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At the Museum of Croydon


Today a volunteer Ian (our faithful courier) and myself delivered the Croydon Calling pop up exhibition to the Museum of Croydon where it will be on display until Saturday 9 January 2016. Museum Opening times are Tuesday to Saturday 10.30am to 5pm and they are located in the centre of Croydon in Croydon Clocktower on Katherine St – see the website for more

The model of Hengist

information. The exhibition itself is in the research room and around the museum area rather than in the actual museum itself.

The Museum of Croydon does boast a model aircraft hanging from the ceiling to represent Croydon Airport and its importance in the local area in the 1920s and 30s. The model is that of Imperial Airways Handley Page (HP) 42 Hengist. These aircaft (HP 42) would have been seen regularly flying to and from Croydon Airport on the European (or West) route and the African and Indian (or East) routes for Imperial Airways Limited. There is more about the HP42 in this post from August.

Hengist at Croydon Airport

The planes were named after historical and quasi-mythical heroes, such as Hannibal or Hengist. Hengist was an Anglo-Saxon leader who occupied Britain in 5th century AD. The plane Hengist first served on the European route, meaning it took up to 38 passengers and a few stewards, until 1934 when it was converted to the ‘eastern type’, meaning that it could take only 24 passengers but could carry more fuel to be able to cross further distances without stopping. 

An interior of an HP42

The HP42 were designed for passenger confort with maximum safety in mind – ‘4 engines for security’ was one of the strap lines used to advertise flights – and the passenger areas were based on the comfortable Pullman railway coaches. The luxuorious service of the Silver Wing Flight to Paris has already been written about on this blog and is the subject of one of the panels in the exhibition. Hengist was one of the planes used on this service in 1931.

However, Hengist also carried out a ‘first’: the first service from London to Brisbane in Australia – a joint venture between Imperial Airways and Quantas. It left Croydon on 8 December 1934 with the mail bag for Australia, containing letters from the King and Queen and Prince of Wales, and was scheduled to arrive there on 20 December. Unfortunately, Hengist was destroyed by a fire in Karachi in 1937 when a cleaner accidentally set off the flares on the plane; tragically Imperial Airways employee Doug Dugdale died in the fire too.

Hengist at Karachi (before the fire!)

Do take a respite from shopping and eating to visit the museum over the holiday period to see our exhibition, then look up to find the model of Hengist in the museum too.

Croydon Airport Calling is in various spaces at the Museum of Croydon from Tuesday 8 December to Saturday 9 January 2016 10.30am – 5pm. (Closed Christmas and New Year Bank Holidays).

The Croydon Airport Visitor Centre is next open on Sunday 3 January 2016.

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