Fun and sun at Alcock and Brown centenary events

Bexley has this week seen a free fun-packed day in the sunshine at Hall Place & Gardens, a special royal visitor to Crayford and a packed theatre production to mark this year’s Alcock and Brown centenary celebrations. 

The events were the culmination of 10 years of hard work and planning by the Alcock and Brown Centenary Project Group (Crayford). They mark 100 years since Alcock & Brown made the first ever non-stop trans-Atlantic flight in a Vickers Vimy originally designed and built in the Vickers Factory in Crayford. The historic flight left Newfoundland, Canada on 14 June and flew 16.5 hours to Clifden on the west coast of Ireland.

The Mayor and the Duke of Kent pictured on the new Alcock and Brown bench sculpture in Crayford

Community day 

The Alcock and Brown centenary community day took place on Sunday (21 July) at Hall Place & Gardens. It was an amazing day packed full of fun, laughter and sunshine and a Guinness World Record attempt for the most model aeroplanes flown simultaneously. 

Hundreds of children, young people and their families flocked to the site. In the morning, the Mayor and Chairman of the Alcock and Brown Centenary Project Group (Crayford) Cllr Geraldene Lucia-Hennis met the members of the local scouts who won the competition to build a Model Vimy Aircraft. Their model then took to the air, thanks to local company Bronzeshield. 

A vintage village fair, refreshment stands, a wandering jazz band, the Swing Ninjas, Punch and Judy and ‘bubble football’ were all part of the day. Bexley Brewery were also on hand to sell their special commemorative Alcock and Brown’ beer. Then at around 3pm several hundred people gathered with their model aeroplanes to try and break the Guinness World Record for the number of model planes launched simultaneously to fly further than five metres. 

The day also included the annual Civic Society Local History Fair and the monthly Farmers Market. 

Royal visit 

On 23 July His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent KG visited Crayford to officially unveil a magnificent new Alcock and Brown bench sculpture. Local business Erith Group generously paid for the impressive functional piece of public art designed by artist Tony Stallard. It now sits outside the Tower Business Park close to the Clock Tower. 

Along with the bench, several plaques based on the aeronautical feat were unveiled. They were designed by local schools and the mental health arts group Centrepieces and support group Bexley Mooring Project. The plaques were made by ‘M@ke’, with support from the Learning and Enterprise Centre Bexley. 

The Duke’s visit coincided with the 100-year anniversary of Alcock and Brown’s visit to Crayford on 23 July 1919. They returned to celebrate their achievement at the re-opening of The Princesses Theatre by the then Duke of York (later King George VI). The HRH The Duke of Kent KG also paid a visit to Hall Place and Gardens, where he planted a Blue Cedar tree close to where his mother Her Royal Highness Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent CI planted a tree in 1952. 

Production of ‘The Magnificent Men’ 

On 25 July ‘The Magnificent Men’ production, a fun packed re-telling of the Alcock and Brown adventure, took place at the Civic Offices. More than 200 people were entertained by the hilarious free production. 

Exhibitions and talks 

The three events are not the end of the project. The free ‘Knights of the Air’ Alcock and Brown Centenary exhibition at Hall Place & Gardens includes an impressive detailed model of the Vimy aircraft that the men used to make the first trans-Atlantic flight. It is open to the public until 27 October.
Project Group member David Gillham will give a talk entitled ‘Yesterday we were in America’ at the Central Library Bexleyheath on 31 August at 2.30pm. Entry is free, but tickets must be pre-booked by calling 01322 621238. 

Alcock and Brown Centenary Project Group (Crayford) 

The project received a grant of £39,100 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) earlier this year.  The Alcock and Brown Centenary Project Group (Crayford) - which is made up of members of the Crayford community, local historical and community groups as well as businesses and supported by the London Borough of Bexley - applied for the funding for ‘Alcock and Brown – Knights of the Air’ projects throughout 2019.  

Find out more about the Group and any of the events held to mark the centenary.  

Photos of the week's events are available on the Council's Facebook page.