Vickers Armstrong factory at Blackpool, not discarded shadowed history. One building I unintentionally snook inside!
I sat on these images for over two years in fear of some reprisal as this huge deserted factory was in the process of being bought by two Yorkshire brothers who now own ASDA!
My initial intention was to research a railway system that fed these buildings from the South Fylde railway line out of Squires Gate Railway station. Around 1938 a spur siding line ran out of the goods sidings off towards the airport to help with the war effort.
Just South on the West point of the station past the old holiday camp was a small bridge, the mounds are still present but no bridge remains. The holiday camp served to house troops during the war and they would often be taken by tram to Rossall firing range to practice.
The above image shows how a siding ran off onto the now golf course and backed off around Westgate road along the land of Morrisons supermarket and Halfords today.
This map above would indicate a small fiddle siding between Halfords, Currys and the shopping area of Aldi and Iceland. A double line running into the Vickers Factory is shown matching the evidence today of the railway set among the cement yard.
The above image is best viewed in front of the roller door and the width of the lines are of the same gauge as the railway. It's told there are still tracks imbedded in the flooring within the old factory.
At the beginning World War 2, Blackpool Airport was taken over by the Government and became RAF Squires Gate. It was mainly used as a training school and for fighter protection over Liverpool later being part of the war effort constructing the below RAF bomber named the Wellington.
This is where it gets interesting. Two years back while taking some innocent photographs I got talking to a chap who worked onsite and told me his Grand Mother was involved in the paper work of the factory. He further sated a small tunnel system and kitchen was in the grounds of the factory!
He did not give me full permission (of sorts) to enter however indicated the building is being renovated and parts of which are unlocked. Do I need to say any more?
I gingerly wandered on to the grounds and found the said door unlocked and ventured inside. Being excited I took some images show below for us all to experience and most importantly preserve as a historical record of our history.
Before you continue I have to say the tunnels are now filled in and the inside has been worked on. The building is now locked and secured well.
This image indicated a wider aperture of entry suitable for rolling stock. Rails are visible in the concrete.
The North side of the building showing past points on entry.
Having walked down the far East side of the first floor you get a sense of extreme vastness!
Looking west from half way down the huge room!
Around the middle part was an annex room - possible kitchen and / or toilets? At the peak of production during the war, as many as 10,000 men and women were employed here.
Looking East about just over half way.
Via a fire door I stubbled upon this vast room within the building. I could not venture further as I felt this was occupied by a business of sorts. Plus the fire door was only openable from the previous room thus I would of been stranded. Believe me I felt a 'Goonies' moment coming on and wanted to look for the railway lines.
After I took this image I heard two men talking hence I took a quick turn and scarpered. I found myself peering thought the windows and I think they were security. I now realise my pre 'Goonies' moment was too much and exited while the going was good.
I confess, I did return to try and explore more to help preserve some history but could not convince anyone officially or not to allow myself in. The company who owns the building ignored my requests three times.
The below image shows the extent of the huge factory and the potential to explore, albeit now expired.
I would love to make a small documentary of this amazing important structure as I feel it's one of the countries unsung hero's of WW2, now lost to the confides of memory and the development for 'progress'.
This image (Poss 1942) shows camo paint on the West part of the said buildings and other relevent structures dotted about. Thank you Vickers Armstrong. Least we forget.
Dates of the site:
1939 3rd Sept war was declared
1939 A Fairey Battle plane crashed into a bridge near the railway station killing 3 crew
1940 No 215, No 63 and No 75 Bomber squadrons used Squires Gate
1940 Vickers began building the factory in Jan with the first plane rolling out in Sept, taking off in July 1941
1940 A house in Church Rd St Annes was Bombed on the 1st Oct
1940 First air raid warning sounded in Blackpool on 2nd Sept, bomb fell on Farringdon Av 19th Oct
1940 Liverpool was bombed on the 28th Nov killing 200 people
1940 Blackpool tower fitted with Radar installations
1940 A Hurricane P3899 crashed into the sea on the 28th Decenber after taking off from Blackpool
1941 Amy Johnson set off from Squires Gate on her last ever flight on the 5th Jan
1941Liverpool and Barrow Bombed killing 4000 people
1941 Blackpool residents raised enough money to buy 3 Spitfire aircraft name progress 1, 2 and 3.
1942 USA military arrived in England
1942 Airfield construction peaked with 3 stations a day. The total expenditure on the war was £13 million per day
1942 In the shadow factory, Wellingtons were fitted with magnetic hoops to try and detonate sea mines
1942 After Wellingtons attacked the MAN diesel factory in Germany, the sole surviving plane landed at Squires Gate at 01:00 hrs
1944 An Avro Anson crashed at Warton after taking off from Squires Gate
1945 A Wellington Bomber crashed into the sea off Fleetwood
1946 The RAF finally leave Blackpool
These above date are collected from an excellent page covering details of the site: https://sites.google.com/site/blackpoolairportsquiresgate/home/1940
Blog page accompanying the videos with extra content and script notes.