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Avro Ltd Aircraft Plant (Brownsfield Mill)
Brownsfield Mill, Binns Place, Ancoats, Manchester, UK
associated engineer
Sir Edwin Alliott Verdon-Roe
date  1910
era  Modern  |  category  Factory/Industrial Plant  |  reference  SJ848984
ICE reference number  HEW 2679
Manchester's Brownsfield Mill building is the site of the first Avro aircraft plant. It was founded by pioneering aeronautical engineer, Alliott Verdon-Roe in premises then owned by his brother Humphrey. Together they formed A.V. Roe & Company (Avro) — the world's first company registered solely as a manufacturer of aircraft.
Edwin Alliott Verdon-Roe (1877-1958) designed, built and flew (at Brooklands) his first aircraft, the design of which was taken from a competition-winning model he had made. It was equipped with an engine and is thought to be the first all-British aeroplane to fly under its own power.
In 1909, Verdon-Roe flew his first triplane design, powered by a JAP motorcycle engine. This plane is now in London's Science Museum. Verdon-Roe and his brother Humphrey (1879-1949) formed Avro on 1st January 1910 (it became a limited company in 1913). From 1910 onwards, the factory in Manchester produced some of the earliest British aircraft, including triplanes, biplanes and monoplanes.
By 1911 the Avroplane, later known as the Avro D Type, biplane was in production. It could be dismantled and packed into a case for road transportation. The aircraft had a 10.4m wingspan and held two people, pilot behind passenger, in a steel empennage. Apart from the wheel struts and wheels, the rest of the machine was made of timber (poplar, ash and rattan cane) and the fuselage was covered in fabric. The propeller was fashioned from a single piece of Kauri pine.
The world’s first enclosed cabin monoplane, the Avro F Type — able to reach an altitude of 305m — was manufactured in 1912. The same year, the military two-seater Avro 500 biplane, which had a top speed of 80km per hour, was developed from the Avro E Type.
In 1913, with orders increasing as World War I (1914-18) approached, the works were relocated to Miles Platting (Newton Heath plant).
The seven storey L-shaped Brownsfield Mill building is interesting in its own right and one of a nationally important group of early cotton mills at Ancoats. It is Grade II listed and reputedly includes the oldest brick chimney in Manchester, as well as its original stair tower. There is a 'shipping hole', or entrance for barges, directly off the Rochdale Canal.
Brownsfield Mill was built as a 'room and power' mill — the mill owner offered floor space for rent with power from line-shafting provided. The original 1825 section is 12 bays long and seven storeys high. A six storey wing was added later, hence the L-shape. The newer wing has higher ceiling heights but an identical roof line. The roof is supported by timber Queen trusses.
The mill was steam powered, with an internal engine house. Unusually, it had underground boilers and the split-level mill yard. The mill is of heavy timber construction internally, with thick floorboards on heavy timber beams supported by cast iron columns. This technique was widely used in the USA, where it was referred to as 'slow-burning construction' and the large timbers provided greater fire resistance. The extra heft allowed heavy machinery to be located on upper floors.
Recent work by developers Town Centre Securities plc with architect Ian Simpson has converted the mill to office space on the upper floors and retail and leisure uses at ground and lower ground floor levels.
Research: ECPK
b i b l i o g r p a p h y
"Cotton Mills In Greater Manchester" by Mike Williams with D A Farnie
Carnegie Publishing Ltd, 1992
www.chadderton-hs.freeuk.com
www.ctie.monash.edu.au/hargrave/roe.html
www.manchester2002-uk.com
www.mosi.org.uk
www.verdon-roe.co.uk
reference sources   DNB
Location

Avro Ltd Aircraft Plant (Brownsfield Mill)