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Report - Longbridge Flight Shed - Part One

Discussion in 'Industrial Sites' started by urb'n'dub, Aug 2, 2013.

  1. urb'n'dub

    urb'n'dub 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

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    Longbridge Report – Flight Shed, Grovely Lane (Since Demolished) PART 1 - November 2011


    Right, I’ve been meaning to post these photos and information for a long time, however have not got round to it until now. I think it’s about time I shared this with you guys. Better late than never! :banghead

    Before I go any further I just want to credit other users on this site who have also documented some of the goings on at Longbridges’ Rover plant since it closed down, and any others who were brave enough to venture onto this unpredictable site. If it weren’t for you guys I wouldn’t have had the motivation to go and check it for myself…..

    A Brief history:

    A large chunk of Longbridge is dominated by the industrial presence of what was, and what’s left of the Longbridge works. Over the years it has catered for many different companies, but within its heart it has always had a piece of Rover, formerly Austin Works pumping through the industrial veins. Car production has always been the focus of this site however there were many other types of vehicle produced here during the war that many people tend to forget.

    After Herbert Austin purchased the site for £7,750 way back in 1905, he expanded upon the site to an incredible size that can still be seen today. The Longbridge factory has grown over the years, but is split up into four main areas. South Works was where it all began, then North works, West Works, and finally East Works.

    Picture: Birds eye view of the scale of the Longbridge works during the 1940’s. East Works and the Flight Shed are pictured bottom right of the image

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    The building of the first shadow factory (now known as east works) had commenced in 1936, as part of the countries huge “war effort” scheme, which was engaging many factories across the country to try and obtain support in producing war ammunitions and vehicles.
    The factory began with a contract to produce 900 Fairey Battle aircraft over 3 years. By the end of the war, Longbridge had produced nearly 3,000 aircraft including Hurricaines, Stirling and Lancaster Bombers. Many of these were flown directly from the factory, but the Stirling and Lancaster Bombers were taken to Elmdon for final assembly.

    East Works played a vital part of war production, and the two main figures of East Works in which I find most interesting; The Flight Shed and the Aero Factory (The final assembly zone on East Works).

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    The Aero Factory was heavily camouflaged incase of bombing and this supporting picture would have been taken form the Old flight Shed roof overlooking the final aircraft assembly point next to Grovely Lane. As you can see in the picture it had a huge open swinging door to enable easy access for planes to be brought in and out.

    Picture: Overlooking the Aero Factory and would have been taken from the roof of the Flight Shed overlooking the rest of East Works. This part of East Works is now completely flattened and is now becoming the site for a new housing village.

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    A notable part of the East works development was the building of the Flight Shed. A planning application was lodged on the 17th September 1936 for a hangar in Lowhill Lane on the corner with Grovely Lane.
    The work commenced late 1936 and was completed in October 1937. The building was to be used as a shop where aero engine components were to be machined and assembled. Aircraft that had been assembled in the East Works Aero Factory were towered over the road and into the Flight Shed where they were fitted out and then lifted up onto a platform by cables to the airfield testing grounds. The building roof was constructed from pressed steel sections assembled to form a honeycomb lattice, which gives a single span. There were only a few examples of this form of construction left in the country, such a shame to see it all gone now.

    The planes would have been hauled up the ramp from the exiting Aero factory and then the final pieces would have been added before being taken out of the rear of the Flight Shed and taken up a specially created aero lift and onto the flying ground.

    Because of the war outbreak, and Longbridges’ contribution to the war production industries it was a main target for the Luftwaffe air force. The Germans targeted areas of industry in the sub urban areas of Birmingham in an attempt to decrease the production of war aid to the British Military, and because Longbridge contributed so much to the war effort, it was a main target for the Luftwaffe.

    The factories at Longbridge did all they could to disguise the factories layout by camouflaging the major structures in large-scale paint jobs (For example the Aero Factory).

    Ironic how I managed to find this very rare image of Herbert Austin pictured with Adolf Hitler many years before the war, standing side by side, Austin giving Hitler a grand tour of his outstanding factory. Little did Austin know that it would be Hitler trying to destroy his factory a few years later in what was known as the “Battle For Longbridge”.

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    The Flight shed began demolition late 2011 and continued through to early 2012 and personally it was a sad sight to lose considering the historical greatness of the site.

    “Shit! They fucking rippin’ it to shreds!”
    I hadn’t actually explored this site until initial demolition had started, and after extensive research into the history of this site I thought it was about time went and had a look around. By now it was late November and demolition was just beginning, it was now or never.

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    However, anyone who knows the site will instantly agree with me when I say that there was an intense security presence on and around the site. I believe, like many other abandoned industrial sites it is due to the vast amounts old scrap metal value that is left over after the production period.

    Anyway, I had kind of left it rather late to try and explore this factory, and on the Flight Shed alone there were a count of 3 security guards, all with German Shepherd security dogs patrolling the outer perimeter of the site.

    It was a well-planned trip and I teamed up with dubleo and donEdHardy on a Sunday morning. At this point we didn’t really have a point of access, but we thought it better to try and obtain access to the roof as a first in order to avoid security as much as possible.

    The way we got in was a bit awkward, but il just say that we didn’t have to climb over any fences in order to reach the side ramp which lead to the roof. In actual fact we ended up walking straight onto the ramp even if it did mean ducking and squeezing through some tight gaps.
    I had no idea what I was doing, instead was just running on gut instinct, all the time keeping as quiet as possible.

    Eventually we reached the ramp and crossed over onto the roof. Already I was amazed as to what I saw.


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    Overlooking the now completely flat East works site, the old home of the Aero Factory and what is tarnished with an indistinguishable red colour. This is one of the main areas of Longbridge that are going under the most re development to make way for new homes and the Longbridge village.

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    The roof of this building used to be a car park for Flight Shed workers, but now the home of a dumping ground for twisted and mangled bodies of what would have been crash test vehicles. I couldn’t quite believe that they had been just left here on the roof; the brightly painted and crumpled bodies of MG sports coupe’s littered the area.


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    We then ventured through one of the doors onto the roof and worked our way down the submarine style layout and staircases.

    One piece of Urbex Advice!: JUST BECAUSE A DOOR OPENS ONE WAY, DOES NOT MEAN IT WILL OPEN THE OTHER WAY.
    We found this out the hard way when we discovered that some of the doors self locked and wouldn’t open in reverse. We were now having to plan our way out, just as we were entering……

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    Was great to see this rare form of construction for the buildings roof, in which the honeycomb structure self supports the building within its own apex, therefore there is little need for supporting beams to chop into the factory space.
    The main bulk of the factory was overwhelmingly huge and it was weird to walk through a space clearly designed to hold thousands of people at once, yet were the only ones in there and it was almost silent, other than the sounds of creaking metal and flapping doors from the wind.


    Continued in Part 2….
    http://www.28dayslater.co.uk/forums/industrial-sites/82749-longbridge-flight-shed-part-two.html


    For all Things Urbex:
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Akro-Media/357729147666240
     
    #1 urb'n'dub, Aug 2, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2013

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