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The Sanderling

Glasgow Airport is built on the old naval base for HMS Sanderling.

After Security, Glasgow Airport, Paisley, Renfrewshire, PA3 2ST

Glasgow Airport was originally an airfield used by 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron of the Auxiliary Air Force. The squadron was short of space at nearby Renfrew Aerodrome and moved here in 1933. In 1943, the airfield was handed over to the Royal Navy. Renamed HMS Sanderling, it served as a maintenance and training station, until it was closed in the early 1960s. The name of the naval base lives on in this bar.

Photographs and text about the history of The Sanderling.

The text reads: The history of the present Glasgow Airport goes back to 1932, when the site at Abbotsinch, between the Black Cart Water and the White Cart Water, was opened. Royal Air Force 602 Squadron (City of Glasgow) Auxiliary Air Force moved its Wapiti IIA aircraft here from nearby Renfrew in January 1933. From May 1939, until moving away in October 1939, the Squadron flew the Supermarine Spitfire. Abbotsinch was handed over solely to the Royal Navy and it became an official stone Frigate (i.e a naval base on land) and was named in the same way as a ship afloat. During the 1950s, the airfield housed a large aircraft storage unit and squadrons of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

In the 1960s Glasgow Corporation decided that a new airport for the city was required. Abbotsinch field was chosen and HMS Sanderling was decommissioned.

The Royal Navy left in October 1963. However, the name Sanderling was retained as a link between the two: HMS Sanderling’s ship’s bell was presented to the new airport and a bar was named The Sanderling Bar. This Wetherspoon free house maintains the tradition.

Photographs and text about Glasgow Airport’s architecture.

The text reads: Glasgow Airport was built in the early 1960s, on the site of the former HMS Sanderling naval base. The new airport was designed by Basil Spence, who has been described as Scotland’s finest modern architect.

When he was appointed to design Glasgow Airport, in May 1961, Spence had just received a knighthood for his work on Coventry Cathedral. Glasgow Airport was completed five years later, at a cost of £4.2 million.

The airport has since been redeveloped. Spence’s original façade was covered in 1989, when an extension was built to house new check-in desks. However, the original structure can still be seen from the departure gates and the runway.

Background: The new Glasgow Airport terminal, 1966
Top: Sir Basil Spence, architect of the original Glasgow Airport
Right: The steps leading from the entrance hall to the main concourse.

A photograph and text about Jim Mollison.

The text reads: Jim became the youngest flying instructor at the Central Flying School at the age of 22. He later went on to the marry Amy Johnson and together they were dubbed ‘The Flying Sweethearts’.

Photographs and text about Amy Johnson.

The text reads: One of the best and most celebrated pupils trained by the Scottish Flying Club was Miss Winifred Drinkwater, the first female in Scotland to gain a commercial pilot’s licence. Known as ‘the Scottish Amy Johnson’, she later became Winnie Short, having married into the aircraft manufacturing family, and achieved a fame piloting flying boats

Jim Mollison, Glasgow’s most famous aeronautical son, achieved a world record in 1931, by flying from Australia to Britain in nine days. A drinker and a gambler, Mollison’s easy going charm appealed to Amy Johnson, and after a whirlwind romance, the two stars of British record-breaking flight were married in July 1932. Mollison’s affairs, and unpredictable temper, took their toll on his marriage, and the couple were un-amicably divorced in 1939. Mollison died in 1959, aged 54.

Background: Winnie Drinkwater at Renfrew
Top: The Cup awarded to Winnie Drinkwater in October 1931
Centre: Winnie in terrestrial garb, alongside an Avro Cadet
Left: Jim Mollison.

Photographs and text about pioneering aviators.

The text reads: Scotland’s first-ever flying display was staged at Lanark Racecourse, a few miles south of Glasgow, in 1910. Two months earlier one of the aviators – James Radley – had flown his Bleriot-type aircraft in the grounds of Pollock House.

Radley’s display was the first demonstration of powered flight in the west of Scotland. The following year The Daily Mail round Britain air race, with a prize of £10,000, included a stop at Paisley, little over a mile from today’s international airport.

During the 1920s, Beardmore’s RAF Reserve Flying School was housed as nearby Renfrew Airport. It was succeeded by the Scottish Flying Club, which trained many first class pilots such as Winifred Drinkwater, who won several trophies in a variety of competitions.

Top: James Radley’s aircraft at Lanark, 1910
Centre: A class being instructed at Beardmore’s Flying School in the early 1920s
Bottom: Winnie Drinkwater at Renfrew, c1930.

Photographs of pioneering pilots.

Background: Captain David Barclay flying a Spartan Cruiser over Glasgow University, c 1937
Above right: Eric Starling in the cockpit of a Short Scion, the first flight from Aberdeen to Glasgow in September 1934.
Centre: Eric Starling in the 1860s
Right: The memorial to Scottish Air Ambulance unveiled by David Barclay in 1966.

A photograph and text about HMS Sanderling.

The text reads: On 11 August 1943 control of RAF Abbotsinch passed to the Royal Navy, and by 20 September that same year HMS Sanderling was commissioned. The station served as an aircraft maintenance yard and training centre and was home to a number of FAA squadrons flying Avengers, Hellcats, Sea Hurricanes, Seafires, Swordfish and Barracuda.

After the war the Royal Navy Air Squadron served as a repair base for fighter aircraft from British, American and Canadian carriers. By the 1960s there was a reduction in size of the Fleet Air Arm which rendered the station surplus to requirements and it closed on 31 October 1963.

However, flying continued on the site which was sold to Glasgow Corporation and became the new civil airport serving the City and the West of Scotland. The first commercial flight landed on 2 May 1966 and Glasgow Airport was officially opened by Her Majesty The Queen on 27 June 1966.

Above: The original RAF Airfield at Abbotsinch, 1933-34 – the Hawker Harts and Avro Tutors of 602 Squadron can be seen.

An aircraft sculpture by Colin parker, Scott Laverie and Paul Penrice.

The text reads: Flight from its very inception carried men into another element, it promised a new future and our imagination was fired. From the Montgolfier brothers’ first public balloon flight in 1783 to the Wright brothers’ attempts at Kitty Hawk, from Alcott & Brown and Miss Amelia Earhart to the Zeppelins of the 1930s, these names conjure images of bold adventure and far-off places. With this sculpture we salute those pioneering aeronauts and the crafts in which they rode.

Rise, great Montgolfier! Urge thy venturous flight
High o er the Moon’s pale ice-reflected light;
High o’er the pearly Star, whose beamy horn
Hangs in the east, gay harbinger of morn…
Shun with strong oars the Sun’s attractive throne,
The sparkling zodiac, and the milky zone;
Where headlong comets with increasing force
Through other systems bend their blazing course.

Erasmus Darwin; Loves of the Plants. 1789

HMS Sanderling’s original bell.

The text reads: The Sanderling was so named as the Glasgow Airport was created on the site of the old naval base HMS Sanderling. The ship’s bell was presented to the new airport when it first opened. The airport approach road is also called The Sanderling.

The design concept for The Sanderling is derived from the notions of travel, adventures and the prospect of the destination; whether to a distant land or a welcome return home.

The existing fit out was given a more contemporary edge through the use of modern detailing and bold colour. A tribute to Scotland ‘the mother-land’ can be seen within the banner that hangs over the bar and a nod to the early machines-of-the-air is evident in the suspended sculpture over the bar’s entrance. 

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