Howden owes its place in the story of air travel to its choice in 1915 as one of the sites for a Royal Naval Airship Station. Spaced along the east coast, these stations were bases for groups of inflatable airships that patrolled the coastal shipping lanes to deter enemy submarines. large hangers were built to shelter inflated airships, together with a hydrogen generation plant, and the Howden site was served by a short branch line from the Selby-Hull line of the North eastern Railway.
At the end of hostilities in 1918 the station received a succession of the larger rigid airships which were then being built. The station was closed in 1921 and most of its assets were sold off, leaving the large No.2 shed as the main survivor. It was one of only two locations with sheds of such size and length. The railway branch also survived.
Howden was chosen by Vickers, in the guise of the Airship Guarantee Company, as the location to build the prototype of an intended new generation of very large airships which would provide higher speed travel over very long distances.
The Airship History Trail and the accompanying booklet have their origin in the fact that the giant R100 airship, designed by Barnes Wallis, was built in Howden with a largely local labour force. Launched in 1929 it completed its flight trials and successfully flew to Canada and back in 1930. Its fate was sealed, however, when its competitor, R101, designed by a different team, crashed in France when on its way to India. R100 was never flown again.
Howden’s R-100 Airship History Trail
The trail of pavement plaques commemorates the airship and the people who built it and the fact that for a short period Howden was at the forefront of airship design and construction. This was created in 2009 when, with a grant from the Big Lottery Fund, a series of pavement plaques was established representing the length (709ft or 216m) of the airship starting outside the Co-op at the junction of Market Place and Bridgegate and extending into the Ashes terminating near the groundsman’s buildings. At specific points along the line of Market Place you can see where the Gondola and Engine Cars were situated