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The Flight of the First All-British-Built Aircraft Flown by a British Pilot

In the early 1900s, the interest in aviation began to grow in Britain, so much so that prizes were being offered to construct experimental flying models that might enhance the future development of aviation in Britain. A prize of £75 was offered by the Daily Mail newspaper for the construction of a flying model that must weigh no more that fifty pounds, and could fly higher than fifty feet, and in 1907 a competition was held at Alexandra Palace in North London which was won by the now famous aviator Edwin Alliott Verdon Roe (1877-1958). 

In 1908, Roe had at last found a partner to finance the building of a full-size aeroplane. John Alfred Prestwich (1874-1952), who became famous for his JAP engines, invested some £50 into the new company, which was called the J.A.P. Avroplane Company. The partnership failed due to many arguments over what type of plane should be built, a tri-plane or a monoplane.


A.V. Roe on Walthamstow Marshes in 1909

Not being deterred by this setback, Roe constructed a tri-plane underneath the Great Eastern Railway arches on Walthamstow Marshes, and in 1909 became the first Briton to pilot an all-British-built aircraft. The aircraft’s engine was also British-built and was a 9hp JAP, which was manufactured at his former partner’s factory in Tottenham. 

Roe then decided to mass-produce his aeroplanes and the AVRO Aviation Company was formed in 1910, and in 1929 he was knighted for his services to the development of aviation. 

Over its many years, the AVRO company have produced a number of unique types of planes, the 504, the Lancaster, and Vulcan bomber being just a few.

A commercial model of the Lancaster, the Lancastrian, was the first commercial aircraft to fly from Heathrow, London. The Lancaster bomber was also adapted in World War Two to carry the famous Barnes Wallis “dambuster” bouncing bomb, which was partly designed in the Lea Valley, at the Royal Gunpowder Mills. 

It is said that AVRO, towards the end of its illustrious history, were approached by the Government to build a flying disc.

Without Roe’s perseverance the history of the world as we know it today, could have been changed forever. He is one of Britain’s true pioneers and should never be forgotten

©The Pump House Steam & Transport Museum Trust
Walthamstow .