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Flight of Fancy - Croydon Aerodrome Hotel

Opened in 1928 - at the same time as Croydon's new terminal building - the Aerodrome Hotel was the first to be built specifically to serve an airport.

News cameramen and reporters would often descend on the hotel to catch a glimpse of the latest famous name to pass through the airport - the gateway to London and the UK in those days.

The hotel was newly opened when the King of Afghanistan was given a guided tour of new buildings in 1928.

The hotel also accommodated the world's sweethearts of the silver screen, husband and wife team of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, when they landed in 1929.

Charlie Chaplin, the world's greatest clown, stayed at the hotel to and from Hollywood. The Duke of York - later to become King George VI - trained as a pilot at the former Beddington Aerodrome, the forerunner of Croydon Airport, and won his wings there.

He remained a constant visitor to the airport and throughout the 1930's and 1940's frequently enjoying the service and the food.

One letter written to the then manager Captain Atkings in May 1932, by Lt Col J A Pickard DSO - general secretary of the National Safety First Association, says: "I enclose my cheque for 39 and seven shillings in settlement of the luncheon at your hotel last week. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you and your staff for all that was done to make the luncheon and allied arrangements so successful. I know that the Duke of York was very pleased with everything."

In 1945 King George VI bade farewell to the Queen Wilhemina of the Netherlands at Croydon when she returned home after spending the duration of the war in the UK.

Great aviators stayed at the hotel before and after making their historic flights into the record books. The Australian Bert Hinkler set off from Croydon Airport in 1928, to become the first person to fly solo to Australia.

He landed in Darwin, having flown his two-seat Avro 581E Avian biplane 11,250 miles in 15 and a half days.

Amy Johnson, widely acknowledge as the great female aviator of all time, became the first woman to fly solo to Australia when she flew out of Croydon in 1930 in the De Havilland Gipsy Moth she had christened 'Jason'.

Other record-breaking flights followed:

Kenneth Crofts from Sanderstead witnessed Amy Johnson's homecoming after the latter flight. He said: "I recall seeing Jim Mollison drinking at the hotel bar while waiting for Amy Johnson to land after her record-breaking flight to South Africa.

"He walked out a little unsteady, in his long black leather coat to greet her as she was escorted through the gate to the hotel garden to the cheers of the huge crowd."

The 75th anniversary of the Aerodrome coincides with the centenary of Amy Johnson's birth and the launch of a new set of postage stamps titled Extreme Endeavours: Bravery by Air, Land and Sea, one of which is dedicated to Johnson and her epic flights.

Last modified: 10th November 2010 - Copyright Canning and Clyde Residents Association
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