The fascinating hidden history of Woodley

headley road east woodley
This is Headley road east in Woodley, Berkshire. Woodley is a town of some industrial units and much housing just outside Reading.

I have driven along this road many times. Many people do. And I am sure most people do not think twice about the area. It’s a dormitory town.

But some of the road names give a little clue to an exciting local history:

  • Hurricane way
  • Lysander close
  • Victor way
  • Nimrod close
  • Spitfire way

In fact, this road is on the edge of the former Woodley aerodrome, where 6,000 civil and military aircraft were built and first flown between 1933 and 1962. It was where Douglas Bader had a flying accident, which led to both his legs being amputated at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, recorded in his diary laconically as:

Crashed slow-rolling near ground. Bad show.

It was also where some of the first ballpoint pens (Biros) in the world were mass produced, firstly during the war for the RAF and the navy, followed by general mass production after the war.

The building on the right in my photo (with apologies for my rather befuddled geography) was part of the Miles Aircraft factory, later used by Handley Page aircraft company and then by Adwest.

The Digital Noise photography website has some great photos and commentary on the old Miles aircraft factory.

And the nearby Berkshire museum of aviation is a mine of information and artefacts, including whole planes, related to this subject.

2 thoughts on “The fascinating hidden history of Woodley

  1. Remember the old airfield well. Lived in Wilmington close,in Woodley as a young boy from 1966 then aged 11 years until 1974. Spent many hours on the old airfield at weekends and during school breaks as of my great interest in airfields even at that age, if only video cameras were about then like today,and when old enough The Falcon pub in part of the old control tower.Can picture it as if yesterday two T2 hangers painted black next to the water tower at the start of the perimeter track at the end of Headley Rd and the remains of aircraft pens more or less near a couple of cess pits a cross the lane,and the aircraft buildings slightly below the perimeter track on the bend on the left heading towards Sandford mill if my memory serves me right.Came home more with small metal bits and peace,s needless to say they vanished knowing what my Mother was like ended up in the bin or given to the rag & bone man for scrap could of been worth something today on ebay or to a collector or museum would have been nice to saved something.

  2. Woodley aerodrome never had a “control tower”. It had a watch keeping shed at the end of the field where the RAf EFS was.There were never any “aircraft pens”

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