Newsletter 22
Autumn 2008
Updated on 11N2008
Published by the Hawker Association
for the Members.
Contents Hawker Association

BAE Systems Facts
Conrad Southey 'Peter' John
Dunsfold Development
Eggheads News
Forgotten Aircrew
Hawk News
Hawkers Build At Kingston
Hunter 'Flying Club'
Hunter News
Hurricane News
Joint Force Harrier
Lighter-Than-Air VTOL
More about the P.1129
P.1127 to Harrier
RAF Club Camm Memorial
Red Arrows Petition
Sea fury News
Sopwith's First Designer
Wings & Wheels
    This is the title of an article published in the Surrey Comet of  March 7th, 1959, a cutting of which was recently passed to the Editor for the Brooklands Museum Hawker archive. It reads...
    "For almost half a century Kingson has been closely associated with the aircraft industry and lays proud claim to being the birthplace of machines which bear some of the most famous names in the history of military aircraft. Mention the name of Hawkers and one phrase springs immediately to mind - renowned fighter aircraft. In all the successes and setbacks that have attended it since its early days, the people of Kingston have come to look upon the Company as an organisation in which they can take personal pride. The admiration is not one-sided: it is matched by the regard which the Company has for the town.
Hawkers Build For The Future At Kingston

    When, therefore, Hawkers decided to concentrate all their scattered offices on to one site the town was pleased that the new buildings were to be erected on the existing Hawker site at Richmond Road. It strengthened ties between town and Company. A huge new office block housing the Company's administrative section, design and pre-production departments has been built on the Richmond Road frontage. This has meant a break with the Canbury Park Road factory where in a disused roller skating rink, Sir Thomas Sopwith first began designing and building aircraft in 1910. Canbury Park Road remains as a factory and store, but the offices, including the design office, have been transferred to the new building. The new structure in Richmond Road with its clean lines, seems to carry an air of quiet strength. For all its size it does not obtrude but enhances the landscape, hiding as it does the gaunt factory buildings to which it is attached.
    A new architectural feature has been given to the town and one which has been praised by the planners as improving the appearance of the firm's Richmond Road property. Of especial interest is the treatment of the facade with its long windows stretching from the first to the third floors.On the ground floor are situated the offices for accounts, buying, material control and printing departments that previously were scattered around the Canbury Park Road premises. Plainly, indeed almost austerely, panelled in oak, the boardroom situated centrally on the first floor, is flanked on each side by the offices of the directors and their immediate staff. On the other side of the corridor is a department which is a source of great pride to the Hawker team - the design section under Sir Sydney Camm. He is able to step across from his office and see an army of experts at work on many various projects.
    Covering 50,000 square feet on one open floor under a 400 ft span daylight roof, this department has been given an ultra-modern system of ventilation. Fresh air is drawn in, filtered (and warmed in winter) and pumped in after the humidity has been adjusted. Changes of air take place twice a day in winter and five times a day in summer. Next to the design department, and an integral part of its operations are ancillary offices. These include the computing section which has its most expensive piece of furniture, a 40,000 electronic computor which works out problems that could not be attempted by mere humans. On the floor above, and ideally situated for the close liaison that is necessary, is the pre-production department and the offices of many of the executives of the Company.
    Behind is the factory floor that stretches back behind the new building into parts of the old. These factory buildings were once the home of the Sopwith Aviation Company. They were built by the Government in the 1914 war as "Aircraft Factory No.1" and were used by Sopwiths throughout the war. Temporary structures they should have come down at the end of the war but were allowed to remain. And they remained after Leylands took over the factory from Hawkers in 1928 for the manufacture of lorries and buses. In 1948 Leylands moved north and Hawkers returned to the old home later, when the Hunter was in full production and more space was needed. Hawkers unsuccessfully sought permission to put up a permanent building, but planners refused and so work at the Blackpool factory was started. However, production continued at Richmond Road in the so-called "temporary" buildings. About 100 ft depth was chopped off to provide the site for the new office block, but the rear part remains.
     There is almost a monastic calm in the design office and thus it is a dramatic moment for the visitor when he is conducted through the double doors to a platform overlooking the factory floor. Contrasting with the cloistered quiet of the office is the din of the Hunter production floor. Some architects have criticised the front elevation of the new building as being out of keeping with the jet age. They wanted something more contemporary, symbolising the age and the product. Their wishes are however met in the new experimental and research building which had been put up behind the factory and overlooking the river. Its frontage is eminently contemporary as is the entrance hall from which a staircase leads to offices and laboratories on the top floor. Before this building was put up, the experimental department had to be content with space allotted to it in the old factory. Now it has 11,000 square feet all its own, in which to conduct experiments which may lead to further changes in the role of the Hunter. Other work connected with the development of a vertical take-off machine is also carried on here.
    Not only have improvements been made for working at Hawkers. Big changes have also been made in the canteen facilities. Dining rooms are set out with tables for four and the most up-to-date kitchen equipment has been installed. A considerable sum has been spent on the buildings and canteen, plus many thousands of pounds on research facilities, laboratory equipment and specialist machine tools. The idea, a Hawker concept, has been to canalise the many processes which comprise the organisation into one place, under one roof. Concentration of all this work at  Richmond Road has meant the release of small buildings and factories in various parts of the area, some of them as far away as Teddington, to make for greater efficiency on the part of the men who plan and those who carry out the work."  
    There were a number of photographs illustrating this article, two were captioned as follows: "Working on advanced calculations is Miss Anne Cole of 108, Banstead Road, Sutton." and "Mrs K King of 110, Park Road, Kingston, working the electronic computer."
    What a good, accurate and clear article this is; quite a contrast to contemporary reporting! It will bring back many memories to those who worked in the "huge new office block" or the "monastic calm" of the design office. The opinion of "some architects" of the facade is interesting; I can clearly visualise it, but the "eminently contemporary" Experimental building's riverside elevation has faded from my memory. Ed.