Shoreham - Britain's oldest airport

Living History

Shoreham - Britain's oldest airport

Founded in 1910, Shoreham Airport, near Brighton, is the oldest airport in the UK and the oldest purpose-built commercial airport in the world still in operation.

In 1910, a former student of nearby Lancing College, Harold Piffard, decided to create a flying base on a piece of grazing land near the river that runs between Lancing and Shoreham. Piffard was the first to fly from the future Shoreham airfield in 1910 and the aerodrome officially opened on 20th June 1911.

On the 4th of July, 1911 the airfield was the starting point for the first recorded cargo flight.

It served as a base for Alliott Verdon Roe (founder of Avro) and John Alcock (one of the first men to fly the Atlantic).

At the start of the First World War, the first flight of British military aircraft left from Shoreham to join the fighting in France.

In the 1930s the airfield became an airport for Brighton, Hove and Worthing and a new terminal building in the art deco style was opened in 1936. This building is still in use today and is now Grade II listed. 

During the Second World War, Shoreham again served as a military airfield, coming under attack several times.

The airfield survived and is still operational today and is used by light aircraft and flying schools. It has also featured as a location in several films and television programmes - especially period dramas due to its fine original features dating back to the 1930s.

The annual air show here has been discontinued since 2015, when a plane crashed into the major road nearby, causing 11 fatalities.

Shoreham Airport is now officially known as Brighton City Airport after a change of ownership in 2014.

Further reading

Shoreham Airport (Brighton City Airport) website

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