Built - No.25, R29 and R33 R39 (incomplete)
1913, a site had been purchased by Armstrong Whitworth, the
forth constructor who, like Beardmore, Shorts, and Vickers,
had competed for Government contracts to build rigid airships.
site was located near Selby in Yorkshire, and was intended
to be set up as a base of all of its aviation activities,
including the building of aeroplanes. Although the site
was seen as remote, being away from main areas of manufacture
and shipyards, which were along the densely populated River
Tyne, the site chosen was closer to the mainline railway
During the First World War, some consideration was given
to building and housing airships in dry docks, enclosed
with a roof, or even tunnels within hillsides. These approaches
were not taken seriously and Armstrong Whitworth planned
for housing the airships by conventional means, in a purpose
large airship shed was erected on land close to the River
Ouse, in 1913. Like all other airship projects at the time,
it was partly funded by the Treasury. The main contractor
for the building of the shed was awarded to A.J.Main &
Co. and a short branch line was constructed from the mainline,
Doncaster to Selby line.
construction, some future planning was undertaken and it
was agreed that the shed should already be enlarged, so
that it would meet the future requirements of airships.
By the end of 1916, a 700ft airship shed was nearing completion.
the Spring of 1917, the first Rigid airship was taking construction,
the No. 25. Workers from the Vickers Barrow-in-Furness site
were sent to assist with the construction of the ship. Armstrong
Whitworth transported the components from their works in
A railway siding had been placed next to the shed for the
ease of transfer of the components. In this time, the hydrogen
plant was also completed.
The sheds location was in the middle of a wood, and
although this may sound very curious, as all existing airship
sheds had been sited in open flat land. The reason for this
siting was that the trees would act as natural windbreaks,
however it was later decided to fell the trees around the
shed and artificial windbreaks were put in place.
construction works at Barlow, being a twin shed, could construct
two ships at a time. By the time the No.25 had made its
first flight in the end of 1917, the R29 was taking shape
under construction next to it. The R29 took flight not long
after on 29th May 1918, and delivered in June 1918 to East
Fortune in Scotland.
Shed under construction 1916 The wood can been seen either
side of the shed, the idea being that the trees would act
as a windbreak.
soon as the No.25 had vacated the space, the next ship,
designated the R33, was commenced in its place. As
sister ship, the R35, was almost completed by the time the
Armistice was signed in November 1918. Armstrong Whitworth
had hopes that there would still be a market for airships,
and plans were underway to complete a second large shed
at Barlow. Work continued on the R33, and in 1919, it was
completed and walked out of the shed.
plan had been proposed that the R33 make a trip to Newfoundland
in America, from Barlow, however the Admiralty intervened,
as it didnt want the R33 to return to the Barlow site,
as it was not classed as an operational airship station,
but a constructional site. It was also a conflict of interest
as the R34 was about to embark on its flight across
the Atlantic. In April 1920, the R33 was flown to Pulham,
and carried out its long and successful life from
the Pulham station.
R33 was the last airship to be completed at Barlow. Despite
the successes and speed of construction of airships during
the war, the only follow on order for Armstrong Whitworth
was for the R39, an Admiralty A Class ship. With the R33
completing her flight worthiness trials in March 1919, the
shed was vacated and so the construction of the R39 could
was later on following the Armistice, that the Government
later decided to cancel the order for the Admiralty A Class
ships, and so the order for the R39 was cancelled, however
some £90,000 (£4m 2019) had aldready been spent
on the construction of the R39.
Later in 1919, the workers received notice of redundancy
due to the fact that there were no further orders to fulfil.
shed was later dismantled later in the 1920s, and
without the extension of the shed, it would not have fitted
the plans for the next generation of airship.
Hydrogen plant (silcol process) was sold and moved to the
refurbished Howden site when the Airship Guarantee Company
took over the Howden site in 1924
Despite a few further schemes to use on the site, nothing
came to fruition. The site today is part of the Drax Power
station site, and part forms a nature reserve.
Barlow shed and the R33 before being launched
R33 emerging from the Barlow shed, the size of the shed can
be seen clearly.