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Cardington Airship Hangars
Shortstown, Bedfordshire, UK
Cardington Airship Hangars
associated engineer
Not known
date  1917, 1928
UK era  Modern  |  category  Airfield/Hangar/Aeronautics  |  reference  TL080468
ICE reference number  HEW 56
photo  PHEW
Shed No.1 and Shed No.2 at the former Cardington RAF base are the last visible remains of Britain's airship activity, apart from a small balloon shed at Farnborough. They are Grade II listed.
Shed No.1 is the most westerly. It stands were it was built in 1917 on land bought by the Admiralty for an airship works. When built it was 213.4m long, had a clear width of 55.3m and a clear height at its centre of 37.2m. It had full-height sliding doors at both ends. Airships R31 and R32 were constructed in this shed.
In 1921, Cardington became the Royal Airship Works and R38 had its first flight here. Interest in airships was renewed in 1924 and two new ones were commissioned R100 by Barnes Wallis (built at Howden) and R101 built at Cardington.
Shed No.1 had to be enlarged to construct R101, which was 223m long and a little over 40m in diameter. The work was done in 1926-7. The shed was lengthened, the base A-frames widened and the roof was raised.
In 1928, an airship hanger at Pulham in Norfolk was dismantled and moved to Cardington and re-erected as Shed No.2 to house R100.
R101 was launched on 12th October 1929. It was to have a sad end, as it crashed in France a year later, killing most of those on board. R100 was broken up a year later. This brought airship development in Britain to an end until the 1970s, when when smaller more manoeuvrable craft were developed at Cardington.
The demise of the R101 in 1930 killed off the government's plans for the Empire Communications Scheme. They had envisaged airship coverage of outlying locations in the British Empire for mail and passenger services. The proposed destinations were to include the UK, Canada, Egypt and India. Facilities were built in these countries in readiness for a service that never really got off the ground. Cardington had been the designated UK operations base.
The sheds are constructed of steel portal frames with pin joints at the crown and in the side walls. The doors were originally capstan operated but now there are powered doors on transverse tracks. Shed No.2 is in the better condition, having had repairs done to it in the 1970s and in 1986.
For many years the sheds housed part of the RAF Museum. More recently, Shed No.2 was used by the Building Research Establishment for tests, including the full-scale load & fire testing of multi-storey buildings.
Contractor: A.J. Main & Co
Enlargement work: Cleveland Bridge Co
reference sources   researchCEH E&C

Cardington Airship Hangars