.D. Siddeley merged his interests with Hawker and ownership of the 'Avro' brand passed on once more, this time to Hawker Siddeley Aircraft Limited.  Surprisingly it still continued to trade under the Avro banner. 

With tensions growing  in Europe in 1938, Avro opened a new 750,000 sq ft factory at Greengate, Middleton, now better known as Chadderton.  Over 3,000 Lancaster bombers were produced before being shipped by road to Woodford for final assembly.  A year later an Experimental Department was established at the newly opened RAF Ringway (now Manchester Airport) as well as yet another factory at Yeadon Aerodrome (now Leeds Bradford Airport) for the production of over 5,500 aircraft (Anson, Lancaster, York and Lincoln).  As in the first World War, Avro played a significant role providing over 7,500 Lancaster, Manchester and York bombers to the RAF.

After the war, Chadwick designed the Avro Tudor which was to be Britain’s first pressurised airliner although with the development of jet airliners at De Havilland and at Boeing in the USA, very few Tudors were ever built. 

Avro answered the call in for a peace-time maritime reconnaissance patrol aircraft when the Avro Shackleton flew in April 1951.  Shackleton served the RAF for over 40 years, retiring in 1991.

Avro Shackleton Manufacturing Avro Shackleton Manufacturing

Sadly, Roy Chadwick died on 23rd August 1947, ironically a victim of an accident involving a prototype of his own design (Avro Tudor 2).  His death was a major blow to the company although rather poignantly it was not before overseeing the design of what was probably one of Avro's most famous aircraft - The Avro Vulcan.

 

Avro Vulcan XV770 & Avro 707 under construction Avro Vulcan XV770 & Avro 707 under construction

The Vulcan was originally designed as a nuclear strike aircraft and maintained the British nuclear deterrent throughout the early days of the Cold War.  136 aircraft were built with a number reaching notoriety during the Falkland Crisis in 1982, some 26 years after the first flight.

Much beloved at air shows until 2015, the last flying Vulcan (XH558) carried out a farewell display tour of the UK before a final show at its home base at Robin Hood Airport where it currently resides.

When Avro was finally absorbed into Hawker Siddeley Aviation Limited in July 1962, the Avro name disappeared, some thought almost forever.

However, it was to re-appear some thirty years later when in 1994 British Aerospace re-branded its 146 regional jet design and adopted the name Avro RJ (Regional Jet).

Genealogy

1910 AV Roe & Company
1963 Hawker Siddeley Aviation
1977 British Aerospace
1999 BAE Systems

 

Aircraft

 1908 Roe I Biplane  1923 Avro 558
 1909 Roe I Tri-plane  1923 Avro 560
 1910 Roe II Tri-plane  1924 Avro 557 Ava
 1910 Roe III Tri-plane  1924 Avro 561 / 563 Andover
 1910 Roe IV Tri-plane  1924 Avro 562 Avis
 1911 Avro Curtiss Type  1926 Avro 566 Avenger
 1911 Avro Farman Type  1926 Avro 571 / 572 Buffalo
 1911 Roe Type D  1926 Avro 581 / 594 / 616 / 625 Avian
 1912 Avro Duigan  1926 Avro 581 / 594 Avian
 1912 Roe Type E / Type 500 / Type 502  1927 Avro 584 Avocet
 1912 Roe Type F  1928 Avro 604 Antelope
 1912 Roe Type G  1930 Avro 618 Ten / 619 Five / 624 Six
 1912 Roe-Burga monoplane  1930 Avro 626 Prefect / 637 / Tatra T.126
 1913 Avro 504 and variants  1931 Avro 608 Hawk / 622 / 626 Mailplane / 654
 1913 Avro 511 / 514  1932 Avro 631 Cadet / 643 Cadet & Cadet II
 1913 Avro Type H / 501 / 503  1933 Avro 621 Tutor / 624 Sea Tutor
 1914 Avro 510 / 519  1933 Avro 638 / 639 / 640 Cadet
 1915 Avro 508  1934 Avro 642 Eighteen
 1915 Avro 521  1935 Avro 636 / 667
 1916 Avro 523 Pike  1935 Avro 641 Commodore
 1916 Avro 527  1935 Avro 652 / 652A Anson
 1917 Avro 528  1935 Avro 671 Cierva C19 Rota
 1917 Avro 529  1939 Avro 679 Manchester
 917 Avro 530  1941 Avro 684 High-altitude bomber (Abandoned)
 1918 Avro 531 Spider  1942 Avro 683 Lancaster
 1918 Avro 533 Manchester  1942 Avro 685 York
 1919 Avro 534 Baby  1943 Avro 691 Lancastrian
 1919 Avro 536  1944 Avro 694 Lincoln / 695 Lincolnian
 1919 Avro 538 1945 Avro 688 Tudor 1 / 689 Tudor II
 1919 Avro 548  1948 Avro 701 Athena
 1920 Avro 547  1949 Avro 696 Shackleton
 1921 Avro 539  1949 Avro 707
 1921 Avro 549 Aldershot  1950 Avro 706 Ashton
 1921 Avro 552  1952 Avro 698 Vulcan
 1922 Avro 555 Bison  1960 Avro 748

More information

Please note that the information shown is based on that available at the time of the creation of this web page - If you have any additions or corrections please contact: Heritage@baesystems.com