Monthly Archives: May 2017

Heaton fliers: the Smith family and Newcastle Aero Club

Until its demise in 2004, Newcastle Aero Club was Britain’s oldest flying club.  It was founded in 1925 and for its first 10 years operated from Cramlington Aerodrome, which was situated near Nelson village and had been used for coastal air defence during WWI. In 1935, it moved to a site in Woolsington, which subsequently became Newcastle Airport. Arthur Andrews has been researching its connections with a well known Heaton family.

At an early stage, Ringtons Tea Company owner, Sam Smith, became involved with the club and was even its president for a time. We know from his great grand daughter, Fiona Harrison, that the Heaton entrepreneur loved flying. He was also a founder member of Newcastle Gliding Club. But flying was more than a hobby: he had business interests in aviation too, as a director of Newcastle Air Training Ltd and a founding investor in Dyce Airport, Aberdeen.

He generously bought Newcastle Aero Club two De Havilland Tiger Moths, one of which was called ‘The Ringtonian’.

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Advert for Ringtons in Newcastle Aero Club magazine

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Sam Smith and Ada, his wife, at the hand over of the Tiger Moth to Newcastle Aero Club (Courtesy of Newcastle City Library)

Young Sam Smith

Following in his father’s footsteps, Sam Smith Junior obtained his pilot’s licence on 26 June 1936 at the age of 30.

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Sam Smith Junior’s Pilot’s Licence

 

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Sam Smith Junior

He was the manager of Rington’s subsidiary, Northern Coachworks and lived at 17 Jesmond Vale Terrace, Heaton with his wife, Mary Ann Noddings, the daughter of horse dealer and exporter Edward Noddings and his wife, Catherine, who were now living at 2 Stannington Grove.

On 30 June 1936, just four days after getting his pilot’s licence, Sam was flying in the Derwent Valley. According to a newspaper report, he lost his bearings due to mist and rain and while he was trying to find a field safe enough to land in, the plane’s engine stalled and it crashed into the farmyard of Glebe Farm. Sam was thrown from the cockpit, hitting the farmer’s wife, Mrs Elizabeth Armstrong and ended up in a pool of water or slurry. Sam was uninjured but Mrs Armstrong was badly bruised and shocked. The headline was ‘Falling ‘Plane Strikes Woman – Pushed in Pool with Craft on Top – Amazing Escapes’.

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Crash site at Glebe Farm, Medomsley, Co Durham (Courtesy of Newcastle City Library)

Nine months later, on 6 March 1937, another mishap took place at Woolsington, this time involving ‘The Ringtonian’ . It was not reported whether Sam was injured or how badly the aircraft was damaged.

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Sam Smith with the ‘Ringtonian’ Gypsy Moth (Smith family archives)

Triple tragedy

A third accident took place on 14 May 1938, while Sam was piloting a Percival Vega Gull on a flight from Newcastle to Liverpool.

The weather was apparently fair in Northumberland but, by the time the aircraft had reached the Lake District, conditions had markedly deteriorated: a heavy mist gave little or no visibility and the plane crashed into a hillside near Skiddaw. Sam was killed along with his two passengers, Robert Radcliffe (26) and Norman Ayton (30). The coroner’s verdict was ‘accidental death’.

Sam’s younger brother, Malcolm, should have been on board too but fortunately for him,  a business commitment prevented him from boarding.

There had been other flying related deaths at Newcastle Aero Club, but this was the worst in its short history. The loss of  Sam Smith Junior was a great shock to his family and the local area. A large funeral took place with many local dignitaries attending. The City Council passed a vote of condolence by standing in silence.

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Sam Smith Junior’s grave

The 1939 Register shows that Sam Smith Junior’s young widow, Mary Ann, moved back to live with her parents in Stannington Grove.

Acknowledgements

Researched and written by Arthur Andrews, Heaton History Group;

Thank you to Fiona Harrison for help with the history of the Smith family and Ringtons;

Thank you to Newcastle City Library for permission to use photographs;

Sources

In addition to original research:

70 years of flying 1925-1975 by John Sleight ISBN 0952690802 (A history of Newcastle Aero Club)

Can you help?

If you know more about Heaton’s connections with aviation, please either post a message direct to this site by clicking on the link immediately below the article title or email chris.jackson@heatonhistorygroup.org

Jesmond Dene: past, present and future

Our August guided walk will take us to Jesmond Dene. The Ouseburn Parks Volunteer Guides will help participants explore this much-loved park – its history, its buildings and the families connected with it.

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Jesmond Dene

We will meet at 6.30pm (Please note the earlier start time) on Wednesday 23 August at the Ouseburn Parks’ Visitor Centre in Jesmond Dene. Booking is essential and until Thursday 25 May is open to Heaton History Group members only.

North East Bobbies

Not Bobby Robson, Bobby Charlton or even Bobby Thompson. Ian Roberts’ talk for Heaton History Group in September will be about policing in Northumberland from 1750 to 1950. The county, the fifth largest in England, has a fascinating history. It had an unusual rural approach to law and order and in World War Two provided an surprising number of services for local people.

The  talk will take place on Wednesday 27 September 2017 at The Corner House, Heaton Road NE6 5RP at 7.30pm (Doors open at 7.00pm. You are advised to take your seat by 7.15pm). Please book your place by contacting maria@heatonhistorygroup.org / 07443 594154. Until 25 May, booking will be open to Heaton History Group members only.

Lower Ouseburn Valley

Our July walk, led by well-known local historian writer, Alan Morgan, will take us on a journey around the lower Ouseburn valley. We will look at many interesting sites in a place synonymous with the development of Tyneside. We’ll visit old bridges, the culvert, the site of the cattle sanatorium, the entrance to the Victoria Tunnel and a former burial ground, as well as learn more about the importance of industries such as glass, lead and pottery. We’ll also see for ourselves how recent developments are transforming this former industrial area.

The walk will take place on Wednesday 26 July 2017, starting at 7.30pm at the Ship Inn at the foot of Stepney Bank. Please book your place by contacting maria@heatonhistorygroup.org / 07443 594154. Until 25 May, booking is open only to members of Heaton History Group.

Thank you  to Hilary Bray (nee Bates) who gave Heaton History Group permission to digitise and use photographs below of the Ouseburn valley from her postcard collection.

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Ouseburn