The earliest date of habitation found in the area around what we know as Gatwick today, can be traced back as far as 5,000 BC. However, it was not until 1241 AD that it would be known by this name, when John de Gatwick was assigned 22 acres; 4 acres of meadow land and 18 acres of arable farm land.
The sub Manor of Gatwick, as it became known, would stay with his heirs for generations, before eventually being sold onwards to different families.
In 1890 Croydon Race Course (Woodside) was closed following pressure from the Mayor, and due to this a search began for a new site.
That was when this land was spotted, near Horley, beside the London to Brighton rail line. Some members from the old Croydon Race Course Company founded the Gatwick Race Course Company, and bought the land they needed from Gatwick Manor.
In 1891 the Racecourse opened, complete with its own railway station; the site of Gatwick Race Course Station is where the current Gatwick Airport Station is.
The racecourse was so popular and of such a high standard, that when Aintree was requisitioned by the War Office during the First World War, that the Grand Nationals were instead run at Gatwick, being renamed the War Steeplechase in 1917.
Gatwick Aerodrome & The Beehive
Having borrowed the money from his father, Ronald Waters bought 90 acres of land, between Gatwick Racecourse and Lowfield Heath Village in 1930, with the view to operate their flying business from.
With no runways, the land was to be levelled grass landing area. Although some of the land had been the base for Dominion Aircraft Ltd.’s Avro 504 since 1928, it wasn’t until under the new ownership of Walters, that it was licensed for flying and soon grew as a private flying club.
By 1931, the Surrey Aero Club saw an increasing number of jockeys and race-goers arriving by air for meetings at the adjacent Race Course.
Gatwick aerodrome was then sold twice in two years, first to the Redwing Company, and then to Morris Jackaman for £13,500. In 1934, a year after the purchase, Jackaman formed Airports Limited and Gatwick was issued with its first public licence by the Air Ministry, allowing the airport to be used by commercial aircraft.
When Airports Limited was made public on the stock exchange, Jackaman and his business manager formulated plans for The “Beehive”, the world’s first circular terminal and integrated airport.
The designers wanted to create a modern Art Deco feel and look to the building, concentrating on the exterior vision.
The interior consisted of several concentric rings, with corridors between them. This design allowed the arriving and departing passengers to be kept separate.
Six main telescopic corridors, extended from the centre one allowed six different aircraft to be used at any one time.
The Beehive rises from one central point, which contained the control tower. A new railway station was built, so that it now had two stations, along with Gatwick Race Course Station.
The new airport terminal was seen as revolutionary and offered something that no other could, due to its passenger subway to the train station; this allowed it so that visitors to the airport could remain undercover from the time they left London Victoria until the time they boarded an aircraft.
It was officially opened in 1936 and on Sunday 17th May, passengers boarded the first scheduled service from Gatwick to Paris for four pounds and five shillings, equivalent today of £160.22, a fare which included the first class train fare from London Victoria.
During this year, flights also departed to Malmo via Amsterdam, Hamburg, Copenhagen and the Isle of Wight.
During the Second World War, the airport and part of Gatwick Race Course were requisitioned by the Air Ministry for use by the RAF.
It continued to be requisitioned after the war, although from 1946 it could be used once again for civilian us, with a small number of charter airlines using the airport.
In 1952, the Government approved the proposed development of Gatwick as an alternative to Heathrow. Parts of the racecourse and A23 diversion were bought and in 1956 the airport was closed for building to begin on “the New London Airport”.
The Beehive – Life after Gatwick Airport
Although The Beehive was still within the new airport boundaries, it soon became redundant from main use, due to its transport connections being cut off when the train station was relocated.
For several years it continued being used for helicopter traffic, and as headquarters and operational bases for many airlines, including GB Airways.
The building was awarded Grade II Listed status in August 1996, and has also won an award from the Association for Industrial Archaeology.
In 2000 BAA Lynton began the development of “City Place”, including The Beehive and the surrounding area, building new office complexes. City Place has grown as a commercial hub, housing companies such as BT and Nestle.
When GB Airways was bought by EasyJet in 2007, The Beehive was not included.
Instead it was retained by GB’s former parent company, Bland Group, and converted to high quality, serviced and stylish offices, operated by Orega.
It is now home to many ambitious and successful companies, including ours, Project Associates.