Saturday, December 19, 2015

London furniture factory that built planes for both world wars: Amazing images show women and boys making aircraft wings... and Hitchcock fans might recognize the building

When John Waring and Robert Gillow set up their furniture business in 1903, little did they know that one day their factory would help Britain win both world wars.

Their factory in Hammersmith, west London, was used to manufacture cabinets and other high-end furnishings but all that changed at the outbreak of the First World War - when they instead started producing aircraft.  

These amazing photographs show women and boys hard at work as they put together biplanes and triplanes. 

And years later, the Waring & Gillow factory would also make the iconic Mosquito light bomber, which was put to devastating effect in the Second World War. 

The company was created after Gillow and Waring merged their respective mahogany and cabinet-making businesses. 

At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, powered aircraft flight was just over a decade old and the British air services had only 272 machines in action.

But as the home effort picked up, manufacturers were mobilized and by 1918 the newly formed RAF could call on 22,000 aircraft. 

The Waring & Gillow factory had transformed into the Alliance Aeroplane Company towards the end of the First World War.

After the war, the factory focused on civilian aircraft, producing the P2 Seabird which set the record for the longest non-stop flight in 1919 from London to Madrid, taking seven and a half hours.

The factory briefly housed a Renault garage in the 1930s, before it returned to manufacturing planes when the Second World War broke out.

It produced parts for the iconic Mosquito light bomber, the fastest aircraft at the time with a top speed of 397mph.

The building was also featured in Alfred Hitchcock's 1936 film Secret Agent, which follows three British agents who are assigned to assassinate a German spy during WWI. 

It appeared as a chocolate factory in the film, with Nestle providing staff and machinery as extras for the production. 

The factory has recently been developed, and the building, which will officially open in January, has been named The Aircraft Factory to honour Waring & Gillow's heritage.

Dan Hanmer, Head of CBRE CreativeLondon, said: 'London's skyline is a patchwork of buildings steeped in rich history, and many of them are as important for the city's cultural foundations as they are for the businesses that now occupy them.

'The Aircraft Factory is one such site, of critical military importance during both world wars, now becoming a beacon for media and tech companies in West London.'

John Goodier, Chairman of the Hammersmith and Fulham Historic Buildings Group, added: 'We are very pleased to see an old building being found a new use, and we welcome the commemoration of Hammersmith's important industrial past.

'This building is one of many in Hammersmith and across London that contributed to the war effort in both world wars.' 

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