BAC Weybridge – The Abandoned Vickers Airplane Factory

The abandoned BAC factory in Weybridge UK

The BAC Weybridge factory in Surrey, England was built in the 1960s as the final assembly building for the VC10 airplane built by Vickers and BAC. Weybridge at that time was home to some of the heavyweights of the British aviation industry with an airfield built at the Brooklands motor racing circuit. The 2.75-mile (4.43 km) track was built in 1907 as the world’s first purpose-built banked racing circuit. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway followed two years later. The racing track was used as a runway as flying grew in popularity and in 1909, an aerodrome was built at Brooklands.

Brooklands Racing Circuit

The banking of the Brooklands Racing Circuit can still be seen today.

Weybridge became the largest aircraft manufacturing centre in Britain by 1918 with Vickers-Armstrong producing both military and civilian aircraft there. Hawker, Blériot and Martinsyde also had factories at Brooklands. The Hawker Hurricane, which was deemed instrumental to victory in the Battle of Britain, first flew at Brooklands on 6 November 1935. By that year, Vickers-Armstrongs was the third-largest manufacturing employer in Britain. The aircraft factories in the area became vital to the war effort. Despite being heavily camouflaged during World War II, the Vickers factory was bombed by the Luftwaffe on 4 September 1940 which resulted in the death of 90 aircraft workers. The Hawker factory was bombed two days later without major damage or any loss of life.

Hawker Hurricane

The Hawker Hurricane was instrumental to the RAF forces in World War II.

After the war, Vickers-Armstrong bought the entire Brooklands site and began extensive expansion. Production of the VC10 began in 1960, the same year that Vickers-Armstrong merged with English Electric Aviation Ltd and the Bristol Aeroplane Company to become the British Aircraft Corporation or BAC. The new company’s head office was initially at what became known as BAC Weybridge before moving to the top floors of the 100 Pall Mall building in the City of Westminster, London. The first VC10 was rolled out of the factory on 15 April 1962 and had its maiden flight 2 months later.

The Vickers VC10 was built at BAC Weybridge

A Vickers VC10 operated by BOAC at London Heathrow airport.

The Vickers VC10 was designed for long-range flight, with BOAC the main operator of the aircraft . Capable of operating long-range on shorter runways and in hot and arid conditions in Africa, the VC10 was hailed for its performance which included the fastest London to New York flight on any sub-sonic airliner, a record held until February 2020 when it was beaten by a British Airways Boeing 747 during Storm Ciara. The quad rear engine design of the VC10 has been used only in a small number of aircraft and gave the plane a striking appearance. Sales of the VC10 were not as expected though and only 54 were built, with BOAC, British United Airways, East African Airways and Ghana Airways the only customers.

BOAC (which later merged into what is now British Airways) began to retire their fleet in 1974 and by 1981, they had none left in service. High fuel consumption following the oil crisis of 1973 was ultimately what caused the downfall of the VC10. The huge BAC Weybridge factory at Brooklands went on to manufacture the BAC TSR.2, One-Eleven and major assemblies for Concorde but it failed to recover from the disappointing initial sales of the VC10. When Concorde sales were also below target, the factory began to contract and in 1977, BAC was nationalised to form part of British Aerospace. The Weybridge factory became a manufacturing plant for aviation components. One of the hangars was emptied and used as a studio to film the 1980s cult classic Flash Gordon.

Flash Gordon

Flash Gordon was filmed in a disused hangar at BAC Weybridge. Initially panned by critics, it has since become a cult classic.

On 29 July 1986, it was announced all operations at Brooklands would cease. The factory closed on Christmas Day, 1989 and was demolished soon after. The Brooklands Museum was opened on the site in 1991, with exhibits focused on aviation and motor racing. It is also home to the London Bus Museum.

Location: Weybridge, England 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿
Abandoned: 1989

15 thoughts on “BAC Weybridge – The Abandoned Vickers Airplane Factory”

  1. Following an apprenticeship at Handley Page working on the HP Hastings, Herald, Victor & Jetstream I pursued my aircraft production career as a freelance contractor. In 1968, I with my HP apprentice buddy, Ken Carvosso, felt very excited & privileged when we both secured a contract to work in the Loft Dept at Weybridge on CONCORDE project. This involved crawling on large steel tables in a temperature controlled (68F) loft above the factory floor, precision hand drafting full size of complex component design on aluminium sheets in pen & ink!
    It was so brilliant to be involved on the Concorde project, the memory has stayed with me for 55yrs.

  2. My father was a works foreman building Lancaster bombers plane wings this is were he met my mother as she work on the wings also, they both moved to Hayling Island and my father move with his job to another Vickers factory at Havant Hampshire, he took up the position as a designer of aircraft landing gear
    they both came to the Island in 1945.
    I remember going back to Weybridge when i was about 7 and looking in the big sheds, my father had come to collect his tools.
    sad now they have both gone but my father would talk about those days.

  3. My grandfather worked at Vickers as a carpenter probably circa 1940’s he told me as a small boy so many stories, of building aircraft, at Brooklands
    My hero
    RIP Stanley Axtell

  4. worked on vickers viscount in 1961 at byfleet on interior re-furbishment. lived in Chessington at the time and drove to the factory on my new AJS motorbike–those were the days. Now 88- What memories–Great. Brian–live in N Ireland now.

  5. I started the Viscount 700 series Technical course at Brooklands on 13 December 1955. It was the beginning of a twenty-two year association with the Viscount. Initially as a maintenance engineer then, as my company, Central African Airways, did not have full engineering coverage at the outstations we flew to, I flew as a Flight Engineer (flying spanner) before qualifying as a pilot. Initially as a co-pilot then a captain. My total flying hours on the Viscount are: 13313/9618 as a pilot. The Viscount was a most delightful aircraft to fly and, I felt, quite unsuitable for ab-initio flight training because it was just so easy to handle.

  6. I was an electrical engineering apprentice from 1960 to 1965,it was Vickers Armstrong and.then BAC after a year in the apprentice training school which culminatedd in making a tool box fo the next aprenhtice went on to the shop floor and worked on the VC10 and TSR 2 and after two years went into the drawing office in Weybridge and continued working in the TSR 2.Was.lucky enough to be at the side of the runway along with the rest of the employees when the VC10 made it’s maiden flight anazing it was in the air half way down the runway.

  7. i served a 5 year trade apprenticeship from August 1954 until I started in the detail fitters department 19 August 1959. I served as a skilled fitter in the gallery above the production line before “call-up” into the RAF on jan 5th 1960. During the final years of my apprenticeship, the company opened an apprentice training school to the side of guided weapons. Did that building survive the subsequent demolition of the factory? Strangely enough the nearest trade the TAF offered for NS entrants , was Electrical Mechanic (Air). After training and a posting to a Hunter squadron, I remastered to the trade of Musician and served a total of 22 years RAF Bands.

  8. I was an apprentice at Weybridge 1955 – 1961. During that time the Valiant, Viscount, Vanguard and VC10 were either in production or being tooled ready for production. It was possible to wander around the main assembly areas on the Weybridge Road side of the factory and also the B1 hanger and skin milling shop on the Byfleet side of the airfield. Large Wadkin machines with equally large work tables in the skin milling shop were one of many memories I have of this place. Little then did I realise how fortunate or privileged I was. Vickers formed my engineering career and I remember it with fond affection and some real pride.

    1. I am looking for anyone who worked on the TSR 2 & VC10 projects at Vickers Weybridge or anyone involved during the test flights at Boscombe Down. It is a long shot I know but I am trying to find anyone that may have known my father Robert Hopley, who also worked on the test flights at Boscombe. Sadly my father Robert died very young in 1969 from Hodgkinson’s. But it would be amazing to speak to anyone that actually knew him.

    2. Hi John
      My uncle worked as an Aircraft Degreaser from 1952-1959 his name was John Gerard Kearns; please can you tell me if you remember him and his Irish accent? many thanks in advance Mark

  9. The canteen video looks like the staff (white collars) canteen in my time 1954-61. The works canteen was upstairs on the Brooklands Road side of the works which was two hangers for two Valiant production lines.

    1. I am looking for anyone who worked on the TSR 2 & VC10 projects at Vickers Weybridge or anyone involved during the test flights at Boscombe Down. It is a long shot I know but I am trying to find anyone that may have known my father Robert Hopley, who also worked on the test flights at Boscombe. Sadly my father Robert died very young in 1969 from Hodgkinson’s. But it would be amazing to speak to anyone that actually knew him.

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