The name "Gatwick" was first recorded, as Gatwik in 1241, meaning the name of a manor, on the site of today's airport (under the northmost edge of North Terminal's aircraft taxiing area). Until the 19th century, it was owned by the De Gatwick family.Its name is derived from the Anglo-Saxon words gāt, 'goat', and wīc, 'dairy farm', i.e. 'goat farm
The London and Brighton Railway opened on 21 September 1841, running near Gatwick Manor. In 1890, the descendants of the original owners sold the area to the newly established Gatwick Race Course Company. The new owners opened a horse racecourse the following year, beside the London-Brighton railway and a dedicated station including sidings for horse boxes.The course held steeplechase and flat race
In the late 1920s, land adjacent to the racecourse at Hunts Green Farm along Tinsley Green Lane was used as an aerodrome. The aerodrome was licensed in August 1930 as Gatwick Aerodrome following a change in land ownership.
Later in 1930, the Surrey Aero Club was formed at the aerodrome by a Ronald Waters, who had been the manager of Home Counties Aircraft Service Ltd based at Penshurst Airfield in Kent. Surrey Aero Club used the old Hunts Green farmhouse as club house.
Redwing Aircraft Company bought the aerodrome in 1932 and operated a flying school. The aerodrome was also used for pilots flying in to races. In 1933, the Air Ministry approved commercial flights from Gatwick. The aerodrome was sold for to Morris Jackaman, an investor. Jackaman formed a new airport company named Airports Limited in 1934. Hillman's Airways became Gatwick's first commercial airline operator, starting scheduled services from the airport to Belfast and Paris.
In 1935, a new airline named Allied British Airways was formed, by a merger between Hillman's Airways, United Airways and Spartan Airways. The newly formed carrier, which subsequently shortened its name to British Airways, became Gatwick's principal operator.Lack of adequate space at Heston resulted in Airwork Ltd relocating to Gatwick.station called Gatwick opened, served by two trains per hour on the Victoria - Brighton line. On 30 September, Tinsley Green railway station opened 0.85 mi south of the present Gatwick station.
British Airways Ltd. DH.86 beside the Beehive terminal building in 1936
On 6 July 1935, the aerodrome closed temporarily for building works, which included construction of The Beehive, the world's first circular terminal building. In September 1935, the new railway station called Gatwick opened, served by two trains per hour on the Victoria - Brighton line. On 30 September, Tinsley Green railway station opened 0.85 mi south of the present Gatwick station.
The first scheduled flight to depart the airport from The Beehive terminal was made on May 1936, bound for Paris. The applicable air fare was £4 5s, including a first class rail ticket from London VictoriaThe airport was officially reopened on 6 June 1936 by the Secretary of State for Air, Lord Swinton. The formal opening ceremony of The Beehive, the airport's new terminal, was held on the same day. The Beehive was the first circular airport terminal in the world. It was designed by Frank Hoar and incorporated several novel features, including a subway to the already existing railway station at Tinsley Green that let passengers travel from London Victoria Station to the aircraft without stepping outside. Following the airport's official reopening, Tinsley Green railway station was renamed Gatwick Airport. Air Travel Ltd, which had relocated to Gatwick from Penshurst, moved into the new airport's aircraft hangar.
In both September and November 1936, two fatal accidents occurred, causing the airport's safety to be questioned. Moreover, the area was prone to fog and waterlogging as a result of poor drainage due to heavy clay soils. This in turn caused the new subway to flood after rain. As a result and because longer landing strips were needed, the pre-war British Airways moved to Croydon Airport in 1937. Gatwick returned to
private flying and was contracted as a Royal Air Force (RAF) flying school. The airport also attracted repair companies.
Gatwick was requisitioned by the Air Ministry in September and became a base for RAF night-fighters and an Army co-operation squadron during the Second World War as mainly a repair and maintenance facility Horse racing at Gatwick ceased in 1940.
Gatwick Airport was officially decommissioned in 1946, but the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation continued to operate it as a civil airfield, initially for a six-month trial periodDuring that period, Airwork provided maintenance facilities at Gatwick and other contemporary charter airlines flying war-surplus aircraft started to use the airport; however, persistent drainage issues affected the airport's usage. Most commercial air services were cargo flights. The original Gatwick railway station was renamed Gatwick Racecourse.
In November 1948, the airport's owners warned that it could be de-requisitioned by November 1949 and revert to private use. Stansted was favoured as London's second airport and Gatwick's future was in doubt. In 1950, despite opposition from local authorities, the Cabinet chose Gatwick as an alternative to Heathrow. British European Airways (BEA) began operating from Gatwick to the Channel Islands
In May 1950, Gatwick's first chartered flight departed the original airport's grass runway for Calvi on the Mediterranean island of Corsica with a refuelling stop in Nice. Jersey-based UK independentairline Air Transport Charter (C.I.) Ltd operated this flight under contract to UK package tour pioneer Vladimir Raitz's Horizon Holidays, using a 32-seat Douglas DC-3 carrying 11 passengers
In July 1952, the British government confirmed that the airport would be developed, primarily to cater for aircraft diverted from Heathrow in bad weather. That year, BEA established a base at Gatwick for its helicopter operations
The airport was temporarily closed between 1956 and 1958 for million renovation. During that period, BEA continued using Gatwick for its helicopter operations.The redevelopment was carried out by Alfred McAlpine.It entailed diverting the A23 London–Brighton trunk road and the River Mole, and building the runway across the erstwhile racecourse site and rebuilding the former racecourse railway station alongside the new terminal. The main pier of what is now the South Terminal was built during this construction work.
On 27 May 1958, the original Gatwick railway station, which had been rebuilt, reopened as Gatwick Airport station. The railway station at Tinsley
Green was closed. Before the official opening, Transair operated the first commercial air service from the new Gatwick on 30 May a Jersey Airlines de Havilland Heron was the first scheduled aircraft to arrive at the newly reconstructed airport.
Queen Elizabeth II flew into the new airport on 9 June 1958 in a de Havilland Heron of the Queen's Flight to perform the opening. The first "official" flight to depart Gatwick following the reopening ceremony was a BEA DC-3 operating a charter for Surrey County Council to Jersey and Guernsey Gatwick was the world's first airport with a direct railway link and the first to combine mainline rail travel, trunk road facilities and an air terminal building in one unit.It was also one of the first to have an enclosed pier-based terminal, which allowed passengers to walk under cover to waiting areas close to aircraft with only a short walk outdoors. Another novel feature of Gatwick's new air terminal was its modular design. This permitted subsequent, phased expansion
Between 1958 and 1959, Sudan Airways and BWIA West Indies Airways were among Gatwick's first scheduled overseas airlines. The former's Blue Nile services were the first scheduled flights from Gatwick by a foreign airline. These services operated between Khartoum and London Gatwick via Cairo, Athens and Rome, initially using Airwork Vickers Viscount aircraft. US supplemental carriersSeven Seas Airlines, Capitol International, President Airlines and Transocean Airlines, as well as various South European and Scandinavian charter airlines, figured prominently among Gatwick's early overseas users
From the late 1950s onwards, a number of Britain's contemporary private airlines joined Airwork, Gatwick's only surviving pre-war private airline, at the airport. The first was Transair, which relocated to Gatwick from Croydon Airport.It was followed by Morton Air Services and Hunting-Clan, which relocated from Croydon and Heathrow respectively. In July 1960, these merged with Airwork and Southend-based Air Charter to form British United Airways (BUA). BUA assumed its predecessors' services,and became Britain's biggest independent and Gatwick's foremost resident airline in the 1960s. By the end of the decade, it also became the airport's leading scheduled operator, with a 44,100 mi (71,000 km) network of short, medium and long-haul routes across Europe, Africa and South America. These were served with contemporary BAC One-Eleven and Vickers VC10 jet aircraft.
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