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Visiting Shoreham Airport, West Sussex, England: remembering aviation history at its Art Deco terminal

Updated on March 6, 2012
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
Propeller memorial outside Shoreham Airport.
Propeller memorial outside Shoreham Airport. | Source
Lancing College Chapel as seen from Shoreham Airport
Lancing College Chapel as seen from Shoreham Airport | Source
Map location of Shoreham-by-Sea, Great Britain
Map location of Shoreham-by-Sea, Great Britain | Source

Airport overlooked by architecturally distinguished Lancing College Chapel

Shoreham Airport, situated in Lancing, West Sussex, near Shoreham-by-Sea, is actually the oldest airport in England. It was first licensed as an airfield in 1910, only seven years after the Wright Brothers' famous success with a heavier than air, powered flight, and only the year after Louis Blériot flew the English Channel for the first time along the coast from Shoreham, arriving at Dover, Kent.

It is today known as Shoreham (Brighton City) Airport.

The Art Deco terminal building dates from 1936, and is thus noteworthy for being in continuous use today. The Art Deco lines of the building are typical of the 1930s and, as such, make the terminal building particularly suitable as a backdrop for period filming.

In front of the historic terminal building, a propeller is on display, which evokes the airport's military associations. The propeller displayed is from a Martin B-26 Marauder which ditched in the in June 1944 in the English Channel. Both in World War One and in World War Two, the airfield was given over to military use. Aircraft types flown from Shoreham Airport in World War Two includes the Spitfire, the Hurricane and the Lysander.

The airport building houses a site of Northbrook College, where aeronautical studies may be pursued. Schooling in flying at Shoreham dates, in fact, from before World War One.

The Airport is regularly used for air shows organized by the Royal Air Forces Association.

Included among the aircraft types which have been regularly associated with Shoreham Airport are the T6 Harvard, which aviation buffs will recognize as being a World War Two era type used for training. I recall seeing the piston engine running of a Harvard when I visited Shoreham Airport (and being disappointed that the light was not better than it was for photographic purposes!)

Well into the 21st century, scheduled air services were maintained between Shoreham Airport and a number of towns in northern France. The airport is now mainly known, however, as a general aviation facility.

A visitor centre contains historical displays.

Nearby Lancing College Chapel is an architecturally distinguished building which overlooks Shoreham Airport. This fine building, a regional landmark, dates from the 19th century and is in Medieval Gothic style. Its foundation stone was laid in 1868.

Also worth seeing

Brighton (distance: 19 kilometres); the Royal Brighton Pavilion is a well-known visitor attraction

Beachy Head, Eastbourne (distance: approx. 58 kilometres); these cliffs are spectacular.

Arundel (distance: 21 kilometres); there is a Medieval-origin castle in this town.

Croydon, Surrey (distance: 79 kilometres) has another, historic air terminal building, of interest to aviation buffs, which may be visited.


How to get there: Continental Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. (Distance from London Heathrow to Shoreham Airport: 115 kilometres.) For access by road, take M25/M23/A23/A27. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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