Kim Noonan Year 9 (2007)
2. History of the Area
3. First Military Use
4. Conversion into non-military airport
5. The return for military use for World War II
7. After the closure of the airfield
8. Inception of the Hooton Park Trust
Hooton Park, Cheshire, is an
airfield originally built for the The aerodrome closed in 1957 after the
Royal Flying Corps in 1917 as a disbandment of the Royal Auxiliary Air
training aerodrome for pilots in Force, but the three pairs of Belfast Truss
World War I. During the early/mid hangers survived the closure.
1930’s , it was one of the two The small remaining section of the
airfields (with Liverpool Speke) airfield site is now owned and managed
handling scheduled services for the by the Hooton Park Trust. Hooton Park
Merseyside region. Hooton Park is also home to The Griffin Trust and
was home to 610 (County of The Aeroplane Collection
Chester) Squadron and, post World
War II, to 611 (West Lancashire)
and 663 (AOP) Squadron.
In 1070, William the Conqueror granted the lands of Hooton to Adam de
Aldithly. Eventually they passed to the Stanley Family thorough a series of
marriages. After the Battle of Bosworth, Hooton had a new hall and the first Lord
Derby in Lancashire. A second half-timbered hall was built in 1488.
A third Italian-style hall was constructed circa 1778 but this later sold to cover
the Stanley family’s gambling debts in 1850. The hall was bought by a Mr.
Naylor, a wealthy Liverpool banker, for 82,000 guineas. He spent a further
50,000 guineas on the addition of a 100 foot tower, an art gallery, and a large
dining hall. He also built a racecourse, polo ground, heronry, stud farm and a
church in Childer Thornton in memory of his first wife. His yacht was moored on
the Mersey but in the 1890's the construction of the Manchester Shi Canal cut off
his access, so he moved to another of his properties in Nottinghamshire.
To avoid paying rates the hall was emptied of contents and staff but the estate
continued to be farmed whilst the racecourse and polo ground remained in use.
War was declared on 4 August 1914 and Hooton Park then became the No.4 Training
Hooton Park’s racecourse was used for Depot Station. The Royal Flying Corps moved in
the last time some ten days later. The to form the fighter squadrons so badly needed in
British War Department then France using Sopwith Scouts , Dolphins and Avro
requisitioned the estate for use as an 504’s. Some of the pilots killed in training
army training ground. The hall became a accidents were buried in the local churchyard at
headquarters, hospital, and officers’ nearby Eastham. A large number of American and
mess. Lord Derby recruited the first Pals Canadian pilots were also trained at Hooton Park.
regiments and Hooton became the
training ground for the 18th Battalion of On April 1, 1918, the Royal Flying Corps became the
the Kings Liverpool Rifles. They left for Royal Air Force. By the end of the First World War the 37
France and fought in the first battle of theaircraft on charge were moved to RAF Sealand and RAF
Somme on 1st July 1916. Hooton Park was closed. During the following years the
The War Department built one single and three double aerodrome reverted to farmland. The
aircraft hangars which were completed in 1917. These hangars were empty and the hall was so
hangars had a unique latticed roof construction – Belfast damaged by military use it was sold as a
Trusses - which were originally used in the Belfast shipyards redevelopment opportunity and
to cover large working areas and which provided strength at subsequently demolished (although the
low cost. racecourse and polo ground remained).
The airfield site was purchased by a Mr. G. Dawson, an air enthusiast. In the
summer of 1927, the Liverpool Corporation held an air pageant at Hooton as part
of its civic week. This show was such a success that the Liverpool and District
Aero Club was formed. Dawson allowed the new club to use his aerodrome for a
fee. The club became one of the most successful in the country in only twelve
months and was the centre for aviation in the north. For three years the
aerodrome served as Liverpool’s airport.
Dawson persuaded two RAF engineering officers to resign and set up companies
at Hooton – Nicholas Comper, who designed and built the Comper Swift single
engined sporting monoplane; and Douglas Pobjoy, who supplied the Pobjoy
radial engines. Dawson ran into financial trouble and died in 1933. In the same
year, Liverpool Corporation opened Speke Airfield as its airport. The flying club
subsequently moved there for cheaper hangarage and clubhouse facilities.
Comper moved to Heston and closed his company. He died as the result of a
practical joke in 1939. Pobjoy went to work for Short Brothers at Rochester, but
was killed in a mid air collision in 1946. Despite these setbacks Hooton was still
an important aerodrome with many private owners and several small airlines
continuing to operate out of it.
In 1935, Martin Hearn, an ex- Hurricanes that were quickly The first helicopters used by the Allies
pilot and -ground engineer and replaced by Mark 1 Spitfires. At were also assembled and tested at
who had previously worked for the outbreak of the Second Hooton towards the end of the war.
Cobham’s Flying Circus as a World War on 3rd Sept 1939 the During the war years, Hooton
wing walker and aerial trapeze squadron was mobilised and assembled and repaired thousands of
artist, created Martin Hearn sent to Wittering for final aircraft. The RAF operated a flight of
Ltd., employing a few training. At the same time, Coastal Command Avro Ansons, Tiger
mechanics to service the Martin Hearn obtained a Moths and Hornet Moths on anti
aircraft using the aerodrome. In, contract from the Ministry of submarine patrols during 1939 and
1936 number 610 (County of Aircraft Production to repair 1940. No. 11 Radio School and No. 3
Chester) Squadron Auxiliary large numbers of Avro Ansons General Reconnaissance School flew
Air Force was formed at as well as de Havilland from the airfield.
Hooton Park. Most of the pilots Mosquito fighter-bombers. As
In 1941 the grass airfield was
took private flying lessons to No. 7 Aircraft Assembly Unit,
transformed to include a 6000 foot
qualify. One person said, the work also included the
concrete runway – one of the longest in
"Never have I seen so many assembly of various types of
Europe at that time. As aircraft became
Rolls Royce cars in one spot at American aircraft that used to
redundant they were sent from all over
the same time’ – an indication arrive at the Mersey docks.
the country to No. 100 Sub Storage Site
of the pilots' typical social Aircraft such as Mustang,
at Hooton to be scrapped. The end of
status. The squad was initially a Lightning and Thunderbolt
the Second World War brought a
bomber squadron with Avro fighters as well as Boston
decline in work to Martin Hearn. The
Tutor trainers, Hawker Hind Havoc and Canadian built
company then had to seek peacetime
and Hart bombers. In 1939 it Handley Page Hampden
work. To this end, buses were repaired,
took charge of a flight of bombers and Harvard trainers.
armoured cars overhauled and Slingsby
In 1947 Martin Hearn’s company was re-named Aero-Engineering and Marine
(Merseyside) and Martin Hearn was no longer connected to it. Martin Hearn
went into partnership with Lily Belcher and ran the Glider Club , adjacent to
the airfield at its north western corner , as a successful and popular hotel for
some 25 years. The engineering company survived until 1955, latterly
servicing Canadair Sabre jet fighters for the RCAF. Wing Commander
"Wilbur" Wright opened a flying school at Hooton and later a gliding club
was operated from the northern end of the airfield. The gliding club survived
as a local wining and dining venue until 1986.
In 1946 No. 610 Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force returned to Hooton Park
after valiant war service flying Spitfires in the European theatre. No. 663
(AOP) Squadron was reformed at Hooton Park in 1949 using Auster spotting
aircraft. In 1951 No. 610 Squadron received Meteor twin jet fighters and No.
611 Squadron (West Lancashire) relocated from Woodvale to use the longer
Hooton runway required for this type of aircraft. Both squadrons operated as
R.Aux.AF units from the airfield until all Auxiliary flying squadrons were
disbanded in March 1957. At this point the station was closed and all flying
ceased at RAF Hooton Park.
The closure of the aerodrome was not the end of the story for Hooton
Park – it became the site of the north’s biggest agricultural show (The
Cheshire Show) until 1977 and the runways continued to be used by
Shell Research for testing cars at high speed. In 1960 the site was
purchased by Vauxhall Motors for the construction of a vehicle
production plant at Ellesmere Port – the first car to roll off the
production line being the Vauxhall Viva.
In the summer of 1986 Hooton opened its gates for two days to
host the ’Wheels 86 Transport Extravaganza’. This event was so
successful that four other ‘Wheels Shows (’88,’92, ’94 and ’96)
were held. Over 80,000 people attended these events and many
thousands of pounds were donated to charities from the
proceeds. For the first time since 1957 the runways were used.
Harrier Jump jets thrilled the crowd and for a few precious
hours, cutting edge aviation technology paid homage to this
pioneering aviation site.
Early in the 1980s the group of four people organising these events successfully
approached the local authority to obtain a preservation order on the three historic
World War One hangars. English Heritage bestowed on the three hangars a grade II
listing in 1985 because of their rarity as a group of three double bay hangars utilising
the Belfast truss form of construction.
In the late 1980s this group of four people formed themselves into an alliance called
The Griffin Trust and Vauxhall Motors granted them a peppercorn lease on two of the
hangars. The third hangar continued to be used to service Vauxhall motor cars.
After a great deal of work, the buildings were brought into some semblance of order.
Despite many attempts to raise capital for the repair and maintenance of the buildings
The Griffin Trust were unable to secure any substantial grant funding.
On the 9th October 2000, The Hooton Park Trust obtained the freehold of the three
WWI aircraft hangars, with associated ancillary accommodation and land at Hooton
Park. The sale of the freehold concluded twelve months of intensive negotiations
between The Hooton Park Trust and Vauxhall Motors. These were entered into in
response to Vauxhall Motor’s application in September 1998 to the local planning
authority (Ellesmere Port and Neston Borough Council), for Listed Building Consent
to demolish the hangars.
This created an enormous protest from aircraft enthusiasts and local people who were
determined that the buildings should be saved in recognition of their role in the
development of military and civilian aviation. The campaign was also supported by people
concerned with the architectural value contained within the site’s buildings.
Vauxhall Motors and their parent company General Motors, met with representatives of
The Hooton Park Trust. The Trust managed to persuade the car giant of the value of the
heritage asset they owned and as a gesture in recognition of this the freehold was passed to
The Hooton Park Trust. The motor giant provided substantial financial support to
supplement planned applications for public sector funding as well as support expenses to
aid the Trust in the first three years of operation.
English Heritage commissioned a thematic review of military aviation sites throughout the
United Kingdom. In that review Hooton Park was recommended for upgrade to grade II*
(two star) listing. Belfast truss hangars were now exceedingly rare and Hooton Park were
in the lucky position of having three double bay examples set in context with their original
In March 2003 the two star listing was achieved and a scheme of emergency repairs was
devised by consultant engineers working on behalf of the Trust. Unfortunately, the very
substantial funds needed have not yet (late 2006) been raised and the hangars regrettably
therefore continue their steady deterioration, with one having suffered a large roof
The primary aim of The Hooton Park Trust remains to work towards the survival of the
remaining historic site and buildings at Hooton Park and to operate the site to the benefit
of the local and regional communities.
Birdseye view of Hooton Park
Hangers in Hooton Park
Avro Ansons The Hornet Moth The Hurricane
The Tiger Moth
Mosquito fighter bomber