Former workers at Cunliffe-Owen and Cierva Autogiro spoke of their days building new types of aircraft. Some models were successful, others less so.

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My father, he was originally a radio operator at sea…but he worked here in this plant for Cunliffe Owen Aircraft, wiring the planes, you know.

Leonard H

I trained to be a fitter and that’s how I came to go up to Cunliffe Owen. Then I worked on the Seafire wings up there. It was like a Spitfire but the wings folded up and I did all the pipe work inside the wings that worked the guns and airspeed and that sort of thing.

Most of the men did the riveting, but the girls did the…they were like a riveter’s mate. The girls did the lighter part of it. We felt as though we were doing something towards, you know, winning the war.

Marion G

I spent a lot of time roaming around the factory having a lot of spare time and that’s where I came across the wooden mock-up of the Concordia, which was stacked up against the main office block.

Alan B

That’s when I went to work for the Cierva Autogiro Company. It was actually in Cunliffe-Owen’s in this very large hangar. At the time it was the biggest hangar in the country. And we rented just a small part of it.

And the two big projects they had on the go was building the Air Horse, which turned out to be at the time the largest helicopter in the world. And they also designed the two-seater helicopter called the Skeeter.

Towards the end, unfortunately, this big helicopter, the Air Horse, developed a fault while it was flying and crashed.

Maurice W

It was designed to be a crop sprayer apparently and I think the loss of it and the other... and the Concordia virtually finished the work in Cunliffe-Owen as far as the aircraft were concerned you know.

It seemed to me that the... after the aftermath of the war things were beginning to slow down. After the Air Horse, Cierva closed down virtually, you know, the work was dwindling. Although they still continued to make jet pipes and combustion chambers for Rolls Royce.

I left when it was still Cunliffe-Owen, you know. It was beginning to slowly fade. It didn’t surprise me when Briggs took it over, not at all, you know.

Alan B