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Welcome to 134's History Archive

  134 ATC 134 RAF Cardington/Airships  
Cardington Airship Sheds

Cardington Airship Sheds

1917 Site bought by Admiralty for development of airships. Original Shed No 1 constructed
1918 R31 Airship constructed
1919 Air Ministry ownership - Royal Airship Works. R32 constructed
1921-24 R33/38 airships - R33 at Cardington on trials and R38 built for American Navy (known as ZR2 at Cardington)
1924 Authorisation of R101 construction at Cardington and R100 at Howden, Yorkshire
1927 Extension of Shed Not completed to house R101
1928-29 Shed dismantled at Pulham, Norfolk, and enlarged and re-erected as Shed No 2 at Cardington
1930  R101 crashes in France-48 people die
1931 Government decide against further airship development. R100, designed by Barnes Wallis, scrapped despite successful return flight to Montreal
1936 Cardington became RAF station used for storage and training of balloon operators and drivers
1943-67 Meteorological research balloons-training unit, development and storage
1967 RAF Balloon Unit leaves Cardington
1971 Fire Research Station use Cardington for gas explosion experiments and for investigating fires in high-rack storage
1972 Fire Research Station negotiate 20 year lease with MOD and begin 
1989 developing full scale testing and fire research
1990 Shed No 2 transferred to Building Research Establishment (BRE) in March BRE becomes an Executive Agency
1993 Large Building Test Facility (LBTF) - first test building, the eight-storey steel frame building constructed

Vital statistics

  • 812 feet (247 m) long by 275 feet (83 m) wide and 180 feet (55 m) high
  • Floor area 5 acres (2.02 hectares), or 223,300 square feet
  • Total volume 26,000,000 cubic feet (760,000 cubic metres)
  • Total area of steel sheeting 121/2 acres (5 hectares)
  • Total weight of framework 3,720 tons
  • Total weight of paint 4 tons
  • Raised by 35 feet (10.7 m) and extended by 56 feet (17 m) when re-erected at Cardington after being moved from
  • Pulham in 1928-29. Doors
  • Each door weighs 470 tons (222 tons of steel and 248 tons of concrete ballast) 33 tons is carried on each wheel - as much as 60 tons in very high winds
  • Electric motors take 15 minutes to close the doors.
  • The floor area of the hangar (223,300 square feet) is equal to twice the size of the Wembley football pitch or the area of 16 Olympic-size swimming pools.
  • The volume of the hangar (26,000,000 cubic feet) is equal to 8,338 London double-deck buses.

or, another way:

  • The World War II aircraft carrier Ark Royal which was sunk in 1941 off Gibraltar was 800 feet long by 95 feet beam (wide). This would have fitted inside the main hall of the hangar which is 812 feet long by 180 feet wide 
  • Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, 170 feet high, could easily stand inside the

Airship details - R100 and R101

His Majesty's Airship R100 (kept in Shed No 2)
Designed by Barnes Wallis and built by the Airship Guarantee Company in 1929 at Howden in Yorkshire.
Length 709 feet, diameter 130 feet, volume 5 156 000 cubic feet.
Powered by six Rolls Royce engines giving a maximum speed of 83 mph. Crossed the Atlantic in both directions in July 1930, flying 3 364 miles in under 80 hours.
Scrapped inside Shed No 2 in 1931, to the value of f450.

His Majesty's Airship R101 (built and housed in Shed No 1) Built by the Air Ministry in 1929.
Length 777 feet, diameter 132 feet, volume 5 500 000 cubic feet.
Powered by 5 Beardmore diesel engines giving a maximum speed of 72 mph.
Destroyed by fire on her maiden flight at Beauvais, France, at 2.08 am, 5 October 1930, killing 48 people.

Major refurbishment of Shed No 2

The Building Research Establishment recently undertook a major programme of refurbishment at Cardington to return the Grade II listed building to its former glory. The completed project received a commendation from the Civic Trust at their awards ceremony in London in March 1995.
Because of the building's listed status the corrugated steel cladding had to be replaced on a like-for-like basis so that the exterior retained its original appearance.
Special 1.2 mm thick galvanised corrugated steel sheets had to be commissioned from British Steel. These underwent a special powder coating process and were pre-drilled for the hook bolts used to fix the staggered lap cladding to the hangar frame.
The 1.5 million refurbishment contract ran over an eight-month period. Six acres of cladding were replaced around the four sides of the building. Roughly half of the new cladding was used to completely resheet the north side. Five rows of glazing were fitted to the north, east and south walls to return the building to its original 1928 specification (Some of the original glazing had been replaced by steel sheeting at various points in the building's life).
Some interesting numbers
In all, 300 tonnes of sheeting, 180 000 hook bolts and 50 000 seam pins were used in the refurbishment. The complex scaffolding used 24 900 scaffold boards, 2 500 feet of ladders and 415 000 feet of scaffolding tubing.

For more info on Airships and the Cardington Airship Sheds please visit the website of the Airship Heritage Trust, under the links menu

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