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.

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