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The Trust - Its Objectives And Its Works
List of Founder Members (FOCAS)
Our History
Membership Information
Bedford Museum Display

The Airship Heritage Trust was set up in 1985 by a group of dedicated enthusiasts and relatives of the original crew members. Over the last few years from its humble beginning the Trust has grown and worked very hard to where it is today, with it's membership of over 300 worldwide.

The work carried out by a dedicated band of enthusiasts can be followed in "Our History", which gives the full insight in to a lot of the little known trials and tribulations regarding how difficult the road we have traveled to get where we are today.

The Trust has Council which is a group of "next generation" enthusiasts, whom are younger than the original members but are just as enthusiastic about Cardington, the Airships and belonging to an organisation dedicated to protecting the history for the future

Many of the membership do not live in the Bedford area, however still help out in promoting the Trust with lectures and displays in their own locale.

Airship Heritage Trust - an Overview

Following the closure of the Royal Airship Works in 1936, it was the forethought of employee, Leslie Speed who worked on the airship programme, to salvage and store many of the original records, artifact and photographs.

The Organisation:

Set up in 1985 by the relatives of the 1921-36 airship programme and originally known as F.O.C.A.S (Friends of the Cardington Airship Station).

The Trust has been determined to establish a national airship museum at a suitable location but changes in ownership and use of the airship sheds at Cardington has meant that the Trust has had to look elsewhere for a home.

An alternative venue at the nearby Shuttleworth Collection was explored but proved unsuitable. The Trust is now in active discussions with the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton for some of the Trust's collections to be incorporated into their displays - reflecting the historic links between British airships and the Royal Navy. Throughout this period, the AHT has been supported by the Rope Trust, a charitable organisation linked to the family of Sqn Ldr Michael Rope, a highly talented airship engineer who died on the R101.

With much of the original collection added to over the years, the collection includes many unusual artifact and rare photographs. The AHT records and administers a major source of British airship history.

Objectives:

The main objectives of the Trust are

  • To foster and promote the study of the history of airships and present this to the public.
  • To stimulate the interest in Cardington as an airship base and conserve itís principle buildings.

Since 1987, one of our four principal objects of the Airship Heritage Trust, as set out in it's Articles of Association has been to "stimulate public interest in the role of Cardington as an airship base and in the conservation of the principal buildings thereof". It has not - and never has been - the Trust's role to seek the preservation of the whole of the Cardington site nor to seek the retention of the flying field for current or future airship operations. Following the restoration of the Shorts Building our main aim must be now to try to ensure that the two Cardington Sheds are preserved as historic structures, irrespective of whether they are used for lighter-than-air purpose's in the future. It has been the policy of the Trust over a number of years not to comment on planning applications relating to the Cardington site because these have not, generally, been in conflict with the Trust's principal objects. However individual members of the Airship Heritage Trust have been entirely free to submit comments and objections to the relevant planning bodies if they have wished to do so. Following discussions with both English Heritage and Bedford Borough Council regarding the current planning applications submitted by Fosbern Manufacturing Limited, the Trust's Council has found no reason to depart from this policy in the present case.

Trust has moved it's collection with partnership with the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton with a major part of the Trust's collections to be incorporated into their displays. The Trust's extensive library is housed at Cranfield University Library and is available to members and the public. Today the AHT continues to strive to carry out it's objectives in the promotion of the study and history of airships. Many of our members offer lectures to organisations and along with a mobile display which can be seen at local events. The Trust has close links with the RAF Museum, British Balloon Museum and Library, the Airship Association and many other organisations.

The 2010 80th Anniversary year showed an extensive display of the some of the collection in the new gallery at the Bedford museum. Details of the display can be found here

Talks and Lectures

We believe passionately at sharing the story of British airships and their fascinating stories of the people behind the ships, the technology and their place in history, which is often overlooked. If you would like us to come and give a talk to you, then please contact us

The Trust's council and members also offer talks and lectures to history societies and schools, those detailed below are some of the talks in the last 2 years:

  Organisation Location
  Irchester Historical Society Irchester Library
  Institute of Mechanical Engineers Luton
  St Albans Rotary Club St Albans Saint’s Rugby Club
  Rotary Club of Walton-on-Thames Burhill Golf Club. Walton-on-Thames
  The Aston Martin Owners Club The Kings Arms, Cardington
  ATC Biggin Hill 2427 Squadron Biggin Hill Airfield, Biggin Hill
  St Paul’s Church, Bedford St Paul’s Sq, Bedford
  White Waltham Flying Club White Waltham.
  AGM of the Airship Association London
  Shortstown/Bedford - For Resident Shorts Bldg,Shortstown
  Milton Keynes Aviation Society Miton Keynes
  International Nevil Schute Conference Baliol College, Oxford
  Shuttlewoth Collection Annual Lecture Shuttleworth Collegel(Old Warden)
  Leighton Buzzard Archaeological and Historical Society Leighton Buzzard
     

Local Support

The Airship Heritage Trust realises the importance of local support for history, and so finances the improvement and is committed to the ongoing maintenance and upkeep of the R101 memorial tomb, at the St Mary's Church, Cardington. Click here to show the work being undertaken

For the children of Shortstown Primary School, the Airship Heritage Trust financed a display of a model of the R101, with a scale model of the school below the ship to show the true scale of the airship. The Trust also financed the frame display of the R101 tapestry, again on show to the children at Shortstown Primary School. The Trust is also proud to offer financial assistance to the Shortstown Heritage Gateway Project.

The Trust also was instrumental and worked with the Transport Trust to have the Short's Building (also known as the Adminstration Block) recognised for it's historical importance, and had a Transport Trust "Red Wheel" accreditation, placed on the building.

The R101 Memorial at St Mary's Church, Cardington
Shortstown School R101 model and tapestry
Transport Trust Red Wheel

Photo Gallery some of the contents of the collection and Museum - when based at R A F Cardington, also activities taken by the Trust and it's members.
Above are a selection of display items and detailed models by AHT member George Ambridge
Some of the Airship Heritage Trust items on dispaly at the Bedford Museum display 2010
 
A display set up for the Cardington Inflation Day The display put on for the Shuttleworth Millennium Event Trevor Monk's Sponsored walk to the sheds Alastair Lawson's Sponsored Bungee Jump AHT Mobile Display at Harpenden Library
       


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