,Following the recent 62nd anniversary of the modernized and expanded London Gatwick Airport, we went digging in our extensive AirportHistory archives. From this, we found a batch of very rare color images of the airport taken shortly after opening of the newly-built terminal. Have a good look and enjoy!
A (VERY) SHORT HISTORY
Initially known as the Surrey Aero Club, Gatwick had existed since 1930. Four years later, Gatwick, located 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of Central London, became the reliever airport for Croydon Airport, then the main airport for London.
Two years later, in 1936, the trendsetting "Beehive" terminal was dedicated. Among others, the Beehive featured predecessors of the modern boarding bridge.
In July 1952, it was decided to modernize and expand Gatwick. The airport was to serve as a reliever airport for Heathrow--then still called London Airport--focusing on flights to the Channel Islands and Mediterranean holiday destinations.
The Stage 1 scheme involved the erection of a box-like terminal building and pier, the construction of a new railway station to serve the airport, and a 7,000-foot (2,134-meter) single runway with associated high-speed taxiways, parking areas and aprons.
On June 9th, 1958, the expanded London Gatwick Airport was dedicated by the Queen. Having cost GBP 7.8 million, Gatwick became the first airport in the world with an integrated railway station.
Now, without further ado, let's have a look at the images!
An image taken from the airfield operations control room, looking east toward the terminal building. The terminal, designed by Yorke, Rosenberg & Mardall, boasted three levels and was designed with expansion in mind. These gentlemen certainly were no Eero Saarinen (designer of Washington Dulles Airport and the TWA Flight Center in New York)! Then again, this building is still part of the current complex today. As I often say, the boxes last longest!
A 1958 interior view of the concourse level of the terminal, taken from the mezzanine level. The Stage 1 terminal measured 350 by 130 feet (107 x 40 meter) and contained two rows of check-in desks, the other row being located to the left of the image behind the shops. Airline offices were located behind the check-in desks. The advertisement in the back at the mezzanine level reads "Remington Rand", an American company that made office equipment, including typewriters.
Another view looking east toward the exit toward the train station, which was connected to the eastern end of the terminal. A small curbside was located to the north of the terminal, or toward the left in this picture. I assume "Business for Prosperity" was a typical post-war reconstruction slogan but could not find a reference to it on the web.
Unfortunately the quality of this image is not optimal but it's too interesting to exclude. This view looks east toward the pier. Check in desks are located to the left and right. The green sign at the end reads "departure gates 1 to 18". The mezzanine level contained bars and restaurants. The blue signs read "restaurant and cocktail bar" and "buffet and bar".
This image is actually not from 1958. This aerial view was taken some time after completion of the airport's expansion in 1965, which included the doubling of the terminal, the construction of two more piers and extension of the runway to 8,200 feet (2,500 meters), making it suitable for jets. Color aerials from this period are very rare, which is why I wanted to include it.
We hope you enjoyed these photos. Do you remember visiting 1950s and 1960s Gatwick? Leave a comment below!
In the future, we'll be posting a full history on Gatwick Airport as well as more themed photo specials.
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Marnix (Max) Groot Founder of AirportHistory.org. Max is an airport development expert and historian.