The story of the infancy of flight on Portholme Meadow

James Radley in an aircraft on Portholme Meadow.

James Radley in an aircraft on Portholme Meadow. - Credit: CAMBS ARCHIVES

There has been a little bit of interest over the passed few weeks into the aerodrome that used to be on Portholme Meadow in Huntingdon.
Readers may find this interesting information and I hope this month's column prompts feedback or further investigation. 

The aviation industry of Huntingdonshire started on Portholme Meadow as early as 1910. That was only two years after the Wright brothers first flew an actual aircraft. So this was probably an amazing time and experience for Huntingdonshire residents.

The Portholme Aviation Company was set up and designed its own aeroplane as well as building the Sopwith Camel under contract.
In 1911, the Radley Monoplane was actually tested by James Radley, but was unsuccessful.

The early days of flight on Portholme Meadow in Huntingdon. 

The early days of flight on Portholme Meadow in Huntingdon. - Credit: CAMBS ARCHIVES

I believe apart from Radley, another famous person connected with the Aerodrome was McFie and he took a second shed next to Radley. The battered monoplane arrived and his mechanics set about building the new improvement Empress biplane, although it was delayed by awaiting arrival of the specialist engine.

He had to work hard before his permit to fly expired. Although it lifted off the ground a short distance and was struggling due to the meadow's long grass it only flew a short distance. Although it was taken to Brooklands in Surrey where it later flew successfully.
The meadow was never fully converted into a permanent practicing ground.
In 1911 the three original sheds, built by Thackray & Co, were converted into a large wooden triple hangar.

Radley and Moorhouse also took over Murkett’s Roller Skating Rink, located in the former moulding room of Thackrays Iron Foundry which was on St John’s Street, in Huntingdon.
The Hunts Post even visited the company flying school and carriage works in 1912 at Portholme.

New council houses were built in Avenue Road, Huntingdon to help with staff and production shortages and help complete the contracts for 20 Wright 840 seaplanes.
The later fighter planes were manufactured in new buildings near Handcroft Lane closer to the railway. I believe being dissolved around 1922.

At some point Edison’s building was burnt down. Edison Bell went bankrupt in 1932. The Silent Channel company purchased the Edison Bell factory in 1936. The factory become a very big part of employment and community groups for many years.

I am sure many of our readers will remember the Silent Channel company, football teams and workers and local residents.Contact the group on Facebook if you can help with research.