Monoplane at the Doncaster Airshow in 1909

100 Years Ago – The Doncaster Airshow of 1909

Marion and I visited the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington in September. While there we were reminded that the first air show in the UK was held at Doncaster Racecourse 100 years ago – from 15th to 23rd October 1909. This in turn reminded me that the air show featured in GNNs 117, 119 and 120 in 2001, the reason for our interest being that the GNR offered a “Great Northern Railway Cup”, valued at 50 guineas, to the aviator who attained the greatest speed. The railway also publicised the event and ran special trains.

This is also mentioned in the current (November 2009) issue of RAILWAY MAGAZINE which quotes from its November 1909 edition:

At the first flying competition held in Great Britain, which began at Doncaster on October 15, the Great Northern Railway presented a 50 guinea silver cup to be competed for during the week’s trials. The cup is a handsome two handled piece of plate standing 21in high. The Great Northern Railway is to be congratulated on its readiness in realising that aviation, far from proving a serious competitor railway locomotion, bids fair to become a profitable promoter of railway travel on the part of large numbers of people who wish to view the contests between rival flying men.

So, air travel will not take customers away from the railways.

Well, that’s all right, then!

Doncaster Airshow 1909 poster

For the benefit of members who have joined since 2001 I have republished the illustrations here. The poster was supplied by Alec Ramsdale and comes from a book THE PAGEANT OF THE CENTURY published by Odhams Press in 1934/5, a copy of which Alec found in his local library (‘local’ in this case being Glendene, Auckland, New Zealand!). There is no indication of the size of the original poster. Alec mentioned that the cover of the Official Programme for the show is illustrated in REMEMBER WHEN? by Robert Opie, published in 1999. It may well be on display in the Robert Opie collection at the Museum of Advertising and Packaging at Gloucester Docks, or the Museum of Memories at Wigan.

According to the cover, the show was billed as the ‘Doncaster Aviation Contest’ and ‘the first flying meeting in England’ and ran from 10 am to 5 pm daily. The illustration of the aircraft came from OLD DONCASTER NO.2 and was supplied by Doug Brown.

From the GNN
November/December 2009 by Allan Sibley