HOWDEN R100 AIRSHIP HISTORY TRAIL
Designed by Barnes Wallis (of Dambusters and bouncing bomb fame), the R100 was built by the Airship Guarantee Company in Howden in the 1920s, and was of innovative and modern design. Nevil Shute Norway, who was later to achieve worldwide success as the author Nevil Shute, also worked on the R100 as the chief calculator.
The British government commissioned two rigid airships because it was felt that having two prototypes would lead to twice the level of innovation over traditional lines. R100, was designed and built by a private company, and R101 was designed and built by the British Air Ministry.
R100 was designed to carry 100 passengers in luxury, having passenger and crew accommodation spread over three decks, with cabins, dining and lounge facilities and viewing galleries. Powered by its six Rolls-Royce engines, R100 successfully flew to Canada and back in July / August 1930.
Unfortunately, two months later the British Air Ministry’s R101 crashed in France on 5th October 1930, on its maiden flight to India. 48 of the 54 people on board were killed and following this disaster the Government abandoned the airship programme.
There is nothing is left of the huge sheds and the massive complex in Howden where R100 was built and so the trail has been designed to commemorate this important part of aeronautical history. The trail is 216 metres long and consists of 24 pavement plaques and an interpretation panel and marks the exact length of the airship. It was funded by a grant of £32,538 from the Big Lottery Fund, won by Howden Civic Society on 26th November 2013 from The Peoples’ Millions via a public vote on the ITV Calendar programme. This achievement was the result of the overwhelming support given by Howden’s small local community.
A start date of 28th January was given by the Big Lottery Fund and the contract for the majority of the work was placed with Sculpture Works of Wirksworth in Derbyshire. Several months of discussion and design followed and the final casting of the plaques began in August. The plaques were installed in early October and the official opening ceremony was performed by Mary Stopes-Roe, daughter of Sir Barnes Wallis, on 22nd October.
If you would like more information about the whole process, from funding through to completion, please click here
A 28 page booklet which gives a description of the trail, the history of airships and the role that the R100 played can be obtained from local shops in Howden and can also be downloaded as a pdf here
A QRC is also displayed at several locations in Howden. This can be used to download a brief description of the trail on to mobile devices