RFC/RAF Hooton Park, Cheshire
Visit Date(s): 08/10/08
Much of the technical infrastructure at Hooton Park was inherited from the site's use in the latter stages of World War 1. These are predominantly the three coupled General Service Sheds which dominate the technical site. In WW2, these were supplemented with the addition of a single B1, two Bellman's and a two Robin's, with a number of blister hangars around the site. Along with the expansion of the technical site, the airfield eventually received two paved runways, which were laid in 1941. Due to the geographical constraints of Hooton Park, one of these was short, so the airfield eventually found itself with 32/14 NW/SE (2500 yds/2286 m) and 04/22 NE/SW (1800 yds/1645 m). Accommodation was for a maximum of 546 personnel, all ranks. The whole airfield eventually covered an area of 464 acres (187 ha).
The land was requisitioned in 1914 for Army training and in 1917, the hangars and other facilities were erected, the intention being that the airfield be a reception and assembly facility for aircraft arriving from America. This never happened and the airfield was taken over by No. 4 Training Depot Station, moving in from Tern Hill. The TDS disbanded in 1919 and the site eventually became a private flying club, Liverpool & District Flying Club. Other aeronautical firms also established themselves on-site, including Pobjoy and Comper, the latter producing the Swift, a popular light aircraft of the day.
In 1936, 610 Sqn (Hawker Hart light bombers) arrived, having been newly-formed at Hendon as an Auxiliary Air Force unit. At the outbreak of WW2, the unit received Hurricanes, becoming a fighter squadron. In October 1939, the regular RAF took over and remained until the end of the War. A succession of units udneratking a variety of roles were based at Hooton PArk throughout the war and the airfield was also a significant assembly point for Lend-Lease aircraft from the US, including types such as Bostons and Harvards (undertaken by Martin Hearn Ltd and known as No. 7 Aircraft Assembly Unit). In 9142, the airfield was transferred to RAF Technical Command witrh 3 Radio School, latterly 11RS (Blackburn Botha).
Post War, with the operational units gone, Hooton Park became home to a number of Royal Auxiliary Air Force Squadrons; 610 Sqn reformed here in June 1946 with Spirfire XIV's before going through a succession of types until eventually operating Meteor F.8's. In 1951, 611 Sqn arrived to join the existing units, which included 663 Sqn. In 1957, the RAuxAF was disbanded and with this, flying at Hooton Park ceased. In 1962, the airfield was acquired by Vauxhall Motors and a new car assembly plant took over most of the southern end of the airfield, obliterating much of the former site. The runway was all but removed (a short section of the main NW/SE runway survives, along with a section of perimeter track) and many of the wartime buildings cleared.
Today, the 1917 GS Sheds and some buildings are maintained by the Hooton Park Trust, who have operated the site since 2000. Their aim is a business park but crucially, this involves restoration of existing buildings including the hangars and maintaining a museum to the history of the site. This being undertaken with assistance from the HLF and English Heritage.