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Avro Ltd Aircraft Plant, Chadderton
Greengate, Chadderton, near Oldham, Lancashire, UK
associated engineer
Avro Ltd
date  1938 - March 1939
UK era  Modern  |  category  Factory/Industrial Plant  |  reference  SD885036
Increasing demand for aircraft in the 1930s, with war imminent, led to the building of Avro’s Chadderton plant, which was twice the size of contemporary aeroplane factories. The site became the headquarters of Avro Ltd.
Chadderton was operational from March 1939, with Roy Dobson as Managing Director and Roy Chadwick as Chief Designer. The plant manufactured the main aircraft components, which were then transported by road to the company’s airfield at Woodford, Stockport, for assembly, test flights and delivery. This opened in 1924 and is now owned by BAE Systems.
The first aircraft built at Chadderton was not an in-house design — engineers produced the Bristol Blenheim twin-engine bomber under licence. Then the company developed the Manchester twin-engine bomber, although the plane was prone to engine trouble. Chadwick replaced the two Rolls Royce Vulture engines with four Merlin engines, used to great effect in Spitfire and Hurricane fighters, and produced the Lancaster bomber.
The Lancaster’s maiden flight was on 9th January 1941. More than 7,000 Lancasters were made during World War II (1939-45), almost half of them at Chadderton.
Demand for wartime air power was so great that the floor area at Chadderton was increased from 70,000 to more than 93,000 square metres by 1943. The labour force peaked at 11,267 people, one fifth of whom were women.
In 1951 Avro again manufactured other aircraft under licence, this time 75 Canberra twin-jet bombers. In 1959-60, the plant suffered a series of fires but after repairs had been carried out the company built a secure compound where the top secret W100 Blue Steel stand-off missile was developed for the RAF.
The factory developed many more aircraft including the York, Lincoln, Tudor, Athena, Ashton, Avro 707, Avro 748, Shackleton, Vulcan and Nimrod. The Shackleton was a maritime reconnaissance aircraft, used by the RAF for more than 40 years. The famous Vulcan jet bomber, with its delta wings, was the backbone of Britain’s nuclear deterrent for over three decades.
The name Avro Ltd ceased to exist on 1st July 1963, when it became part of Hawker Siddeley Aviation Ltd, together with Armstrong Whitworth, de Havilland and Hawker. The company returned to the civil aviation market in 1967, and became part of British Aerospace in 1977 when the industry was nationalised. The name was changed to BAE Systems in 1999.
In later years, from December 1696 to the 1990s, a large part of Chadderton’s work was manufacturing wing components for the European Airbus. The factory also produced components for in-house designs — Avro 748, ATP, BAE 146 and Avro RJ.
BAE Systems sold the Chadderton site in November 2004. Some defence repair business (DRB) and tanking transport and reconnaissance operations (TTRO) are still undertaken at the plant.
Research: ECPK

Avro Ltd Aircraft Plant, Chadderton