Air Transport

The notion of a Chester Municipal “Aero Park” appears to arise from a letter received by the City Council from the aviator, Sir Alan Cobham, and which the City’s Improvement Committee considered on 11th March 1929. The letter resulted in Cobham visiting the city and advising against the proposed use of the Roodee for the purpose. The Air Ministry informed the Council that they, not Mr Cobham, were the appropriate body to advise on sites, so they were invited to send an Inspector. The inspection of three possible sites took place on 3rd December 1929, when it was concluded that that the proposed sites on Corporation land at Sealand and Blacon were not suitable but a site at Upton had “decided advantages from every point of view”.

This site was the land bordered, on the southwest by Long Lane, (eventually designated to become part of the Ring Road), on the northwest by “the road leading to Caughall”, on the northeast by Acres Lane (although it appears that the proposal involved purchasing land to the north of Acres Lane which would be surplus to the needs of the aeropark itself) and on the east by what is now Duttons Lane. In the main the site, totalling some 271, acres were owned by G B Patterson (Acres Farm – 93 Acres) and J D Dutton (Upton Grange - 158 Acres) and Sir Philip Grey-Egerton (20 Acres). The estimated cost of acquiring the land was £20,000. For the aeropark itself it was estimated that, at least initially, only 156 acres would be required, with approximately 65 acres in the southeast of the site and 49 acres in the northeast, possibly being available for other uses. The site would have to be levelled and ditches, ponds, trees and hedges removed. Consideration was given to using domestic refuse for filling and levelling, but it was decided that the time it would take for bin lorries to get to the site would disrupt the collection service too much. Importing fill was considered but thought expensive at almost £20,000. The solution suggested was to move the existing soil around the site, at a cost of £10,000. £1,600 was also earmarked for moving overhead cables and for “marking out the name of the aerodrome”. Visits were made to several other aerodromes including Croydon, Heston and Liverpool. From these visits it was concluded that Chester would have to provide initially a ”small reception hut”, “a” telephone and fuel supplies. An oil company was expected to supply the latter. In the first phase of 92 acres would be levelled for use as a landing area. Later the balance of the 156 acres would be brought into use necessitating further levelling and drainage, along with the construction of new roadways, a hangar with small repair shop, and probably a Customs depot. Even later a control tower might be needed along with further hangars. The City Council did not feel that a hotel was required, unlike at some other aeroparks, as the city already had many hotels and “no doubt there would be bus services along the Ring Road”.

A major concern for the Council was the creeping development along Long Lane and the proposed construction of the water tower. The Waterworks Company indicated that provided an early decision was reached they would be prepared to consider an alternative location, thought to have been in the corner formed by the Duttons Lane, Long Lane junction. In designing the aeropark the council were advised that the distance between the landing area and a structure was increased by ten times the height of the structure. If this calculation had had to be applied to the water tower it would have had a dramatic affect on the aeropark layout, or the ability of the site to accommodate the largest aircraft then in use. The Committee asked for the site to be reserved in anticipation of it becoming “an important centre for air transport from a national point of view”. Concern was expressed about a proposed route for overhead cables near Chester and the offer of the Air Ministry was accepted to make representation to the Electricity Commission that the lines should be kept at least a mile from the site. A month later an offer was received from the Royal Institute of British Architects to help design the airport, but this was not taken up

The Improvement Committee endorsed the proposal with enthusiasm and the Finance Committee also supported the proposal. However, when it was brought before the General Purposes Committee it was rejected by 20 votes to 9. Those supporting the proposal instanced the assistance the aeropark would be to the local economy, and voiced the opinion that the project was worth doing despite the current financial difficulties, facing the country. Opposers felt that the purchase was a gamble and the proposed cost of the land was too high. Some felt that the moves in the League of Nations would mean that the RAF station at Shotwick (Sealand) would soon become available for civil use; whilst others felt Chester could not compete with airports at Manchester and Liverpool. One councillor even said that the imminent arrival of vertical takeoff and landing passenger planes would mean such a large site would not be needed. Another thought that aircraft needed so much maintenance so there use would never be commonplace. Supporters, apparently by now mounting a rearguard action pointed out that other airports would not be under Chester’s control and that if the proposal did not ultimately go ahead the land could be sold at a profit, particularly when the ring road was completed or even be used for a Municipal Mental Hospital.

One is left to wonder what Upton would be like today if the aeropark had been built. Who knows perhaps the Airbus wings would originate here rather than a Hawarden! If so the runway might stretch from the Village Hall to Picton Gorse.


Interest in aviation may have been considerable in the Chester area at the end of the 1920s. On the 19th November 1929 the infamous airship R101 flew over Chester at about 11.45 am. It approached the city at about 1200 feet flying along Parkgate Road, round the Cathedral and King Charles Tower before departing over Queens Park for Whitchurch. The R100 may also have visited the area about this time. In 1931 a Lockheed Vega aircraft called “Winnie Mae” visited Chester (probably Sealand) as part of its round the world record breaking flight from New York to Chester, Berlin, Russia and Alaska. The flight took 8 days 15 hours and 51 minutes. [May have crossed Upton] In July 1932 the German airship Graff Zeppelin flew over Chester, approaching along Liverpool Road to the Town Hall Square and then on to Whitchurch