The Newton Heath factory had served Avro well throughout the 1920s and 1930s but with the war clouds gathering over Europe it was announced by the government that Avro would have a new plant, specially built in order for them to meet the
requirements of the almost inevitable conflict.
Whilst Newton Heath would continue making aircraft, a site was chosen at Chadderton near Oldham and Avro’s dynamic duo of Roy Dobson and Roy Chadwick decreed that this new facility should be twice the size of the other aircraft factories. It opened in the spring of 1939 and in addition to manufacturing, this would become the Headquarters for the ever-expanding aircraft company who had simply outgrown its former premises.
With its eventual closure, employees from Newton Heath began moving into the new works on 8th April 1947, with aircraft production commencing soon afterwards. The first project was not an Avro design as one might expect but the production of the Bristol Blenheim light bomber which the Company built under licence.
Nevertheless, this was soon followed by the development of the Avro 679 Manchester, a twin-engine bomber. Poor engine performance forced Chadwick to search for alternative power plant and the answer came in the Rolls-Royce Merlin, an excellent engine which was proving itself in the famous Spitfire and Hurricane fighters. Four of these engines were installed into a modified Avro Manchester and it was this variant that emerged as the greatest bomber to see service during the Second World War - The Avro 683 Lancaster.
Wartime production of the Avro Lancaster was over 7,000 with almost 3,000 examples being manufactured at Chadderton alone. The plant manufactured all of the large components of the aircraft which were then transported by road to Woodford for final assembly, a practice which continued throughout the factory’s working life.
As the Avro Lancaster production continued, Chadderton’s massive Design Team (under the direction of Chadwick) continued to introduce many excellent aircraft including the Avro 685 York, Avro 694 Lincoln and Avro 683 Lancastrian.
Immediately after World War II, the requirement for a long-range pressurised airliner brought the Avro Tudor and although great things were anticipated for this medium sized airliner, government interference saw order for the type reduce in numbers to just 33 aircraft over several variants. Despite all the promise of the Tudor, production was finally cancelled in 1949.
Sadly, it was a freak crash in a company-owned Tudor which cost Roy Chadwick his life in August 1947.
However, he was a forward-thinking individual and he had already instigated the design of the Avro 696 Shackleton, a maritime reconnaissance aircraft which became one of the RAF’s longest serving aircraft at over 40 years.
Also just before his death, Chadwick had laid the foundations for the design of an advanced four-jet, delta wing aircraft to be known as the Avro 698.
After his demise the design was taken over by Stuart Davies who had become the Company’s Technical Director. This type would eventually become the mighty Avro 688 Vulcan.
Between 1959 and 1961, fires at Chadderton saw the loss of a huge number of historic drawings and images including those relating to the Lancaster, York and Lincoln.
Avro was absorbed into Hawker Siddeley Aviation in 1963 and the Avro designation all but disappeared. Chadderton concentrated on the Vulcan as well as support for other aircraft in the Hawker Siddeley fleet.
Further changes in the aircraft industry took place in 1977 when H.S.A. merged with British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) to emerge as British Aerospace.
The aircraft produced at Chadderton in later years included the excellent HS748, HS Andover and ATP (Advanced Turboprop) airliners.
In 1999, British Aerospace merged yet again, this time with Marconi Electronic Systems (MES) to for BAE Systems and the name plates at Chadderton changed once more.
With its specialist knowledge of aerostructures, Chadderton became responsible for fuselage / cockpit development and support. It also created components for the BAe146 and the family RJ Regional Jet airliners which also saw a short rebirth of the Avro branding.
In addition to its main work, the plant also produced major components for the European Airbus consortium.
The 2004 cancellation of the Nimrod MR4 program and a major restructuring of its aircraft civil and military aircraft business saw BAE Systems cease manufacturing at Chadderton site in 2005.
A small team retained offices for engineering support operations but even this closed in 2011 and the remaining buildings were sold for industrial units or demolition and redevelopment.
Chadderton Site Timeline
|1935||AV Roe & Company become part of the Hawker Aircraft Group but retain the Avro name.|
|1939||Workers and equipment relocated from Newton Heath to the new factory at Chadderton|
|1940||First flight of the first Chadderton aircraft - The Avro Manchester|
|1941||Production of the world famous Avro Lancaster commences|
|1945||Wartime production switches to the Avro Tudor, a small passenger aircraft|
|1947||Design and development work commences on the Avro Vulcan|
|1947||Roy Chadwick, Avro's lead designer killed in a plane crash at Woodford|
|1952||First flight of the Avro Vulcan, built at Chadderton and assembled at Woodford|
|1963||Hawker Siddeley Group drop the name Avro|
|1977||Hawker Siddeley merge with British Aircraft Corporation to become British Aerospace|
|1999||British Aerospace merge with Marconi Electronic Systems to become BAE Systems|
|2004||The cancellation of the MRA4 program signalled the end of aircraft activities|
|2005||The main production buildings close whilst a small administration team remain|
|2011||The final offices close|
- Avro Heritage Museum www.avroheritagemuseum.co.uk